News From Terre Haute, Indiana

News

September 26, 2013

MARK BENNETT: Restoration improves courthouse top’s standing in skyline

TERRE HAUTE — Terre Haute has a skyline.

From some angles, it consists of billboards, restaurant marquees and convenience-store signs. From other spots, the outlines of historic buildings, church steeples, college dorms and old industries jut into the horizon. Two years ago, when comedian Will Ferrell clandestinely filmed a series of joke beer commercials in Terre Haute, he chose the rooftops of two prominent elements of the local skyline as locations for a couple of the spots — Terre Haute’s “skyscraper” (the 12-story Sycamore Building) and the downtown parking garage.

Ferrell’s parking garage ad opened with a panoramic shot of the most recognizable structure on the cityscape, the Vigo County Courthouse. The view looks quite scenic, notwithstanding the can of Old Milwaukee sitting on the garage ledge in the foreground.

Visually, the courthouse earns its dominance. It stands 284 feet tall, from the ground to the top of its cupola. The main building measures 226 feet north to south, and 277 feet east to west, with five stories of courtrooms and offices. Above that, a dome tower rises the equivalent of another four stories. An architect from Cincinnati, Samuel L. Hannaford, designed a French-style courthouse for a French-named town in a state blessed with deep deposits of limestone. The resulting French Neo-Baroque (also called Stone Quarry style) took four years to build (in the pre-power-tools era) and debuted in 1888. It’s a whopping 92,335 square feet of space, dressed in massive stones from Stinesville shaped into columns, arches and peaks.

Its focal point is the dome.

That dome just got shinier and the skyline more noticeable. Terre Haute has gone gold.

Workers from a Columbus, Ohio, company specializing in historic building restoration are wrapping up a two-month project to repair the primary courthouse dome, the smaller domes around its tower, and the surrounding iron work. The dome’s copper skin — installed nearly four decades ago — began leaking from weather and a lack of preventative maintenance, Vigo County commissioners told the Tribune-Star in April. Hail dented and punctured the roof. Wind gusts loosened seams in the copper, and more than 2,500 screws needed to be replaced. Stones and the iron catwalk fence around the cupola needed to be secured.

“It was in sad shape,” said R.J. Kunkle, owner of the restoration firm, Traditions Group.

Commissioners opted to repair and seal the dome for $180,000, rather than replace its copper skin at a cost of more than $1 million. (The entire courthouse was built 125 years ago for $433,189 — the equivalent of a relatively modest $10.9 million today.) The restoration process — after breaks, holes and dents are patched and the surface is prepared — includes multiple coatings of a clear, protective sealant applied before and after two coatings of gold pigment developed in Germany. Workers must use brushes, Kunkle emphasized.

“It’s thick,” he said, sitting near a work trailer on the courthouse grounds. “It’s almost like a marshmallow shake.”

Kunkle knows courthouses. He’s tended to them for 65 of his 86 years. His first courthouse restoration was in Paulding County, Ohio, in 1956. Since then, his list has grown to 147 courthouses, more than 2,000 churches, five state capitols and numerous structures on the National Register of Historic Places. The Vigo County Courthouse joined the National Register in 1983. Kunkle ranks it pretty high, too.

“Of the 147 [courthouses], the architecture of this one is a nicer design than any, by far,” he said.

Maybe the gold makeover befits its distinct character. Just a few Indiana courthouses, including Dubois County’s, has a dome coated gold by Kunkle and his crew.

Of course, the golden dome most commonly associated with Indiana graces the top of the Main Building at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend. That dome, gilded with 23.9-karat gold leaf, has been in place since 1882. With its new, far less costly gold pigment coating, the Vigo County Courthouse has changed its look. The copper skin, which Kunkle installed in 1974, developed a patina — a greenish crust, formed by oxidation — over time.

The gold gleams and catches attention. The aged copper blended into the background.

“I’ve had some people calling who like it shiny, and some who like it dull,” said Mike Ciolli, one of Vigo County’s three commissioners. He’s heard only one fully negative comment.

Traditions Group workers have heard mostly positive comments, too. “Overall, we’ve had very good responses,” said Ike Rader, project manager and supervisor.

They’ve also fielded mixed reviews to a similar protective coating of bronze to a cast-iron military figure atop a tall monument on the east side of the courthouse grounds. Weather, especially hail, left “pinholes” on its surface and caused its copper base to stain the stone stand. The stain is no longer visible, and the metal figure has a brighter bronze tone.

