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Old courthouse dodges wrecking ball

Sale pending


by: JEFFERSON COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY PHOTO - The old 1917 courthouse, originally the Madras City Hall, has been sold.The old brick 1917 county courthouse on D Street in Madras may have gotten a reprieve after all.

On Dec. 18, the county entered into an agreement to sell the building for $10,000 to Madras resident Steve Jansen, with a closing date no later than Feb. 28, according to Jefferson County Counsel Alexa Gassner.

“I bought it to save it from the wrecking ball,” Jansen said last week. “I could see it was coming close to its final days. The county declared it surplus, but nobody bid on it. I figured the next step was somebody would just get it for salvage,” he added.

Until last year, the old courthouse building housed the Jefferson County Museum and OSU Extension Office. But safety concerns over its crumbling foundation, cracks in the walls, and unreinforced brick, led county commissioners to declare it surplus property, so the county could either sell or demolish it.

“I have lots of ideas, but no real plan on what to do with it,” he said, noting he didn’t want to see that piece of Madras’ history demolished.

He said he has had two engineers look at the structure and they felt it was salvageable.

“It needs quite a bit of makeover. Then it’s a matter of who I could get in there and seeing if the city fathers would OK it or not,” he said.

At present, he and the county are waiting for state paperwork to go through. Even though the old courthouse is not on the historic registry, Gassner said its age makes it eligible to be on the registry, and because of that, the state preservation office must give its stamp of approval to sale.

“I’m also trying to determine whether I want to put it on the historic register to help preserve it when I’m gone,” Jansen said. He is very interested in finding old photos and history on the building.

Embedded on the façade at the top of the building are letters that read: Madras City Hall 1917.

“One thing I haven’t been able to get an answer on is why wasn’t that building’s name ever changed from Madras City Hall. It’s always housed the county courthouse and its legal name now is the old courthouse,” Jansen said.

“Maybe nobody ever had a ladder long enough to get up there to change it,” he joked of the homestead days.



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