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Work begins on old courthouse

by: SUSAN MATHENY/MADRAS PIONEER - Steven Jansen, who purcharse the old county courthouse, is working with a contractor to shore up the building's foundation.Refurbishing work has begun on the historic old courthouse building on D Street in Madras, which was purchased from the county this winter by Steve Jansen to save it from the wrecking ball.

County offices and the county museum had vacated the building over concerns that the foundation was crumbling and there were cracks in the walls.

Jansen and his subcontractor, Larry Lance of Lance Construction, dug around the cement foundation on the east side and determined the only cracks were over two large windows inset in the foundation.

“The foundation is OK. The only place it was starting to fail was over the two windows, and we will fill those in with cement,” Jansen said, noting the third middle window will be left in place.

Of the crack in the brick area above the windows he said, “It’s a mortar crack, not a crack in the bricks. There are no brick cracks in the building.” Mortar cracks can be fixed he noted.

Thirty-two holes have been drilled through the foundation and reinforcing rods bolted in place, from the basement to the outside wall.

Last Friday, Jansen and Lance were making plywood forms for the six inches of cement fascia that will be poured on the outside of the current foundation.

In the basement, on the inside wall of the foundation, a wooden frame has been built for walls that will be filled with insulation to keep the foundation from drawing moisture.

“The foundation should last another 97 years when we’re finished,” Jansen said.

In places where the mortar between bricks has eroded, he said, “We will reappoint the mortar and apply a clear sealer to keep it from deteriorating. The bricks, he pointed out, were sound and not crumbling.

In the basement of the old courthouse, Jansen discovered the original heavy metal doors to the building’s two vaults and has remounted them. One vault was for county records, and the other for the sheriff’s use.

“The concrete is one-foot thick all around including the roof,” he said of the sheriff’s seemingly indestructible vault.

An old school bell of unknown origins and other mysterious items were also left in the basement.

The upstairs, now emptied of museum items, once again looks like the courtroom it used to be. A gated rail runs the length of the room, and Jansen pointed out where the judge’s bench and jury box used to be. He has even found the original wooden jury chairs.

After the building is refurbished, Jansen intends to rent out the lower half to a business, and use the upper floor for special occasions and events.



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  • 29 Aug 2014

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