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Raising funds for history

As workers toil to refinish wood and tin in the 1883 Stutsman County Courthouse, a group looks to raise $75,000 to match a grant given for the restoration project. Workers are busy refinishing wood, repairing and replacing decorative tin and maki...

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Ryan Goodman, project manager for RDA Inc., contractors for the restoration of the 1883 Stutsman County Courthouse, works on a door for the historic courthouse. JOHN M. STEINER | THE SUN

As workers toil to refinish wood and tin in the 1883 Stutsman County Courthouse, a group looks to raise $75,000 to match a grant given for the restoration project.

Workers are busy refinishing wood, repairing and replacing decorative tin and making much of the main floor of the building look like it did in 1905.

The North Dakota Legislature approved $350,000 during its last session for the restoration work, which requires a $75,000 local pledge match.

Fundraising for the local pledge got started with a $2,500 lead grant from the Jamestown Community foundation announced on Dec. 17. Members of the 1883 Stutsman County Courthouse Committee are soliciting additional donations.

"We really have three things going on," said Mike Williams, committee member. "We are kicking off the fundraising to raise the $75,000 already pledged. We're asking the State Historical Society (of North Dakota) to name a room in honor of Mary Young, and the third is to announce that on May 14 there will be another open house for people to see the restoration."

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Young, who passed away in November, was a local historian who worked to save the courthouse when it was considered for demolition in the 1980s.

Restoration work

Contractors have been working on three rooms on the main floor of the courthouse restoring the spaces to look much like they would in 1905, said Art Todd, member of the Courthouse Committee. That includes repainting the decorative tin wall and ceiling coverings and stripping and refinishing the wood trim and doors.

Ryan Goodman, project manager for RDA Inc., contractors for the restoration project, estimated the office doors in the courthouse had as many as 30 coats of paint over the years. After the paint is stripped, the wood doors are finished with stain and varnish to look as they did when the building was in its prime more than a century ago.

Todd said the same is true of the decorative tin which has been repainted, including gold paint on some of the decorative shapes of the tin. Painting office names in the door windows with gold paint and creating handicapped-accessible restrooms on the main floor are among the final touches.

Workers are also refurbishing the clock mechanisms with the intention of replacing those in the clock tower this spring.

The current work is being paid for through the State Historical Society of North Dakota, which is spending the $350,000 appropriated for the project.

Future projects include adding an elevator for access to the courtroom on the second floor and refinishing the fixtures in that room. Additional funding appropriations from the North Dakota Legislature will be necessary for those projects.

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Ultimately, the courthouse will serve as a meeting place and museum with exhibits related to early county history, early days of North Dakota statehood and immigration and naturalization, Todd said.

Todd said the State Historical Society board will act on naming a room of the 1883 Stutsman County Courthouse in Mary Young's honor on Jan. 9 during its quarterly meeting.

"As far back as the late 1970s, Mary was a vocal proponent of saving the old courthouse," Williams said. "She remained active with that effort for the remainder of her life."

If the State Historical Society approves the request, the room in the southeast corner of the main floor of the courthouse where Young spoke during the September 2014 open house would be named in her honor.

The public will have an opportunity to view the restored rooms during an open house on May 14.

Donations to the 1883 courthouse project can be made as memorials to Young by sending a check to the 1883 Stutsman County Courthouse Committee, PO Box 1559, Jamestown, ND 58402-1559, or by contacting a committee member.

Related Topics: HISTORY
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