Kunkle expects to complete the job by month’s end. Still, to keep the gold looking fresh and the dome secure, upkeep will be necessary every two years, costing approximately $1,200, Ciolli said. Kunkle praised the commissioners for pursuing the restoration and the preventive maintenance. “They want the building to last forever,” Kunkle said.

They don’t make courthouses, or domes, like that anymore, and Terre Haute’s skyline wouldn’t be the same without ours.

Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or mark.bennett@tribstar.com.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
News
  • MET073114griffin markers.jpg Trail blazers

    Blake Griffin remembers when he and his brother, Dale, would ride their bikes along wooded trails in the wilderness area of Fowler Park.

    July 31, 2014 7 Photos

  • Officials say city ‘overspent’

    Two Terre Haute councilmen told the Taxpayers Association of Vigo County Thursday they think the city is overspending, but they gave no solutions to reduce expenses.

    July 31, 2014

  • MET073114sinkhole korenski.jpg Block downtown to close for repairs

    A sinkhole is forcing the temporary closure of a major downtown street beginning Monday.

    July 31, 2014 2 Photos

  • MET 012312 MICK NEWPORT.jpg Wave of retirees at Vigo schools

    Valarie Bailey has worked for the Vigo County School Corp. for 26 years in roles that included at-risk counselor, school social worker, assistant student services director and curriculum coordinator.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fire house to fire dept.

    A legal battle has been resolved to restore ownership of the community fire station in Fayette Township.

    July 31, 2014

  • Road Closings

    14th Street, from Oak to Poplar streets, will be closed from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 9 for Friends and Family Weekend.

    July 31, 2014

  • August Fire Safety Tip

    Monthly safety hint — Barbeque/grilling safety

    July 31, 2014

  • MET 073014 WESTMINISTER DIG.jpg Expanding independence

    Westminster Village, a Terre Haute retirement community, is investing $1.8 million to construct 12 new villa homes, officials announced Wednesday.

    July 30, 2014 5 Photos

  • Decades later, dry cleaners leave blemish

    Fifty years ago, about 30 dry cleaners did business in the city of Terre Haute. City officials are now cleaning up the mess some left behind.

    July 30, 2014 1 Story

  • MARK BENNETT: Year of River sets example for state

    Terre Haute pays more attention to the Wabash River these days.

    July 30, 2014

  • Climate of less regulation, more chemical spills leaves ‘historical pollution,’ NCA director says

    Former dry cleaning sites are an environmental problem all over the state, according to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

    July 30, 2014 1 Story

  • MET073014parks bbushee.jpg Camping turnout low for first half of summer

    Camping revenue for the past two months has dropped in Vigo County parks, a downturn park officials say is difficult to attribute to a new park policy limiting campers’ stays to 14 days in the three county parks.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • MET 073014 DESTROYED.jpg Devastating fire takes out mobile home

    A Seelyville mobile home sustained heavy damage in a fire early Wednesday morning.
    Lost Creek Township firefighters were called to the scene in the 2200 block of Tabortown Road south of U.S. 40 at about 2 a.m.

    July 30, 2014 3 Photos

  • Man posts bond after fatal wreck

    An Oct. 7 trial date has been set for a Terre Haute man accused of driving while intoxicated causing death.

    July 30, 2014 3 Stories

  • Driver injured, airlifted, cited for failure to yield

    An elderly woman was injured in a crash Wednesday afternoon in Sullivan County, according to Indiana State Police.

    July 30, 2014

  • MET072914leo screen.jpg Slick’s debut

    Bobby “Slick” Leonard was the main attraction but his hometown, Terre Haute, was constantly in the background as friends, fans and family gathered in Indianapolis Tuesday night to honor the man famous for the words “Boom Baby.”

    July 29, 2014 8 Photos

  • MET 072914 TAJIMI YANASE.jpg Sister-city students get a dose of ‘new culture’

    One of Juri Sawada’s dreams has been to visit America.

    July 29, 2014 3 Photos

  • Motion delays trial for 2012 homicide

    A man who has been jailed about 20 months in connection with the homicide of his wife will not go on trial next week as scheduled.

    July 29, 2014

  • Sheriff charged in prostitution case

    Clark County Sheriff Danny Rodden has spent more than 30 years in law enforcement working to protect the public from criminals, but on Tuesday he was treated as one.

