Rehabbing, Renovating Continues at the County's Crown Jewel

Published 06/09 2014 05:49PM

Updated 06/09 2014 06:23PM

With some new paint and new tiles, there's new life at Vanderburgh County's most historic and most important landmarks. It used to be home to judges and juries but now it's home to masons and painters.

Crews completed renovations of the first floor at the Old Courthouse last year. Now, they're working on the second floor. The work isn't to re-create the iconic structure, officials said. It's to accentuate what made the building great in the first place.


History is the study of impressions. On the black slate staircase with rod iron rails are the grooves that are only created by time.

"Walking up those steps every day and having your foot in that groove, it's a really cool feature," said Alan Higgins, the director of architectural and cultural history for Cultural Resource Analysts. "It's odd to say that's my favorite piece in the building but it certainly is. You don't see that anywhere else in the community of Evansville."

Higgins, an architectural historian by trade, moved into the second floor of the Old Courthouse five years ago. The historic and iconic building was a perfect place for his line of work, he said.

"It's unimaginable for someone like me to take part in that history," Higgins said. "We're in the field all day long looking at historical places. To be able to come back to the office and be in that environment, you certainly couldn't pick a better spot."

With it's immaculate and detail-oriented outer shell and it's flawless marble hallways, the Old Courthouse has been a cornerstone of downtown Evansville since 1891. In the late 1960s, all court proceedings were moved to the Civic Center, leaving the future of the Old Courthouse in peril. Through donations and sheer grit, the building was eventually saved. However, wear and tear began to show.

"This is the most important statement ever in the architectural history of Evansville, in my opinion," Higgins said. "It was the prominent piece and it was designed to be forever and represent Vanderburgh County."

For 123 years, the clock tower has sounded on the hour and every hour. Inside the building, long gone are the cracks of a judge's gavel. Those familiar sounds have now been replaced by a mason's rubber mallet.

"To see it brought back to life that I've been here has been a joy to watch that progression," Higgins said.

On their knees and standing on scaffolding, a small team of painters, masons and carpenters work on renovating and rehabbing the second floor of the county's crown jewel. The renovations of the first floor were completed last year. A few years before that, crews renovated the old courtroom which is home to special events for the Indiana BAR Association.

Despite the chorus of construction, the storied history behind the long hallways will always reverberate.

"The marble, for example, they actually did bring in a geologist to match the quarry that the original stone came from," Higgins said. "They didn't want to pick up a stock piece that would stand out. That wouldn't compliment what was here. It really provided a seamless transition to restore the luster that was previously here. To see the building's legacy retained here and be brought back to life, it's just unsurpassed."

Hundreds of thousands of people have previously walked the time-worn stairs. Plenty more will do the same in the years to come.

History is more than just an impression. It's the grooves we leave behind.


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