Name change for historic building

A crane lifts a new HVAC unit onto the top of the 'Origiinal Courthouse.'Steve Jansen has changed the official name of the old courthouse on D Street, which he purchased, to “The Original Courthouse.”

“It looks like the current courthouse that was built in 1961 to replace this building, will be declared surplus in the next few years,” Jansen said, adding he hopes that his old building will outlive its second replacement.

The Original Courthouse now has all its structural issues repaired, and the foundation work has been completed and improved to be better than the original.

“The building is located in the floodway, but will now withstand up to three feet of flood water. With the exception of one basement window opening, that was left for access of materials, the foundation is now waterproof. This opening will eventually receive a marine style water proof window unit,” Jansen said.

According to Jansen’s research, the historic brick building was originally constructed to be Madras City Hall at a cost of $9,000, but was rented to the newly formed Jefferson County seat at $60 a month until the county purchased it in 1925 for $6,000.

The marquee on the face, which reads Madras City Hall, was covered over with a sign that read Jefferson County Courthouse. The sign now sits in the city of Culver’s council chamber. Jansen has ordered a replacement sign which will read “The Original Courthouse1917.”

He has located the original flag pole, which sat 18 feet above the sign, and it will be reinstalled with a 46-star flag in tribute to the Madras forefathers who had the foresight to pursue the incorporation of the city in 1911.

So far, Jansen said he has found no flaws in the original design or construction of the building. “They used good materials and the craftsmanship was excellent. Most people would think that the lumber was rough sawn, but with the exception of the post and beams, it is all dimensional as in use in today’s construction,” he said.

“Buildings up to this era used cut shank or square nails, but this building was constructed with common and box nails like the ones still in use today. The brick is not a façade but three layers thick, which are interwoven to make a wall 12 inches thick. Even the possibility of a future earthquake was thought of, and two of the inner walls were installed to act as sway bracing just in case a shaker ever comes this way,” Jansen said.

Of the foundation that concerned so many people, Jansen said, “Back in the old days they didn’t have the techniques we have today; river rock was used in those days. Today the gravel is usually ¾ minus; back then it was three-inch minus and was not washed, so it contains some dirt.”

“They mixed the concrete by hand and carried buckets of it up a ladder to pour, so there were a lot of cold joints that are still strong but look bad. (A cold joint is when the concrete sets up and more is added on top the next day.) The east wall had eight of these joints,” he said.

During recent refurbishing, he noted, “All the loose scale was removed and the foundation was drilled and threaded rods were installed and then rebar was added. The original foundation was 12 inches thick, and now is 21 inches thick, which fully encapsulates the original.”

“With the installation of the new HVAC unit installed last week on the roof, all the mechanicals are now complete. From now on the rest is only cosmetic,” Jansen said, noting he figures it will be many months or years before the building is 100 percent complete, as he is only working part time as resources become available.

This year is the county’s centennial, but the building’s anniversary won’t come until 2017 and that is his target for completion.

Since there are virtually no records for this building, Jansen has had to come up with his own technique of dating the upgrades that have happened over the years. The concrete bunker attached to the north side of the building were for the vaults. He disassembled the combination lock on one of the vault doors and found the manufacture date of Dec. 28, 1936, which would put the construction at 1936-37.

With the exception of final cleaning of the inside, the building is ready for rent. Jansen has already had many serious inquiries, but has not found anyone suitable. He is only interested in a professional type tenant. The building is ADA accessible and even has a heated wheelchair ramp.

The upstairs floor will be for special events like plays, receptions, and weddings.

“If I cannot find a suitable tenant for the main floor, it will be gutted out and remodeled into my private showroom to house my collection of antique automobiles,” Jansen said.

Jansen is still hoping that some longtime area family has some old photos or artifacts they would donate to help in a recreation of the upstairs courtroom as he wants to duplicate it as closely as possible to the original.




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