In August 2019, a major six-month preservation and restoration project was completed on the historic front façade of the Bullitt County Courthouse, including the iconic clock tower. This story is to tell about that important work. But before we get to that, let me tell you a little about the history of the courthouse.
Construction of the first official Bullitt County Courthouse was completed in 1804 in a small roundabout at the center of South Buckman Street (originally named Main Street) and Joe B. Hall Avenue (originally Second Street) in Shepherdsville. It was a simple, but solid, two-story brick building with a bell tower.[bell tower story link] Supposedly the bell in that tower was a special one; one of one hundred that were cast in Philadelphia to commemorate the Liberty Bell and were handed out to various courthouses around the country in celebration of our country’s founding. This old courthouse was torn down by around 1909, after the current courthouse was built, and, sadly, the special bell seems to have been lost to time.
Did I say replaced by the current courthouse?
Well, that is only partially correct.
The main front façade and clock tower you see today at the current courthouse at 300 South Buckman Street was part of the second courthouse that was built around 1900, replacing the first.
This second courthouse withstood the ravages of time, but by year 2000, despite repair efforts in the 1960s and 1970s, the call was strong to tear down and replace the aging structure. Historians disagreed with total destruction and a happy compromise was reached, with the county tearing down the bulk of the old building, but saving the front façade and its iconic bell tower A new structure was designed to match the remaining old section and construction was begun, with completion in 2004. Much work was done at that time repairing the historic section, but other preservation work was delayed in order to reduce costs.
Below you see the demolished courthouse on the left, and the new courthouse on the right.
That brings us to the work done in 2019.
As part of a larger county-wide upgrade of government facilities, work was begun on much-needed repairs to the historic section of the courthouse, especially the clocktower.
And needed it was. Long-neglected gutters and drain spouts had allowed rainwater to run down the brick walls for years, washing away much of the mortar in areas, and rotting wood in others. The dome roof of the clocktower needed replacing and the clock needed repair.
The main project was handled through the Perfection Group, with Maintenance Director Mark Gardner overseeing it. Director Gardner hired The Verdin Company to repair the four clocks on the tower during the project as an addition to the other work. Updated in the 2004 construction work, the clocks were faltering.
And so, work began on March 25, 2019 by American Façade Restoration to build the substantial scaffolding and do all the brick and tuckpointing repair along with all the re-caulking of everything, and cleaning and pressure-washing and waterproofing.
This part, along with the replacement of the dome covering by Swift Roofing and Southern Sheet Metal, which fabricated the dome covering, was all finished by mid July 2019. Fresh paint was applied where needed as well on the tower portion. The scaffolding was taken down and Swift Roofing began replacing the lower flat and gable portions of the roof in late August, and all was finished by the end of September, 2019, with new lightning protection installed.
We are grateful to Mark Gardner for photos of the restoration work.
Bullitt County Judge/Executive Jerry Summers and the Bullitt County Magistrates, along with Maintenance Director Mark Gardner were all critical in getting this important preservation/restoration project done.
Is there more to do? Yes. Hopefully one day the old bell in the tower will be able to ring again, and there is some trim work that could be improved. But the work already done should ensure this remarkable 120-year-old structure will shine forth for a long time to come.
(Additional work photos.)