The historic, century-old Barton County Courthouse is getting a bath.
A crew from Fort Scott-based Mid-Continental Restoration Inc. arrived Monday. On Tuesday, they started power washing the dull white exterior in preparation for coats of paint, paint that will return the building to its original luster.
“It’s a big project,” one employee on site said. The company will be in Great Bend for about 15 weeks.
The last total overhaul of the structure’s outside came in 1984. Some minor repairs were made in 2001.
Both times, Mid-Continental was involved in the effort. Company representatives said they are proud to return and work on the building, one they said is a beauty.
County Administrator Phil Hathcock said the exterior of the 100-year-old courthouse was last repainted about 25 years ago and it was showing its age. Since that time, very little additional maintenance has been done to the outside. That is why on March 11, the County Commission approved hiring Mid-Continental at a cost of $160.126 to power wash, replace caulking, repair failed mortar joints and trim work and apply two coats of sealant coating, a special masonry paint.
“It’s going to be an extensive project,” he said. It will involve scaffolding to be set up around the building.
Hathcock said the work started sooner than anticipated. Originally set for late May, the company called last week and notified him crews would be here early.
It was during an architectural study done last spring that WDM Architects of Wichita noted the exterior was in need of repair and moisture was seeping into the building in some areas. To fix this, the outside needed a face lift first.
Plaster has been popping off the inside walls on the fourth floor, and some of the ornamentation was cracking and falling of the exterior. These, and other problems, were caused by the water, Hathcock said.
This is the first of two or three phases to get this building where it needs to be, commissioners have said. They have to get the exterior fixed before they do the interior.
In February of last year, a crew from Professional Engineering Consultants of Wichita took soil samples. WDM was hired to do an architectural study and structural analysis to determine what needs to be done, and it contracted with PEC to do the coring.
That was the last piece of the puzzle. WDM had already looked at the interior of the courthouse and a report outlining recommendations was submitted to county officials.
Referring to this report, county officials said the new roof and the structural issues will likely be at the top of the list.
The four corners of the courthouse have begun to separate from the center of the building, causing cracks to form. Repairs done in the past, including turnbuckles installed to pull the corner walls together, are proving to be unsuccessful.
One hundred years of settling is part of the issue. But, WDM believed the water running off the roof is softening the soil and expediting the deterioration.
That is why the drainage must be corrected, officials said. County crews have already cleaned some drain pipes and rerouted some downspouts to channel water away from the building.
With much fanfare, the county celebrated the 100th anniversary of the courthouse last June.
Construction of the structure started in November of 1917. It was completed by December 1918.