HISTORIC IMPROVEMENTS: County landmarks undergo touch-ups

COLUMBIA CITY — The Whitley County Courthouse, a symbol of Columbia City since it was opened in 1888, recently had some restoration done, with more work on the way.“It is the center point of Whitley County, and what people see when they come to Columbia City,” said Mark Sturtevant, with the courthouse maintenance department. “A lot of local businesses use the image of the courthouse.”The courthouse sits in the middle of four acres of land towering over surrounding buildings, and displays its Renaissance architecture.According to Sturtevant, the exterior of the courthouse has been cleaned, tuck pointed and the masonry portion of the building has been sealed.“We also added the cleaning and sealing of the two monuments in from the courthouse,” said Sturtevant. “Then we had all the exterior metal work repainted.”The project, which took about 60 days, was completed in the spring and cost $175,112.“This has been in the process for quite a while,” said Sturtevant.Alongside that project, Sturtevant said the courthouse was having major boiler issues, as the interior of the building is also keeping the maintenance department busy.“Along with the cooling and the heating, we will be installing water treatment to prolong the life of both the boilers and the cooling towers,” said Sturtevant.Eighteen years ago the boilers were upgraded from steam to hot water, but they were roughly 26 years old, and in need of replacement.“We are about half way through that,” said Sturtevant.In the fall, the cooling tower that controls the air conditioning will also be replaced.The cost for heating, cooling and water treatment is $165, 815.Historical MuseumWith all the work recently put into the courthouse, the Whitley County Historical Museum has also had some exterior improvements.The home was once owned by Thomas R. Marshall, who was the 28th vice president of the United States, serving two terms under President Woodrow Wilson from 1913 to 1921.In the last few weeks, work was done to repair the roof of the building.“There were some spots where it was leaking,” said Craig, the assistant director of the museum. “I know they patched a couple of places and painted it.”The roof, with visible orange paint outline on the top, will also be painted a different color, helping it blend in.According to Craig, the building itself is not the only thing receiving attention.Just outside the porch of the house, various plants and flowers have been added as a new addition to the property’s look, giving it a more timely feel.“We had master gardeners come in and redo our flower beds,” said Angie Craig. “They were trying to get plants around here that would have been popular at the time when Marshall lived here.”These plants and flowers include the following: Greenbrier, Smilax Rotundifolia; Mother of Thyme, Thymus Serpyllum Coccineum; Rugosa Rose ‘Blanc Double de Coubert’ Rosaceae; ‘Firewitch’ Cheddar Pink — Dianthus Gratianopolitanus; ‘Little Bunny’ Dwarf Fountain Grass, Pennisetum Alopecuroides; ‘Autumn Joy’ Stonecrop Sedum Hybrid; ‘Mconbeam Coreopsis’ Coreopsis Verticillata, Thread Leafed Tickseed; ‘Elijah Blue’ Fescue, Festuca Ovina Glauca; Lavender, Lavandula x Intermedia; ‘Snow White’ Candytuft, Iberis Sempervirens; Prairie Dropseed; Clematis Henryi and Zephirine Drouhin.As the flowers and plants wrap around the front of the house, Craig believes there may be more additions yet to come.