Preservation experts are focusing their efforts on the Pulaski County Courthouse. Todd Zeiger with Indiana Landmarks says the nonprofit organization has taken the unusual step of funding a reuse study with its own money.
“It is your touchstone in Downtown Winamac,” he told members of the Pulaski County Historical Society Thursday. “It is what makes your town unique and authentic when you drive into the community, the courthouse. It is your touchstone, literally and figuratively, and to lose that would be just, we think, a real tragedy. We hope you would agree with that.”
Zeiger said Indiana Landmarks is working with the architects the county hired to draw up preliminary plans for a replacement facility. The goal is to see if there are ways the existing courthouse could be re-positioned to meet the needs of the county, while remaining in place as a historic building. “Where we are on our work with that is we’ve received the proposal from Rowland Design and some of the pricing around that,” Zeiger explained. “We’ve received the feedback from the commissioners about what they want specifically to be looked at, so we make sure we meet those needs.”
Zeiger added that Rowland Design is also gathering the previous studies that have been done. Three years ago, a plan was developed to renovate and expand the courthouse, but cost concerns have prevented it from being implemented. In the meantime, security concerns and other issues remain.
Zeiger told those in attendance Thursday to keep an open mind about a potential courthouse addition. But he noted the courthouse isn’t necessarily short of space, and it might simply be a matter of looking at how the space is being used.
At this point, the county commissioners haven’t made any formal decisions about the future of the courthouse. County Council Member Kathi Thompson, who also serves as the vice-president of the Historical Society, has repeatedly called for talks to resume.
Also during Thursday’s presentation, Zeiger detailed several of Indiana Landmarks’ success stories around the state, briefly mentioning Winamac’s Vurpillat Opera House, which sits across the street from the courthouse. He also discussed some of the organization’s current projects, such as the preservation of historic buildings at the now-closed Saint Joseph’s College and the House of Tomorrow from the 1933 Century of Progress Exposition, which now sits at the Indiana Dunes National Park.