    July 29, 2014 1 Story

  • maple candy closeup.jpg Vigo Parks dishing out the sweetness

    Vigo County Parks and Recreation has made a “sweet” addition to its maple syrup production at Prairie Creek Park.

    July 29, 2014 3 Photos

  • Danny Rodden indicted on federal charges

    Instead of overseeing the operations of the Clark County jail and police force Tuesday, Clark County Sheriff Danny Rodden found himself being transported by the FBI to Indianapolis to answer federal charges.

    July 29, 2014 1 Story

  • Woman’s condition ‘fair’ after grocery store wreck

    A Terre Haute woman was listed in fair condition Tuesday at Eskenazi Health in Indianapolis as the result of injuries sustained in Monday’s accident on the Baesler’s Market parking lot.

    July 29, 2014

  • Semi driver cited for alcohol use

    A commercial vehicle driver has been placed out of service after he tested positive for alcohol consumption during a Tuesday morning traffic stop in Sullivan County.

    July 29, 2014

  • Church to give out school backpacks

    United Methodist Temple will stage its first-ever Back-2-School Bash from 5 to 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 9.
    The church is located at 5301 S. U.S. 41.

    July 29, 2014

  • MET 072814 BUS MEYERROSE.jpg Bus safety features

    New safety features on South Vermillion School Corp. buses have led to fewer disciplinary problems and fewer incidents of motorists illegally passing stopped school buses, officials say.

    July 29, 2014 3 Photos

  • Pendergast.jpg Humvee driver says foot caused fatal accident

    Kyle Pendergast, 22, the Terre Haute driver of a black Humvee charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing the death of a teenager, has told police he could not turn the wheel before the vehicle flipped in a field in an early Saturday morning accident.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo 2 Stories

  • MET 072814 CONTAMINATED Cleaner may have contaminated water

    Groundwater and soil testing is set to begin within a week to learn whether toxic chemicals might have seeped into the wells of a small southside neighborhood and even beyond.

    July 29, 2014 3 Photos

  • Housing Authority’s Warren Village nearing completion

    Construction on the newest Terre Haute Housing Authority property – Warren Village – should wrap up next month, a housing authority official said Monday.

    July 29, 2014

  • rush-hr.jpg Observers predict ‘wide open’ process of picking next chief

    State Supreme Court Chief Justice Brent Dickson surprised observers in June when he decided to step down after a brief tenure as the state’s top judge.

    July 29, 2014 2 Photos

  • Multi-vehicle accident in parking lot

    A woman was hospitalized with injuries after a multiple-vehicle accident late Monday morning in the Baesler’s Market parking lot on Poplar Street

    July 29, 2014

Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Small Plane Crash in San Diego Parking Lot Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers Ravens' Ray Rice: 'I Made a Huge Mistake' Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Cantor Warns of Instability, Terror in Farewell Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Busy Franco's Not Afraid of Overexposure 3 People Killed, Deputies Wounded in NC Shootout Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo LeBron James Sends Apology Treat to Neighbors Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN Raw: Smoke, Explosions Fill Gaza Skyline
NDN Video
Famous Internet Cats Help Big Cause With Viral Video Raw: Obama Gets Hug From Special Olympian Snoop Dogg Narrating Animal Footage Is Perfect Tigers Acquire David Price - @TheBuzzeronFOX Russell Brand Slams Sean Hannity Over Gaza Conflict Segment Chapter Two: Composing for a film in retirement Woman's Dive Goes Terribly Wrong Brian Williams Reports on Daughter Allison Williams' 'Peter Pan' Casting News Did Jimmy Fallon Look Up Heidi Klum's Dress? What Drama? Miranda Kerr Poses Topless Plane crashes in San Diego Costco parking lot Justin Bieber Takes To Instagram To Diss Orlando Bloom You Won't Believe the Celeb Cameos in "Sharknado 2" Pitch Invading Morons Cause Chaos - @TheBuzzeronFOX Orlando Bloom 'Takes a Swing' at Justin Bieber In Ibiza Sadie Doesn't Want Her Brother to Grow Up "Maxim" Hotness! See Jessica Alba's Sizzling Spread Two women barely avoid being hit by train Broken Water Main Floods UCLA Orlando Bloom and Justin Bieber Reportedly Came To Blows In Ibiza
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity
Real Estate News