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Published: Friday, 1/6/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Major demolition of Seneca Co. courthouse delayed to next week

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Preservationists form a prayer circle, led by Jackie Fletcher, who said they were praying to St. Jude, the patron of lost causes. Preservationists form a prayer circle, led by Jackie Fletcher, who said they were praying to St. Jude, the patron of lost causes.
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TIFFIN -- An avid supporter of local history in neighboring Wyandot County, Bill Mullen went to Tiffin this week to save a piece of the endangered Seneca County Courthouse.

Mr. Mullen, a member of the Shawshank Redemption Reunion Committee -- a nonprofit made up of locals who worked as extras in the 1993 movie filmed, in part, at the courthouse in Upper Sandusky -- purchased a set of exterior doors from the north side of the 1884 courthouse in Tiffin.

"If for some reason this [demolition] doesn't happen, we'd be glad to bring them back," Mr. Mullen was quick to say.

He and fellow committee member Bob Wachtman were videotaping activity around the demolition site and talking with residents about the issue with plans to take the lesson of Seneca County home with them.

"We're filming this because we want to wake up our county," Mr. Mullen said. "The courthouse in Wyandot County is by no means unloved, but there are things that need to be done and done soon. Our dome needs some work.

"We have copper gutters that are getting bad," he said. "We have some water damage to the ceiling."

Mr. Mullen said Seneca County commissioners gave him permission to tour the courthouse in downtown Tiffin a couple weeks ago and he took many photos.

In addition, he contacted B&B Wrecking and Excavating in Cleveland to inquire about purchasing the doors.

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He declined to say what he paid for the double wood doors with ornate glass panels, but said they were removed Wednesday and taken to the Stephan Lumber Co. building in Upper Sandusky, which has been converted to a museum dedicated to the Shawshank Redemption.

Brian Baumann, president of B&B, said he has had offers from potential buyers, both local and out of state, for items from the courthouse before it is razed. He has sold doors, woodwork, and cast-iron heat registers. He said he salvaged some of the ornate door handles and hinges -- some to use in his own home, others, he said, to possibly sell on eBay.

Doors from the Seneca County Courthouse, as well as some other architectural pieces such as woodwork and cast-iron heat registers, have been sold. But the demolition firm says such sales haven't been as lucrative as some predicted. Doors from the Seneca County Courthouse, as well as some other architectural pieces such as woodwork and cast-iron heat registers, have been sold. But the demolition firm says such sales haven't been as lucrative as some predicted.
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"It hasn't been as lucrative as people thought," he said, explaining that some people wanted to take things for free, others needed more time than B&B could give them. Under the terms of the $373,000 contract with Seneca County, B&B is to have the building removed and the site leveled in 60 days.

Because the Seneca County engineer will take the sandstone and brick to use in road and bridge projects, "We're going to recycle better than 50 percent of the building," Mr. Baumann said.

Major demolition is now expected to begin Monday or Tuesday, he said, after the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency asked B&B to test the soil beneath the crawl space where some pipes were removed during asbestos abatement.

"We tested it today and should get the results by the end of the day Friday," Mr. Baumann said.

Heather Lauer, a spokesman for the Ohio EPA, confirmed Thursday that B&B had "done everything that they need to do. As far as we're concerned, they've met their asbestos obligation."

Brenda Stultz, left, and Marietta Estep, devoted to efforts to save the courthouse, share a rumor, which turned out to be untrue, that demolition might be delayed because of an issue with the EPA. Brenda Stultz, left, and Marietta Estep, devoted to efforts to save the courthouse, share a rumor, which turned out to be untrue, that demolition might be delayed because of an issue with the EPA.
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Since preservationists expected the building to begin coming down this week, they remained hopeful the delay was a good sign. Several times they huddled in a circle for a prayer of healing and, at one point, a prayer to St. Jude, patron saint of lost causes.

Meanwhile, the Seneca County Sheriff's Office continues to investigate a threat allegedly made to Commissioner Jeff Wagner in a telephone call to his home -- an act Commissioner Ben Nutter called "reprehensible." The two supported razing the courthouse.

"Jeff and I are being part of the solution, and you might not like our solution but everyone needs to respect everyone's lives and rights," Mr. Nutter said. "We're talking about bricks and mortar here, and I think people have lost sight of that."

Commissioner Dave Sauber, the only commissioner who did not vote for tearing down the courthouse, said he would support a halt to the demolition work if he could get Mr. Nutter or Mr. Sauber to change their mind.

A 30-day moratorium on demolition, he said, would give the governor or a judge the opportunity to intervene.

"I would support that just based on the fact that I don't want to spend the money and because once the courthouse is removed, it takes away any chances of getting grants or low-interest loans for a courthouse," Mr. Sauber said.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-724-6129.



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