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Editorial: Courthouse is worth preserving

The restoration of the historic Stutsman County Courthouse continues, as local and state organizations work together to revitalize the 1883 structure for use as a state historic site and community gathering place.

We applaud these efforts to preserve one of the most beautiful and unusual buildings in town and its unique place in Jamestown and North Dakota history.

We also appreciate the partnership of the State Historical Society of North Dakota and the local 1883 Courthouse Committee, which has not only rescued the building from the wrecking ball, but also — we hope — from being forgotten, and from the slow decay unoccupied buildings can suffer.

This building is worth preserving for a number of reasons, including, but not limited to, its history, its beauty and our pride in both of them.

Built with brick and granite in the Gothic Revival style, the courthouse bears a distinct resemblance to a church, with its tower, circular windows and arch motif.

Inside, the building’s ground floor and the courthouse courtroom above are both surprisingly airy and bright, with high ceilings, large windows and plenty of light. The building’s interior is also almost entirely finished with plates of pressed tin, painted in light colors that keep the rooms bright. While the pressed tin isn’t original to the building, it’s certainly still historic — having been added to the building around 1905, according to its National Register of Historic Places Inventory nomination form.

Countless hours of painstaking work by volunteers and paid employees alike have already resulted in significant improvement to the courthouse since it was turned over to the SHSND in 1985. More improvements came following a 2011 report that showed the building had moisture and mold problems.

This summer, for example, a $200,000 heating system is being installed and corroded pipes replaced. Prior to that, the building’s asbestos was abated, its basement carpets were removed, and new concrete floors were poured there.

Much work is yet to be done. Because the tin panels are coated with lead-based paint, they will need to be encapsulated so that lead dust can’t escape. The interior will need a fresh coat of paint, too, and the floors still need work.

However, progress is most certainly being made, and the public will get a chance to see how much has been accomplished during an open house from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13. Representatives from the SHSND and the 1883 Courthouse Committee will be there to greet visitors and speak about the building.

Those who can should stop by to support the project — and become a part of Stutsman County history.

(Editorials are the opinion of Jamestown Sun management and the newspaper’s editorial board)