A 100th anniversary is approaching that Tazewell County residents should want to celebrate.
They will on June 21, when their Courthouse begins its second century as both a historic relic and the rock-steady center of the county’s government campus.
Perhaps history itself will literally return to light that day, if officials can arrange to remove a time capsule sealed in the building’s cornerstone when it was dedicated on the same day in 1916.
“We’re talking with concrete companies to see if it’s possible to pull (the capsule) out” while preserving the cornerstone itself, said county Courts Administrator Courtney Eeten.
She is preparing the agenda and details of a re-dedication ceremony to take place at noon at the Courthouse at 342 Court St. It will include comments by county Chief Circuit Judge Paul Gilfillan, County Board Chairman David Zimmerman and State’s Attorney Stewart Umholtz, Eeten said.
The building then will be opened to the public for a “self-guided tour” aided by a pamphlet that will call their attention to the array of revealing and significant historic photos and artifacts the Courthouse holds.
Civil War-era items are prominent among them, including a rocking chair crafted from a tree downed in the Battle of Gettysburg. Embedded in it is a bullet fired during the battle’s crucial struggle for Little Round Top.
The Couthouse itself, however, is a structure to admire both for its historic and architectural features. No expense was spared, and no brick was poorly placed, in its construction.
“The white marble for the halls and bannisters was imported from Italy,” Eeten said.
The marble adornments in the “massive limestone-clad building” were noted by the Farnsworth Group, a Peoria architectural firm that conducted a space-needs study of Tazewell’s government buildings several years ago. The firm did not skimp on its praise of the Courthouse and its upkeep over the decades.
Designed in the “Classic Revival” style popular a century ago, the building “is a brilliant example of classic municipal architecture” and remains the vibrant “centerpiece for Tazewell County government,” the firm reported. Its large outer columns are “reflective of the Tuscan order.”
A three-story-high atrium rises above a large central lobby surrounded by load-bearing walls that, the firm noted for its study, prevent any significant internal redesigns.
The Courthouse was built to last without much change. As communities increasingly seek to preserve and give new life to their aging structures of a bygone era, that’s something to celebrate.
Follow Michael Smothers at Twitter.com/msmotherspekin