Monday, September 17th, 2012
By Amy Kronenberger
Auglaize courthouse rededicated
  WAPAKONETA - The merging of history and the 21st century was celebrated Sunday with the rededication of the Auglaize County Courthouse.
"When I look out on all these smiling faces, I think it must look just like all the smiling faces during the original dedication in 1905," master of ceremonies John Kuffner, a St. Marys attorney, said.
More than 400 residents attended the ceremony and toured the 118-year-old courthouse. Many were impressed by the blend of history with modern technology.
"I think the commissioners should be praised for preserving it, while at the same time bringing it up to date," county historical society member Doug Brookhart of St. Marys said. "I think to do that and maintain the building is fantastic."
County com-
missioners
planned and saved for the two-year reconstruction project for 10 years, with the goal of preserving as much of the original building as possible. Construction workers, plumbers and electricians went to work on the $8.6 million project in early 2010.
Whitney Stained Glass, Cleveland, restored the original stained-glass windows. Other crews saved and restored as much of the original wood furniture and woodwork as possible, including stripping several layers of paint from the solid walnut exterior doors.
Brian Brothers Painting and Restoration, Piqua, repainted the entire structure and restored the stamped tin ceilings, borders and many historic murals throughout the courthouse.
The largest and most colorful mural - a 12-foot by 6-foot depiction of Pickett's Charge during the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War - overlooks the newly expanded municipal courtroom. Workers discovered the scene after removing the shelving of the former law library.
Auglaize Acres Administrator Connie Pierce said she has a special connection to the mural.
"My great-great-grandfather died in this battle in Gettysburg - on July 3, 1863," she said. "He's buried in the national cemetery there."
A state-of-the-art geothermal system was installed in the courthouse to provide heating and air conditioning. It replaced the original coal furnace that had heated the building since 1902. Until January 2011, workers would arrive at 6 a.m. to shovel coal into the furnace to have the building heated by 8 a.m.
The heating, air conditioning and electrical work was funded with a $1.3 million Energy Efficiency and Conservation Development Block Grant.
St. Marys attorney Eldon Montague said the original $259,481 building was "one of the most magnificent buildings in this part of Ohio" when it was built. After this renovation, the courthouse is once again magnificent, he said.
He commended commissioners for saving for the project instead of taking out a loan.
"In this day of bond issues, the commissioners found a way to pay for this entire project without a bond issue," he said.
Sen. Cliff Hite, R-Findlay, shared his perspective as a former history teacher. He said the most important part of history is to remember it.
"If you're young, keep the program, keep it in your heart," he said. "That's what history is all about."
Also speaking at the ceremony were Ohio Supreme Court Justice Robert Cupp, Wapakoneta Mayor Rodney Metz, St. Marys attorney Edward Noble, Ohio Department of Development Chief Deputy Chad Smith, Garmann/Miller architect Bruce Miller, County Commissioners Association Executive Director Larry Long and commissioner Doug Spencer.
"Our goal is to better the best," Hite said. "Auglaize County is already the best. This is an example of bettering the best."
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