June 11, 2012

Endangered Courthouse

Posted in Friends of Stone Bank, History, Life, Updates tagged , , , at 12:03 am by stonebankblog

1907 McLean County Courthouse slated for demolition

The historic McLean County Courthouse in Washburn, ND, will be demolished if a citizens’ group can’t turn things around. (Minot Daily News photo)

Shocking. It just never stops being a shock: when elected officials train their eyes on a historic structure and decide to “make things better” by tearing down a community’s past. Ohfercryinoutloud!

That’s the fight going on in North Dakota’s McLean County. The county commissioners are determined to have the 1907 courthouse demolished to make way for a new building — and a group of determined citizens is working frantically to save the building.

Dennis Kost, of Washburn, is one of the leaders of the nonprofit McLean County Heritage Preservation Foundation, the group scrambling to save the building. At issue is whether or not the old courthouse is contaminated with bat guano. Kost says his group has test results that show the1907  building is NOT contaminatedРbut that some airborne guano was detected in a 1963 addition to the older structure.

“Our goal is to get the truth out,” Kost said on Friday. “It’s so hard to do.”

Kost  said his group became so frustrated with the inaccuracies in various news reports that it spent the money to place an ad in the McLean County Extra to make sure that McLean County residents could get the whole story.

“They (County Board members) say it’s contaminated … and it’s not,” Kost said. “We need to put that to rest.”

Kost said the County Board has inflated the numbers on what it would cost to fix up the old courthouse, and even though they have rallied strong community support to stop the demolition, the effort has apparently fallen on deaf ears.

“They refuse to listen,” Kost said of the his group’s interaction with the board. “They are accelerating the demolition as fast as they can.”

The McLean Heritage Preservation group has offered a plan to convert the old courthouse to office space for the booming oil industry in western and central North Dakota. They estimate that the office space could generate $250,000 a year in rent — but county officials have shrugged off the proposal.

1907 McLean County Courthouse at left, new courthouse at right

The 1907 McLean County Courthouse will make way for a new building rising behind it if preservationists fail to save it. (Bismarck Tribune photo)

Following are links to several stories from the local news media about the situation, but Kost says there are inaccuracies in the reports.

They do, however, give general background information about the endangered courthouse.

Check out stories in the Minot Daily News, the Bismarck Tribune and the McLean County Extra.

If you want to help, the McLean Heritage Preservation Foundation is accepting donations for legal fees, advertising, etc.

Send checks to Gerald Nordquist, 218 5th Ave., Washburn, ND 58577.

And if you would like to reach members of the Board of County Commissioners, contact information is linked here.

So, let’s cheer the efforts of the Heritage Preservation group. We all lose when we see a great, historic structure senselessly and callously thrown away. And this scenario plays out again and again. Maybe this time, we can make it stop.