TIFFIN - As tour guides and historians for the Michigan State Capitol Tour Service, Valerie Marvin and Barb Thumudo have come to admire the architect who long ago designed the building they work in.
The two Michigan women now study the buildings designed by Elijah E. Myers, who designed the 1884 Seneca County courthouse, the Michigan Capitol building, and many others.
With the possibility looming that the historic Seneca courthouse could be torn down, Ms. Marvin and Ms. Thumudo came to Ohio yesterday doing what they thought would be of the greatest help in preserving their favorite designer's building. They taught others how to be tour guides.
Ms. Marvin and Ms. Thumudo led a group of Seneca County courthouse preservationists through the historic building yesterday morning. They also addressed the county commissioners, had lunch, and gave a tour-guide workshop in the afternoon, all in preparation for planned public tours of the courthouse on Dec. 29 and 30.
"The best way to promote preserving the courthouse is to educate the people about it," Ms. Marvin said.
She told the county commissioners that she and Ms. Thumudo have been studying Myers' work for 1 1/2 years. She said she studied his government buildings in Illinois and Indiana, and first traveled to Tiffin to study the courthouse last year when she first heard it was slated for demolition.
Though an obvious proponent of preserving any building Myers designed, Ms. Thumudo said the Seneca courthouse deserves to be restored regardless of who designed it.
"That building is a wonderful example of architecture and beauty," Ms. Thumudo said. "The fact that Mr. Myers designed it is extra for us."
Ms. Marvin and Ms. Thumudo spent much of yesterday teaching approximately 15 preservationists how best to explain the courthouse's grandeur to the public.
Ms. Marvin, who prepared a script for the courthouse tour guides to follow, lectured on the historical value of the marble and limestone floors, the yellow-pine doors, and even the doorknobs used during construction.
The commissioners agreed to open the courthouse for public tours from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 29 and 30. Plans are being made for similar open houses in January and February prior to the March 4 election, when county residents will be asked to approve a bond issue to support renovation of the courthouse.
Brenda Stultz, a member of the Tiffin Historic Trust who is one of two people overseeing the tours, said it is important for the voting public to view the courthouse before they mark their ballots.
"You've got to put everything in context," she said. "Why they used the materials they used can tell a lot about the town, the state, and the nation back then."
"Everyone needs to get in there and see what they [will choose] to save or [choose] to waste," Ms. Stultz said.
The commissioners yesterday approved language for the bond issue that will go before voters and seeks to raise $8.5 million over 20 years to restore the courthouse. The millage for the bond issue is 0.72 mills, although the commissioners said they will not collect the additional taxes if the issue is approved. They said yesterday they will approve a resolution stating their intentions not to collect the additional taxes before the March vote.
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