Historic courthouse to undergo restoration

February 03, 2002 11:00 pm

By Bill Rautenstrauch

For the Observer

ENTERPRISE An aging Wallowa County beauty is about to get a facelift.

The county courthouse, constructed of locally-quarried Bowlby stone in 1909, will undergo the first phases of renovation soon, according to Everett Roberts, county custodial engineer and the man overseeing a project that could top $3 million before it is through.

We think of it more as preservation than as restoration, said Roberts. The idea is to make the building as much as possible like it was originally, without interfering with modern systems.

Roberts said the Wallowa County Board of Commissioners was to award contracts for electrical work and repair of the roof drainage system during its regular weekly meeting today. He said those projects funded in part by grants from the State Historic Preservation Office likely will begin before the end of winter.

Hopes for renovation of the imposing three-story structure got a big boost back in 2000 when Wendy Hansen of the Enterprise Hometown Improvement Group led a successful effort to get the building listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

That was a big key. We needed to get that done before we could pursue grant money, Roberts said.

Grants and matching funds from the county paid for a $40,000 feasibility study by KDF Architecture of Yakima. Completed in November, 2001, the study made recommendations in five broad areas, including the buildings interior and exterior, mechanical projects, electrical projects and site projects, which address parking conditions, outbuildings, and landscaping.

Recommendations for the interior included restoring public areas to historically appropriate condition; the addressing of accessibility problems, including remodeling of the restrooms and installation of an elevator to provide access to the upper floors; and transformation of the third floor now used for storage into office space.

Theyve always called the third floor the attic, but thats not right, n Continued from Page 1A

Roberts said. It was originally intended for offices. Right now, its like a junk yard.

The study recommends the commissioners move from the second to the third floor. Another proposed move involves the sheriffs office, now situated on the first floor, and the planning department, which occupies space in the basement.

Wallowa County plans to build an emergency services center in Enterprise. The center will house, among other agencies, the sheriffs department.

Under KDF recommendations, the planning department would move into the offices vacated by the sheriffs department.

Exterior restoration of the courthouse would include roof repair, masonry repair, and repair and refinish of trim, windows and the tower that caps the building. A major mechanical project would be the upgrading of the heating and air conditioning system, Roberts said.

Were looking at a central air system. That way, we can get rid of all those air conditioners that hang out the windows, Roberts said. The plumbing and sprinkling system also would get a make-over.

Electrical work includes a load study and documentation of wiring use, upgrade of conductors and proper grounding where needed.

As to site projects, the KDF study recommends the removal of the parking lot on the south side of the building and restoration of the grand lawns of the pre-automobile era. Elements that are regarded as unsightly, such as the white shed now used for storage of maintenance equipment, would be eliminated or replaced. Roberts said a storage shed made of Bowlby stone may be built.

Roberts said no target date has been set for completion of the renovation. He said the overall project will proceed as grant funds become available. He added there are no plans to raise the money through taxes.

An eight-person restoration committee, which has been involved since the beginning, will select and prioritize projects, Roberts said. Members include Hansen, George Hill, Vincent Pederer, Julie Henning, Doug Baird, Charlotte McIver, Dan Ousley and Suzanne Bouck.

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