TIFFIN — Selling raffle tickets for artifacts from the now-demolished Seneca County Courthouse has been eye-opening for members of the county’s historical society.
“I can’t say if it was encouraging or aggravating, but a lot of people passing by would get a shocked look on their face and say, ‘My God. This is the stuff that was in the courthouse?’ ” said Mark Steinmetz, a trustee with the historical society and assistant director of the Seneca County Museum, which will benefit from the raffle to be held this weekend.
When Mr. Steinmetz assured those looking at the items that yes, indeed, this carved cherry molding, this beautiful wainscoting, and this ornate cast-iron floor register were typical features inside the 1884 courthouse, onlookers would invariably reply, “Well, at least all of it was saved.”
Not true, he told them. Very little of it was saved — only the pieces and parts local antiques dealer David Kreais was able to salvage before the bulldozer hit the building Jan. 9. Mr. Kreais donated three of those pieces to the historical society to raffle off for a fund-raiser supporting the financially pinched county museum.
Tickets, which are $1 each or six for $5, are on sale at the museum, where the drawing will take place Saturday.
Mr. Steinmetz said he hopes those who are sad to see the old courthouse and its fancy features disappear will step up and support the local history museum, which is creating an exhibit dedicated to a room of courthouse relics, including the contents of the cornerstone. About the same time commissioners voted 2-1 to demolish the courthouse, the board also agreed to stop funding operation of the county museum.
Visitors who stop by the museum today and Saturday can get a “sneak preview” of the courthouse exhibit, which is expected to be completed later this year or early next year. The museum will be open from 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. today and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, as part of Tiffin’s Little Box Shop’s Holiday Extravaganza.
Mr. Steinmetz said the exhibit is to include some items such as window transoms and newell posts that were removed from the courthouse well before it was demolished, as well as some relics, such as pieces of its fossilized black-and-white floor tile that were literally plucked from the landfill where the building debris was taken.
Mr. Kreais said the pieces he donated were refinished and that has really impressed people.
“I think that’s maybe what we should’ve done before they tore [the courthouse] down — taken a few pieces out and showed people how beautiful they could be,” he said.
Mr. Steinmetz agreed that people have been wowed by what was inside the courthouse that so many thought was an ugly and outdated building. The fancy mantle that once hung over a set of doors in the courthouse is particularly impressive, he said.
“If I’ve had one person run their hands over that, I’ve had a thousand,” he said. “A lot of people would love to have it even if they don’t know what they’d do with it. It tends to boil up feelings inside people, saying, ‘Oh my God, we did the wrong thing.’ ”
The museum event comes just a few days before Tuesday’s election in which incumbent County Commissioner Ben Nutter, who voted in favor of demolishing the courthouse without salvaging its architectural features, is being challenged by Republican Fred Zoeller.
For information on the raffle and this weekend’s event, go to senecacountymuseum.com.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6129.