Inmates may help with Blair County restoration project

Local News

Step by step, the Blair County Courthouse Restoration Project comes closer to being completed. 

Up next, project team leader Commissioner Terry Tomassetti said all of the original furniture will need to be refinished.

He said the benches and public seating in hte original courtroom are from the 1870s.

“They’re original. They’re from 1875. They’re solid pieces of wood, and if you put the right care into them, they’ll be here another 100 years,” Tomassetti said.

To help offset costs of the restoration, Tomassetti said he contacted the Department of Corrections to assist with project. He said this move will help keep the project on budget without losing quality of work.

“When the 1999 addition was built, they actually did courtroom five. It’s a smaller court room, but it was very well done, so we thought ‘well, let’s take a look and see what they can do for us’,” Tomassetti said.

The restoration team had some early set backs, including lots of water damage.

“It was in a very, very bad condition. If you look around, you’ll still see signs of water infiltration damage. You’ll see bare brick at the back walls where we had to take plaster down because of decades of water infiltrations,” said Terry Tomassetti

Commissioner Tomassetti said before they started working inside, they focused on the outside, making sure no more water could come in.

“They told us if we waited another 2 years, this is John Rita and Dave Albright, two more years and this building may have come down. and the cost for the county would have been in the millions of dollars,” Tomassetti said.

While sealing the brick, the team found out that the 54 head sculptures on the building were chiseled into the stone, just like famous Italian artist, Michalangelo.

One head in particular caught their eye: an African American man, with broken chains around his neck.

“We call it ’emancipation’. We think it’s a great symbol for this community and our area,” Tomassetti said.

As for the remainder of the project Tomassetti said the ceiling is almost finished and that he hoped the courtroom will be in use by 2020.

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