As plans are in the works to mark the Barton County Courthouse’s centennial in 2018, plans are also underway to make long-needed repairs to the venerable structure.
“It’s a landmark building that anchors the whole downtown,” County Commission Chairwoman Jennifer Schartz said. “I feel responsible for maintaining it for future generations.”
County commissioners Monday afternoon interviewed representatives from two architectural firms for the project, DMA Architects PA of Salina and GLMV Architecture of Wichita.
“We are just starting the process and don’t know the scope of anything yet,” Schartz said.
They know they have to address plumbing problems. There there also may be some structural issues with the four corners of the aging building.
“The courthouse will be 100 years old in 2018 and we know that there are some repairs that need to be made,” she said. “We are just trying to get an assessment of the building so we know what may need to be done to carry us into the next century.”
March 28, 1918, was a rainy Thursday. It was also when the cornerstone of what would be the Barton County Courthouse was laid with much fanfare, the Barton County Democrat reported.
Bands played, and awards and honors were presented. Kansas Governor Arthur Capper was also on hand.
“The laying of the cornerstone of Barton County’s fine new courthouse today marks another epoch in the interesting history of this great community of the Middle West,” said the article, provided by local historian Karen Neuforth. At a cost of $250,000, roughly $4.5 million in today’s dollars, it would be four stories high and built of concrete, brick and steel (advertised as being totally fire proof).
“It will not only be one of the finest, but one of the largest county buildings in the state,” the article reads. At the time, it was about 30 percent completed.
The ground floor contained the boiler, space for the county farm advisor and a meeting room. The first floor housed several county offices such as the treasurer, county clerk and county commissioners.
The second floor consisted of the courtroom, the county attorney, the clerk of the court and the sheriff. The top floor had the upper part of the courtroom, juror dormitories and unassigned office space.
“When completed it will be a building of which every resident in Barton Count can well be proud for there will be no more complete or better building anywhere,” the article reads. “The completed building is going to be a beautiful structure and monument for centuries to come.”
Construction actually started in November of 1917 and it was expected to be done by November of 1918. The start of the project was delayed at first because the previous courthouse built on the same site in 1874-75 had not been razed on time.
A follow-up article from the Dec. 18, 1918, Great Bend Tribune notes that the courthouse was finished. The first trial, a divorce case, had taken place the day before.
A few changes
The original building had an outside staircase leading up to what was considered the first floor. That was removed in 1952.
Over the years, there have been some office moves and some remodeling. The commission now meets on what was called the ground floor, and the Sheriff’s Office has moved across the street.
But, by in large, the structure has remained mostly as it was in 1918.