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Historic restoration under way

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By Jenny Arnold

Jenny Arnold

jhartley@thelancasternews.com

Local historian Lindsay Pettus looks out his real estate office window every day at the work going on at the historic Lancaster County Courthouse.

“I’m absolutely delighted that we’re getting under way,” Pettus said Thursday. “The architect said hopefully the restoration will be done by the end of the year.”

Pettus said he’s especially pleased that work is being done on the roof. Getting a roof back on the building, which will protect the inside from the elements, is an important step in preserving the building’s history.

“Am I happy?” Pettus said. “Delighted.”

Trusses have been special-ordered to match the extra large timbers of the 1828 building. The building, which was still being used as a court facility, was set on fire in the early morning hours of Aug. 4, 2008. The fire was confined to the second story, where the building’s only courtroom was destroyed.

County officials, architect Jody Munnerlyn, and historians including Pettus got the chance Wednesday to sign the trusses, for historical purposes, before they go up on on the roof.

County Administrator Steve Willis said Hunter Builders workers removed the first two layers of bricks, which were deemed too soft to support the new roof. A concrete cap will be poured to support the beams, and

 the trusses are expected to be raised on Tuesday, Willis said.

Slate shingles, like those used on the original roof, will also be used in the restoration.

The roof work is considered an emergency repair, for insurance purposes, Willis said.

Once the new roof is complete and new windows installed, the emergency repairs will be complete and the interior work can begin.

Plans are being finalized right now for the interior work, Willis said.

Work has to go according to directives by the S.C. Archives and History and U.S. Department of the Interior, since the courthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and as a National Landmark.

The building is insured at replacement cost, or $1.8 million. Willis said hopefully the repairs won’t cost that much.

The county will be responsible for paying for upgrades to the building, including sprinkler and alarm systems.

The county will also have to pay to rebuild the steps on the front of the building, which are too steep to use right now.

It was either replace the steps, which were likely built during an 1853 addition, making them less steep, or build another interior staircase, Willis said.

Willis said the past County Council and current council members had made plans to restore the courthouse, although the fire expedited the work.

The restored courthouse may be turned into a county museum.

“It’s good that the past council and current council were taking steps to preserve this historical treasure,” Willis said.

Contact senior reporter Jenny Arnold at 283-1151