More work needed at historic courthouse

DeWayne Bartels
It is not just the columns at the historic Metamora Courthouse that need repair.

A recent effort by the Woodford County Historical Society to raise the funds needed to restore columns at the Metamora Courthouse State Historic Site has been successful, but the work will be far from done when the current fundraising effort is completed.

New woes

Jean Myers, curator of the Metamora Courthouse State Historic Site, said he is pleased the effort to restore the columns at the courthouse is going so well, but, he said, on Sept. 7 work needed at the courthouse extends well beyond the columns.

Myers said after the money needed for the columns is raised, other work awaits. He estimates that work will cost between $40,000 and $50,000.  

Myers said the portico above the columns, the soffit and the cupola need to be replaced or renovated.

“It has to be done,” Myers said. “It can’t be ignored. Water is coming in. The wood is separating. We must come up with a way to preserve this. It’s a Lincoln site. We can’t let it go.”

Column work

Years of water leaking into the columns in front of the courthouse have caused damage that needs to be repaired.

“I think its unfortunate the state can’t take care of it’s property, but it’s understandable given the state’s financial situation,” Myers said about the columns.

“This is a cultural landmark in our community and county. I’m overwhelmed at the support.”

An anonymous donor has agreed to match gifts up to $10,000 for the repair of the columns on the Historic Metamora Courthouse.

The state provided funds to do some repairs but the money ran out. The state has said it has no money left to put toward the repairs expected to cost about $23,000. As of Sept. 7, $16,000 had been donated.

Myers said while the state is not providing funding for the column project it has provided paint, sealant and the advice of an architect.  

“I don’t want it to sound like the state has ignored us,” Myers said.

The two center columns are original to the building. The interior support of each column is a walnut tree with the bark still on it. The outside of each column is clad in wood that is giving way.

The courthouse was built in 1845 and served as the center of county government until the county seat was moved to Eureka in 1896. It is one of two surviving courthouses on the historic Eighth Judicial Circuit traveled by Abraham Lincoln.