Celebrating the County Courthouse
But now a $6.2 million investment has turned the building around completely and positioned it for generations to come. In June, the updated, renovated courthouse and memorials were unveiled. “It’s part of our history and who we are as a county,” Lundy acknowledges, relating how the building had housed the adult probation program for the last decade or so. The courtrooms hadn’t been active since about 2004.
Located in downtown Elyria, the courthouse is a symbol of the city, the county — the region. “Every time I see the courthouse and lighthouse, those two structures remind me of home,” Lundy adds.
The county enlisted Ron Cocco of Clark + Post Architects in Lorain to guide an extensive renovation that included restoring the exterior, waterproofing the foundation, removing problematic trees, an ADA-compliant addition for access, addressing the front stairs and landscaping. The project also included uncovering and updating the World War II and Workers memorials — and building the Lorain County Enforcement and Fire-EMS Memorial on site.
“The project supports what the city administration is doing now, which is bringing the downtown area back to be a destination,” says Jim Cordes, Lorain County administrator.
LED lighting illuminates the courthouse, and on weekend nights a display of red, white and blue lights is a focal point in the downtown square. “It’s a reason to stop and enjoy it,” says Ted Kalo, Lorain County commissioner.
“The courthouse has a government purpose, and we have been able to stabilize and preserve our history through this structure and the investment made,” Lundy says.
Revitalizing a Historic Landmark
With the opening of the new Justice Center in 2004, the courthouse no longer had active courts — and, in order to justify an investment, there needed to be a government purpose for the building, Lundy emphasizes. By putting adult probation in the courthouse, there is room for that program to grow. Plus, it is conveniently located across from the Justice Center and Administration Building.
Overall, Lundy says, “We took responsible actions with this renovation — it was not a Band-Aid approach. This was a long-term preservation project.”
One of the first steps was addressing the deteriorating façade of the building. The grand courthouse was overshadowed by green — mature, overgrown trees that were causing a problem for the historic structure, says Lorain County Commissioner Lori Kokoski. “Sandstone is porous, so the surface had a green, moldy look to it,” she describes.
The removal of trees literally aired out the property. “Now, the sun is shining on the building and the color has come alive,” Kokoski says, noting that updated landscaping and fencing make the property look polished. Smaller trees were replanted, and paver walkways were included for the public.
Cordes says, “We restored the front stairs, and removed as much of the non-original changes to the front of the courthouse as we could. Then, we used pavers and stamped concrete to highlight features and make the whole front inviting. It’s the No. 1 wedding picture spot in Lorain County now.”
No one wanted to see the trees go, Lundy acknowledges. “But those who understand a building made of sandstone realize it has to get as much direct sunlight as possible, and the trees were not making that possible.”
An addition to the back of the building includes a security station.
And, LED lighting brings out the building’s architectural features. “The lighting is one of the things people comment on the most, because it was never lit up before, and it really shows the uniqueness of the building,” Kokoski says.
Remembering Our Heroes
As crews removed overgrown trees and shrubs, and renovated the landscaping, they uncovered the forgotten World War II and Workers memorials. “Most people wouldn’t know they were there,” Lundy says.
These two memorials were exposed, cleaned and treated. Seating was added to the space so visitors can rest and reflect. “The memorials look brand new,” Lundy says. These memorials were rededicated at a June 23 event, which was the official ribbon-cutting. Additionally, the county saw an opportunity to add the Lorain County Enforcement and Fire-EMS Memorial to honor fallen first-responders. This special memorial includes an eternal light that shines up to the sky.
This special feature is one of Kalo’s favorite parts of the project. “We did not have a centralized memorial in the county, and now we do,” he says.
Lundy says, “The memorial honors our hometown heroes who have given their lives in the line of duty, and now there is a place where we can recognize them.”
During the ceremony, Lundy says, “There wasn’t a dry eye,” as a procession of police and fire vehicles with silent lights celebrated the memorial. Kokoski says, “It was so moving, somber and beautiful — and to think about all that these heroes gave, the ultimate sacrifice, to help keep people in the community safe.”
The renovated courthouse and its memorials contribute to a downtown on the rise. “We are thrilled to be part of the rebirth of downtown Elyria,” Lundy says, remarking that the city has the type of real downtown that other communities work to create. “We have a true downtown with beautiful historic buildings here. And we’re proud of it.”