With the weather the way it has been, it might be spring before new granite pavers can be installed on the west side entrance of the historic Ellis County Courthouse.
“Well it’s going to take some fair weather to do it,” said Guy Windholz, chairman of a volunteer group leading a privately funded effort to restore the historic entrance of the courthouse, the Ellis County Courthouse Preservation Committee. “If we have a bad January, it might be spring.”
The courthouse was built in the early 1940s for $300,000 as a project of the Work Projects Administration, which paid about 80 percent of the cost.
Windholz gave an update on the restoration project to the Ellis County Commissioners during their regular meeting Monday evening at the Ellis County Administrative Center.
The preservation committee has relied on the guidance of Kansas sculptor Pete Felten, Hays, for his expertise on working with stone, Windholz said.
Tearing out the old granite and installing new is the first step in restoring the entrance to the old courthouse. The second step will be removal of some of the deteriorating limestone on the exterior walls. For both the granite and the limestone, weathering has taken its toll, causing flaking and crumbling.
The old granite has been torn out, and a new concrete base installed that has to cure for 28 days, Windholz said.
The granite pavers are cut and ready to go. They were cut from two huge blocks of granite shipped from Minnesota, where the original granite pavers were quarried, said Windholz. The preservation committee hired Kansas Granite Industries, Ellis, to slice the big blocks into pavers.
The original limestone on the courthouse came from a longtime quarry near Schoenchen.
About 60 limestones are due to be replaced, said Phil Martin, Ellis, another member of the committee, most of it on the west side of the courthouse where there was previously an aluminum and glass vestibule that was put on in the 1970s when energy conservation was important. The vestibule was removed in 2015.
“That sort of aggravated that area there having that entryway there. In my opinion it accelerated it perhaps. After 75 years, the deterioration of the deck was bad, it was causing settlement,” Martin said. “That means water migrates in from freezing and thawing.”
The new limestone blocks are also coming from local sources, old fenceposts.
“We had two donors give us limestone from their own property,” said Windholz, naming Tom and Therese Haas, Antonino, and Michael Robben, Vincent. Kansas Granite will shape those into three-inch thick blocks to put a new face on the old limestone.
The hope is to use LED lights to illuminate the courthouse at night.
“Gosh that’s our centerpiece of Ellis County,” Windholz said. “I don’t think it’s going to hurt our budget if we do that.”
In other business, the commissioners gave permission for the Hays Public Library to locate a new digital sign on county property by the library.