New detailing spruces up old courthouse

by: SUSAN MATHENY/MADRAS PIONEER - A new metal fence adds a touch of class to the building's Roman archway and design details.The old Jefferson County Courthouse is sporting several new restoration features, including a metal fence, wooden flag pole, and sign.

Building owner, Steve Jansen, who has been working to restore historic elements of the building, uncovered some interesting facts after finding the flagpole in the old jail building:

The pole, made of old growth Douglas fir, started out as a 20-foot 4-by-4 that the craftsman tapered into a hexagon (eight-sided) starting with the 4-inch square at the base and tapering down to 2 inches at the top.

"It appears to have been done with nothing more than a drawknife as the knife marks were still visible on the wood," said Jansen. "The butt end shows more than 70 growth rings, and with the ark, that would indicate it came from a very large tree."

"In 1917, some of these trees have been estimated to have been 300 to 400 years old. With this pole nearing the 100-year mark, this could mean this piece of wood could be as old as 500 years. It was located sitting in the adjacent jail building by the current owner. Thanks to some county employee with the foresight to save it," he said.

Now fully restored by the owner, the pole once again sits atop the building. It will soon proudly fly a 48-star flag in tribute to all the service vets who fought and lost their lives during this period of time. This includes World War I, World War II, and the Korean wars. The American flag had 48 stars until 1959 with the addition of Hawaii and Alaska. All the rest of our wars have occurred since the 50-star flag.

Because of rot and decay at both ends, the pole is two feet shorter than its original size, but the sawdust collected from the two ends was used to make the wood filler to fill the many checks in the wood. It was then stained, with finish coats of fiberglass resin, which should protect it for another 100 years, according to Jansen.

"The top bracket that holds the flag was probably made by some local blacksmith with the hammer marks still visible," he said. "The rust has been neutralized, along with the pulley, and repainted. It now has a top cap made of copper that should prevent the future growth of moss, with which the north side of the pole was covered when found. The original ball could not be located, so a reproduction was installed. How many wooden flag poles there still are in existence today is anybody’s guess," he said.

Building marquee

The original courthouse sign still hangs on the wall in the council chambers at city hall in Culver. Since they were very much a part of the history of Jefferson County, the city won’t give it up. They were very nice to allow us to take photos and measurements of it.

It was reproduced by Darby Campbell at Madras Signs. Not only a reproduction of the weathered sign, but also the frame. The only appearance change is the logo which was changed to “Original County Courthouse” to avoid future confusion.

Metal fencing

July 16, workers from Mile’s Fence Co. installed a custom-made black metal fence around the front lawn of the Original County Courthouse.

“The fence was not original, but is period-correct and is being done to frame the building,” Jansen noted.

Parking meters

Jansen’s next project is to install more of the old penny parking meters that once lined the city’s main streets. “I want to thank the city of Madras, both the council and public works, for its continued support. Also, Councilor Tom Brown for his donation of all the parking meter parts that will be needed to replace tow of the missing meters in front of the building,” Jansen said.

Although the meters will be functional, nobody will be required to pay to park, he said.

Trees in front of the building, which had been neglected, were saved by pruning by Tim Burley and his tree crew last winter. “They were able to save two trees, but the third had to be removed,” Jansen said.

With the building’s Roman archway and other architectural features, he said, “These carpenters were true craftsmen, who were proud of their craftsmanship and no corners were cut. All the materials used were No. 1 grade.”

He is leaving several “scars” on the building to denote its history. Visible on the east side is a place where a chimney was once added when the county converted from the original oil or coal heater to a sawdust burner. Later, it was again converted to electric heat and the chimney was removed.

Today, the building has two HVAC units on the roof for both heat and air conditioning, and its restrooms are ADA compliant, instead of being down a dark basement stairway.




Local Weather

Partly Cloudy

37°F

Madras

Partly Cloudy

Humidity: 70%

Wind: 5 mph

  • 25 Dec 2014

    Partly Cloudy 40°F 30°F

  • 26 Dec 2014

    Partly Cloudy 40°F 28°F