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Published: Saturday, 9/14/2013 - Updated: 11 months ago

Events on tap for centennial of Putnam County's landmark courthouse

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Residents are invited to the Putnam County Courthouse on Sunday for tours and a program to celebrate the building’s centennial. Residents are invited to the Putnam County Courthouse on Sunday for tours and a program to celebrate the building’s centennial.
PHOTO COURTESY OHIOFESTIVALS.NET Enlarge

OTTAWA, Ohio — Though you no longer can get a quick tonsillectomy or register for the draft there, the Putnam County Courthouse still offers county residents nearly all the government services it did when it opened 100 years ago.

The landmark, an architectural beauty that opened for business late in 1912, is celebrating a century of service with tours and a 2 p.m. program Sunday.

“This is our fourth courthouse since the county was started, but this was the one that has persevered the longest, with 100 years,” Putnam County Commissioner John Love said. “We’ve done our best to try to keep it maintained properly, and we’re very proud of it. It’s like the cornerstone for us.

“It has withstood flood after flood here.”

Common Pleas Judge Randall Basinger said the courthouse was designed with a vision of growth, but for better or worse that growth never happened, meaning the downtown courthouse remains well-suited for the rural county’s needs. “There’s been very little modification to the building,” he said. “It’s been extraordinarily well-maintained, and it’s remained remarkably functional for almost all of the offices that use it.”

While all elected county officials’ offices save the prosecutor, sheriff, and coroner are in the courthouse, the building no longer houses an infirmary where, for many years in the 1920s and ’30s, residents could come to have their tonsils or adenoids removed, said Roselia Deters Verhoff, a local historian and former county auditor.

It also once housed the draft board and for a time provided space for the county’s first public library. Ms. Verhoff credits county commissioners dating to 1910 when construction began to the board that’s seated today with maintaining the beauty of the three-story, sandstone building, appointed with marble, stained glass, and carved oak. “I am convinced that people cared enough to keep this building the way it is, and I think that’s continuing on.”

Guided tours of the courthouse begin at 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. Sunday in the third-floor courtroom. A commemorative program featuring former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bob Cupp begins at 2 p.m. on the north lawn, and tours will resume afterward.

The Courthouse Centennial Commission will sell copies of a just-published book about the history of the courthouse written by Judge Basinger and Ms. Verhoff. The books sell for a $10 donation with proceeds going to the Putnam County Historical Society.

The celebration is not limited to Sunday. A series of 12 museum panels telling the story of the courthouse have been displayed throughout the county this year and are expected to be on permanent display at the courthouse.

Mr. Love said all nine Putnam County school districts have been invited to bring students to the courthouse for tours and a lesson in local government and history. “In Putnam County, a lot of families go back three and four and five generations,” Judge Basinger said. “Their parents and grandparents would have registered for the draft or gotten their tonsils out or come in for whatever court cases. There’s a real sense of history in the building.”

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.



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