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TIFFIN – As the wrecking ball swung against the side of Seneca County’s 1884 courthouse Monday afternoon, Suzanne Smith turned her head.
It was hard to watch, she said, harder still to hear the thunking sound of the ball followed quickly by the crumble of stone and brick.
“We have to heal. We have to go on, but this is extremely difficult,” Ms. Smith said.
As one of the county residents who hoped the downtown landmark could be saved, Ms. Smith passed off the decision to tear down the Beaux Arts style courthouse as “small town short-sightedness.”
Loretta Miller and her sister, Marietta Estep, arrived at the courthouse at 8:30 a.m. but packed up to leave about 2:30 p.m. when the wrecking ball began to create a gaping hole in the southwest corner of the building.
“I do not want to watch the rape of the courthouse… That’s how I feel. It feels like a rape,” Mrs. Estep said. “I cannot stop it. I am not going to watch it.”
Water sprayed on the building to keep the dust down as the wrecking ball — suspended from a huge red crane — worked, sending debris flying as it struck the building. Workers moved back the chain-link fence surrounding the courthouse as it became clear the debris was going to fly beyond its boundaries.
Spectators lining Market and Washington streets watched the demolition, which began in earnest about 1:30 p.m. when the wrecking ball was dropped on the roof of the building, pounding through the top two floors.
“I hate to see it come down, but they didn’t take care of it,” said Lisa O’Millian, who said she had come downtown to go to the pharmacy and decided to check out the courthouse demolition.
Commissioner Jeff Wagner, watching the work from across the street, called it “a bittersweet moment.” He and fellow Commissioner Ben Nutter pushed for demolition of the courthouse.
“I’m glad that the project is moving forward. I know it’s the best thing for the community, but I know it hurts a lot of people,” Mr. Wagner said. “That makes for a sad feeling.”
At noon, workers with B&B Wrecking and Excavating of Cleveland erected a massive red crane, powered it up, swung the clam shell around, and then shut it down.
What then seemed like repeated delays gave hope to those still hoping for a reprieve.
“I still have hope,” said Marietta Estep who had been at the courthouse site since 8:30 a.m. “Until that ball hits the corner of the building, there still is hope.”
A block away at the commissioners’ Monday morning meeting, the board said nothing about the courthouse demolition before the public comment period when Brenda Stultz pointed out the obvious, asking how they could have nothing to say about something happening so close by.
Shortly after addressing county commissioners at their first meeting of the year, Ms. Stultz sat on the ground outside the courthouse with the county’s flag draped around her shoulders. She cried.
In November, commissioners voted 2-1 to hire B&B for $373,000 to tear down the courthouse.