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Published: 8/30/2007

Razing Seneca County courthouse would be error, Petro says

BY JOSHUA BOAK
BLADE POLITICS WRITER
The Seneca County Courthouse, a neoclassical structure built in 1884, was designed by Elijah Myers. The prominent architect also designed the state capitols in Michigan, Colorado, and Texas. Preservationists lost a lawsuit this week to stop demolition of the courthouse. They plan to appeal the ruling to the Ohio Supreme Court. 
<br>
<img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/graphics/icons/photo.gif> VIEW: <a href="/apps/pbcs.dll/gallery?Avis=TO&Dato=20070630&Kategori=NEWS17&Lopenr=630013&Ref=PH" target="_blank  "><b>Seneca County courthouse photo gallery</b></a> The Seneca County Courthouse, a neoclassical structure built in 1884, was designed by Elijah Myers. The prominent architect also designed the state capitols in Michigan, Colorado, and Texas. Preservationists lost a lawsuit this week to stop demolition of the courthouse. They plan to appeal the ruling to the Ohio Supreme Court. <br> <img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/graphics/icons/photo.gif> VIEW: <a href="/apps/pbcs.dll/gallery?Avis=TO&Dato=20070630&Kategori=NEWS17&Lopenr=630013&Ref=PH" target="_blank "><b>Seneca County courthouse photo gallery</b></a>
Enlarge
Jim Petro: 'Always keep an eye on history,' ex-attorney general says. Jim Petro: 'Always keep an eye on history,' ex-attorney general says.
KIICHIRO SATO / AP Enlarge

A day after preservationists lost a lawsuit to stop the demolition of the Seneca County Courthouse, Jim Petro, the former Ohio attorney general, said destruction of the building would be a mistake.

"We've seen a great number of changes in recent years, but one of the changes we shouldn't pursue is to forget our history," Mr. Petro said. "If you're going to make a public investment, always keep an eye on history."

The 1884 courthouse was designed by Elijah Myers, a prominent architect who drew the blueprints for the state capitols of Colorado, Michigan, and Texas.

Preservationists fighting to keep the neoclassical structure from the wrecking ball argued that the Seneca County Board of Commissioners violated the state's open meetings law by voting to destroy the courthouse without any discussion.

Visiting Judge Charles Wittenberg, who is retired from Lucas County, ruled that the absence of any conversation before the vote does not prove the commissioners held private deliberations and broke the law.

Mr. Petro, a Republican who ran for governor last year, has a personal connection to Seneca County. His wife hails from Tiffin, the county seat. He described his extended family as "heartsick" about the building's fate.

Mr. Petro recently ended speculation about a possible congressional campaign next year, saying that he has long considered running for Chief Justice. The post will likely be open in the 2010 election, if Chief Justice Thomas Moyer retires as planned, Mr. Petro said.

Because the preservationists intend to appeal Tuesday's ruling, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Terrence O'Donnell declined through a staffer to comment on the county courthouse. Under the judicial canon, it is inappropriate for Justice O'Donnell to make public statements about cases that could reach the Ohio Supreme Court.

The American Bar Association does not have a formal position on whether county courthouses should be preserved, spokesman Nancy Slonim said.

But as a veteran politician, Mr. Petro said there is an obvious choice in Seneca County.

"The commissioners should do all they can to put together a capital improvement plan to allow for the restoration of the courthouse," Mr. Petro said.

"It also would be wise to replace the clock tower," he said. "It's Art Deco and it just doesn't really fit."

Contact Joshua Boak at: jboak@theblade.com or 419-724-6728.



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