Martin County Courthouse getting facelift

TIME FOR A MAKEOVER — The Martin County Courthouse dome is due for refurbishment this year.

FAIRMONT — As a functioning historical site, the Martin County Courthouse certainly catches the eye.

From its arched entrance flanked by polished double Corinthian order columns, to its interior murals and high copper dome with four clock faces, the structure is a sight to behold. Now it is due for a facelift in the form of a dome restoration project.

Martin County commissioners heard from Bob Mickelson of ISG Architect and Engineers earlier this week concerning specific plans for the dome. A restoration project has been in the works since December 2018, with an estimated cost of $4.6 million.

“First of all, what we’re going to do is remove all of the copper on the entire dome,” Mickelson said. “Because it’s a full removal, there really isn’t much [to do] other than salvage. We’ll keep the things we need in order to reconstruct it, and [county coordinator] Scott [Higgins] and I have talked about what the county wants to retain as far as historical purposes.

“The clock face and mechanism are also a part of this. The clock dial will be taken apart, sandblasted, powder-coated and reconstructed as necessary. The frame that holds the glass in is rusted so we’ll reconstruct that with a piece of stainless steel.

“Then we’re hoping to salvage the white trim going around the clock because it appears to be in good shape on all the dials, and it appears that it would be a pretty expensive piece to reconstruct. The motion-works and gearing [of the clock] will all be restored.”

Mickelson also noted that one pair of clock hands that were thought to be original had a gold-leaf, so all the hands will be gold-leafed.

“The glass will be new too,” he said. “The clock expert said that your chances of being able to pull that glass out and re-use it is pretty slim. So we’ve got new glass called out on everything.”

Mickelson noted that modern technology has played a key role in helping determine what work needs to be done, and detailed drone photos will be provided to contractors.

He then moved on to the lantern on top of the dome, as well as the interior structural skeleton.

“The lantern is roughly 7 to 8 feet tall, and is something you may want to consider. The Historical Society may want to retain it for display.

“The structural steel that supports the whole dome, there’s about 150 rivets that we have to take out and redo because of the corrosion up there. If there’s a spot where we’re prone to change order it’s on this piece, because the steel has been coated with an undercoating to try and preserve it and it has concealed some of the damage that’s up there. But at least we’ve got a starting point with that number.”

A few changes also will be made during the reconstruction effort, including the addition of an exhaust fan to help with ventilation, which will in turn help with corrosion.

“Currently, the copper is attached directly to the frame of the dome, and we’re actually going to put a wood sheeting over that first,” he said. “With this we’ll be able to put an ice and water shield on that first, and then we’ll block up the primary and secondary ribs to help support the copper so it’s not as prone to crushing and hail damage. Then we’ll add pyro-paper to help with the soldering and that will help not melt the ice and water shield and will act as a slip sheet if the copper wants to go around that end.”

Advertisement for bids was sent out Feb. 20. They are due March 12. A date to begin construction has yet to be set, with Mickelson noting that contractors will be asked to list a substantial completion date, with a preference for mid-November.