Live video of the Seneca County courthouse from senecacountyradio.com.
TIFFIN — Holding signs with messages as simple as “Why?” a group of courthouse supporters braved the below freezing temperatures Tuesday morning to protest the impending demolition of Seneca County’s 1884 courthouse.
While no demolition work appeared to be under way, some workers with B&B Wrecking and Excavating of Cleveland were on the site. When three workers came within view of the protestors, Susan Ramser of Mount Vernon, Ohio, yelled, “Don’t tear down this courthouse. Don’t do it! Don’t do it!”
Ms. Ramser said she came to Tiffin after hearing about the county commissioners’ decision to tear down the historic courthouse, which was designed by noted American architect Elijah Myers.
Franklin Conaway, president of the Seneca County Courthouse and Downtown Redevelopment Group, which came up with the $8 million plan to restore the courthouse, also was in town.
“I just think this is a tragedy beyond words,” Mr. Conaway said. “It’s a high profile example of something that is very wrong in this country right now. Many of our small towns are losing their architectural heritage either by demolition or insensitive remodeling, and the tragedy is that we are not teaching our young people the importance of the tangible part of our American heritage.”
Mr. Conaway sent an email to county commissioners and County Administrator Stacy Wilson Monday that said the redevelopment group would have no further involvement “in any plan to preserve or renovate the historic Seneca County Courthouse” and has no expectation of being compensated for the work it has done over the last several years.
He said the statement came in part as a response to a comment by one commissioner who said he preferred not to have “outsiders” involved in courthouse planning.
Commissioner Ben Nutter, who has said the courthouse has to be torn down because the county can’t afford to renovate it, said he no longer intends to rely on the state or any organizations to help the county. Mr. Nutter had supported renovating the courthouse with the help of a $5 million low-interest loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture until the state legislature drastically reduced local government funds last summer.
Suzanne Smith, one of the first preservationists to show up at the courthouse Tuesday morning to snap some photos, said she believes it’s “short-sighted” of commissioners to say that saving the courthouse is not economically feasible.
“It just seems like there’s no justice for the justice system,” she said. “To reuse, recycle, restore – we’ve just let it go for so long.”