PARKERSBURG - Three porches apparently once graced the front of the grand lady of government downtown, the Wood County Courthouse, circa 1899.
Visitors to the historic building may not have noticed there are square stone posts flanking the front of the courthouse with what appear to be broken stone on the sides. It looks like there's something missing, and there is. Those stones are all that remain of two of three porches that apparently once graced the front entrance to the stone edifice. A photo taken at a 1941 war bonds sale held at the front of the courthouse shows people standing on all three of the original porches.
County administrator Marty Seufer said other photos of the building prior to the 1980s renovations show the porches on the sides were still there prior to those renovations.
Photo by Pamela Brust
This photo shows the area where one of the original porches was located. As you face the courthouse at the fountain side entrance, this is on the left side off the third floor.
The county is applying for a West Virginia Courthouse Facilities Improvement Grant to restore and replace two of the porches outside the third floor.
In 2001, the West Virginia Legislature created the courthouse authority to evaluate the needs of the state's courthouses and estimate potential costs for renovations and repairs. The authority oversees a special revenue account made up of a portion of the fees collected for county services, such as marriage licenses and copying fees for tax maps. Counties can annually apply for the grants. The funding can be used for anything related to courthouses or any other county-owned buildings used for county operations. The maximum grant award is $80,000, and there is a 20 percent required funding local match on each grant.
The county has received several courthouse facilities grants for various projects over the years, including a grant to replace the stone steps on the courthouse.
County officials said the balusters and railings were apparently removed during the 1983-1984 renovation at the courthouse. It is assumed this was due to a state of disrepair from years of water drainage and a prohibitive cost of replacement at that time.
"This is a major feature of the building that was lost," Seufer said.
County officials also have some safety concerns because the remaining stones seem to be separating and continue to deteriorate. The porches are located outside what used to serve as the courthouse's third-floor courtroom. It now houses assessor offices.
According to the grant application, the replacement stone will be limestone instead of sandstone so it will weather better, and will be sealed to prevent future water damage.
The project, as proposed, would replace the balustrade and rails with handcarved limestone in the original shape as constructed back in 1899. The stone will be sealed with a breathable sealant and drip edges will be fabricated on the rails to channel the water off the balusters, stone rails and prevent future erosion.
Construction on the current Wood County Courthouse began in 1899. It took nearly two years at a cost of $100,000. The building is an example of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture. The courthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.