It has been about a decade since the last tenants of 800 Jackson St. departed, leaving the former Lucas County sheriff’s residence-turned-appellate court building silent.
Although the building is now a crumbling reminder of what it once was, county officials say it still is a key component of the Civic Center Mall, which stretches from Cherry Street to Adams Street and from Spielbusch Avenue to Erie Street – and will be included in planning for the area.
“We care about that building, there’s a lot of history, and it’s an important focal point for the Civic Center Mall,” Lucas County Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak said. “By the end of May, we will provide a follow-up report on short-term goals [for the mall] and begin the process of creating long-term goals as well.”
Constructed about 1898 as the county sheriff’s residence and jail, the building has undergone a variety of uses.
When the sheriff moved out, the county commissioners moved in before it was transformed into the home of the 6th District Court of Appeals. The appellate court resided there until about 10 years ago when it, too, moved to a new building at Cherry and Spielbusch.
At the time of its initial vacancy, no other use could be found for the building, County Administrator Peter Ujvagi said. Since its last tenant left, the building has stood empty.
“The whole building has to be renovated in order to be utilized,” Mr. Ujvagi said as he slowly made his way over floors splattered with fallen ceiling tiles and chunks of plaster. “Our biggest challenge is where to get funding.”
For years, the county provided minimal maintenance, including heat, water, and electricity. Then, about three years ago, a burst pipe led to extensive water damage and prompted county officials to cut both water and heat to the building.
Over the years, there have been ideas floated on how to use the three-story building. But that talk has never turned into action, Mr. Ujvagi said.
He estimates that now it would cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars – if not $1 million – to properly get it back in shape.
“This is a solid, solid century-old building that was built to last,” he said.
“ … Our hopes are to at some point find someone who has the resources to restore the building or wait for a change in state law to get [dollar] help for restoration,” he added. “At a time when the county’s budget continues to decline, we have to focus on services.”
Juvenile Court Judge Denise Cubbon said that where others see a deteriorating building, she sees the promise of an exciting new project.
The judge said that although it is just in its infancy stage of discussion, her dream would be to turn the building into a neutral place for juveniles recently released from in-custody programs to go for follow-up services as well as a resource center for families who need help.
As for the deteriorating walls and crumbling front steps?
“We looked at all the promise that the building offers,” Judge Cubbon said.
“This could be a project for the kids. We could bring people in to help with mentoring, teach skills, and provide a project for those kids who need community service hours or have to pay off court costs.”
Although recognizing that dollars are hard to come by, Judge Cubbon said that, still, they are there.
“We have people interested in working with kids and we have kids that may be willing to work,” she said.
Although it has never officially been put up for sale, county officials said they would be willing to sell the building to a viable owner.
Its location bordering the sally port at the neighboring jail would mean that not just anyone could move in, they acknowledged.
And because of its historical significance — made known by a landmark plaque from the Maumee Valley Historical Society posted inside — the building is not being considered for demolition.
Jack Hiles, executive director of the society, said that plaques were given in the past to make the community aware of buildings’ historical significance.
The history of the building and all the people who have served there along with the architecture of the site is what preservationists hope people will remember.
“With that building there, what the plaque is saying is ‘Before you tear this thing down, please take note and try to renovate.’ That’s the message they’re trying to send,” he said.
Contact Erica Blake at: email@example.com or 419-213-2134.