PARKERSBURG - Wood County has been awarded a $28,400 grant to restore the original porches that once graced the front of the grand lady of the downtown, the Wood County Courthouse, circa 1899.
"We will be seeking bids for handcarved limestone. The original porch railings were apparently removed during the 1980s when the restoration was done on the courthouse," said county administrator Marty Seufer, who prepared the grant application to the West Virginia Courthouse Facilities Improvement Grant fund.
"The end posts will be replaced. All that remains there now are the end pieces, the corner posts on each side and by the wall. The original porches would have been sandstone. These will be limestone and will be sealed to prevent erosion that has occurred in the past," Seufer said.
The grant funding will not be available until around the first of January. Bid specifications will be prepared and put out shortly after that.
Bob Enoch, president of the Wood County Historical and Preservation Society, was pleased with the news of the grant award.
"I give accolades for the efforts to take care of our courthouse, the grand old lady. It's great the building is being restored back to its former self. The courthouse was really a rallying point for the county. Everyone should love our courthouse. Everytime I look at the courthouse I seek something different. There are so many beautiful carvings. It's a beautiful building and and I'm thrilled it's being, piece-by-piece put back together," Enoch said.
* Construction on the current Wood County Courthouse began in 1899. It took nearly two years to build at a cost of $100,000.
* The building is an example of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture.
* The exterior of the Wood County Courthouse is highlighted with ornate turrets, stilted arches and decorative carvings.
* The courthouse is said to be fireproof, due to the massive amount of iron and steel in its framework.
* The cornerstone for the courthouse was placed by the Masons during Wood County's Centennial Celebration in 1899.
Visitors to the historic building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, may not have noticed the square stone posts flanking the front of the courthouse with what appears to be broken stone on the sides. Those stones are all that remain of two of three porches that 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.
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 at the fountain and Market Street entrances to the courthouse.