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New Wood County Courthouse steeple put in place

Jim and Carolyn Layman of Parkersburg watched Tuesday as crews put the new steeple on the top of the bell tower of the Wood County Courthouse. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

PARKERSBURG — The skyline of Wood County changed Tuesday as the new steeple for the Wood County Courthouse was lowered into place.

Just after noon, the crane lifted the 7,000 pound, 17-by-19-foot 6-inch steeple from the ground outside the courthouse and lifted it above the bell tower and lowered it into place. The steeple was suspended for a while before it was secured to the tower.

The steeple was built by Campbellsville Industries — nicknamed “The Steeple People”— of Campbellsville, Ky. and transported to Parkersburg on Monday. Crews from Campbellsville and Murray Sheet Metal, the project contractor, were on hand do additional touch-up work to the steeple before it was lifted into place. Once on the tower, crews from Campbellsville secured the steeple to the tower.

Wood County Commission President Blair Couch and county Administrator Marty Seufer signed the inside of the steeple. Couch also included the names of commissioners, Jimmy Colombo and Robert Tebay.

The tower restoration has been in the works for the last two years. Couch said the work done through a Courthouse Facilities Improvement Grant Fund. The steeple project was around $500,000 with a $40,000 local match.

A crane lifted up the new 7,000-pound steeple and placed it on the bell tower of the Wood County Courthouse Tuesday. Crews secured the steeple to the tower.(Photo by Brett Dunlap)

”We have taken a pretty big step for Wood County in replacing the steeple that came down in 1952,” Couch said. ”It took us a few years to figure this out and bring a new one up.

”The skyline of Wood County has certainly changed. This adds to that and makes a really tall structure.”

Crews with Murray Sheet Metal have been working for the last couple of months on renovations to the tower and preparing it to receive the new crown. The building had something similar prior to 1952 when it was removed. The renovation has included roof repairs, a climbing stairwell reconstruction up to the tower and other work associated with restoring the bell tower.

Randy Rogers, president of Murray Sheet Metal, said the company was proud to be a part of a significant project for the community.

”We are happy to be involved in a project that returns the courthouse to its orginial look when it had a steeple,” he said. ”This has been a great project for us.”

The new 17-by-19-foot 6-inch steeple was placed on top of the bell tower on the Wood County Courthouse Tuesday. The steeple returns the historic courthouse to its apperance before the original steeple was taken down in the early 1950s. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

Rogers thanked the commission, Seufer, the Parkersburg Police Department, Wood County Sheriff Steve Stephens and others in the community in helping make the project come together.

”They have all been helpful in getting this thing done,” he said.

Rogers said there were a lot of challenges in doing a project like this.

The courthhouse is an old building with a lot of old construction and brickwork, Rogers said. Crews had to access the tower and get materials inside. They had scaffoling inside to do the steelwork.

”It was difficult getting in, up and down and moving around,” Rogers said.

In a picture taken from the offices of the Mid-Ohio Valley Chamber of Commerse in the United Bank Building shows the new steeple being placed by crane on top of the bell tower on the Wood County Courthouse. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

They worked with a number of subcontractors and everything required a lot of coordination.

”It has actually gone pretty smooth,” Rogers said.

A crew of around six people from Campbellsville, Murray Sheet Metal, UCCI and Armstrong Electric did prep work on top of the tower and secured the steeple once in was in place, Rogers said.

Seufer said with the new steeple and a 4-foot spire on top, the belltower now measured 164 feet, making the Wood County Courthouse the tallest courthouse in the state of West Virginia.

With the steeple, the large flag at Fort Boreman Hill and other improvements have changed the look of the community.

A shot taken from Fort Boreman Hill shows crew working to secure the new steeple on top of the bell tower on the Wood County Courthouse. The 7,000-pound steeple was placed, by crane, on the tower Tuesday. (Photo by Art Smith)

”We keep on investing in our courthouse,” Couch said. ”This is a cosmetic change, but it brings it closer to its original appearance.”

They have done stairwork, redone the balustrades, cleaned up the fountain out front and more.

”We have continually done something to improve our historic courthouse year after year,” Couch said. ”We are returning the courthouse to its historic appearance.

”Something I never saw in my lifetime is now going to change the skyline of Wood County going forward. I can’t wait to see it from Fort Boreman.”

Couch said they are continuely improving the the courthouse.

”We have left it better than we have found it,” he said.

Seufer agreed.

”Absolutely, it is a thousand times better than we found it,” he said. ”I’m convinced that if we didn’t do something every year, it would be in a deplorable condition.”

The county operated a live feed of the work being done at the site with a camera placed at the Shaver Judical Annex. People can access the video of the work done through the county’s website at woodcountywv.com where there will be a link that will take viewers to a YouTube page where they can watch it. Seufer said the video will remain up for awhile.

Officials will be looking at other things to do in the coming in the years at the courthouse.

One possible project would include placing lamp globes on the balustrades.

They were there when the building was built, but by the 1920s they were gone and officials don’t know why yet. Seufer said.

”Something happened and they took them out,” he said.

Officials will be looking at what will need to be done next.

A few people gathered around the worksite to watch the steeple be put into place.

Connie Eddy of Marietta came with family to watch the placement as her son-in-law, Jeff Loane, was operating the crane that lifted the steeple into place.

”I am so glad I came,” she said. ”I didn’t know what a big deal this was going to be.”

”I am really enjoying myself. It is exciting.”

Susan and Trampus Hill of Parkersburg were impressed with the work being done.

”I did not know it was happening today,” Trampus said.

He saw that crews were out doing the work while he was downtown and called Susan to tell her to come down so they could watch it.

”We love history and this was in our town,” Trampus said.

Susan was thrilled Wood County was going to have one of the most distinctive courthouses in the state.

”We are going to be the tallest,” she said.

Trampus said the new steeple will improve the look of the courthouse.

”I think asthetically it will be very pretty, especially since it started out with one,” he said. ”We are blessed to have such a beautiful courthouse here.”

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