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The Old Courthouse Painting Project
HISTORY OF THE OLD COURTHOUSE:
The building was constructed at an original cost of $4 million between 1906 and 1912 by the architectural firm of Lehman & Schmitt, in the Neo-Classical era, in the style of Beaux Arts, which heavily influenced architecture in the US between 1880 and 1920. This style depended on sculptural decoration along conservative modern lines depending upon symmetry, balance, and harmony. Principal characteristics of Beaux-Arts architecture included: Flat roof, rusticated and raised first story, hierarchy of spaces, including grand entrances and staircases, arched windows, arched and pedimented doors, classical details, symmetry, statuary, sculpture to include panels, murals, mosaics, coordinated on a central theme, classical architectural details such as balustrades, pilasters, garlands, and subtle polychromy which is the use of multiple colors.
The Cuyahoga County Court House exterior is constructed of Milford pink granite from Massachusetts. The marble interior designed by Charles Schweinfurht and Charles Morris, contains a barrel vaulted two-story Great Hall or Rotunda with a grand double spiral staircase with a leaded glass window on the landing leading to the mezzanine level. The marble used throughout the interior floors and walls comes from Colorado, Georgia and Tennessee. The stained glass window is entitled “Justice” designed in 1913 by Frederick Wilson and Charles Schweinfurth, executed by Gorham Glass, New York, and was restored in 1986-1988. The inscription on the stained glass, “Designed by Mr. C.F. Schwinfurth, Cleveland, OH, and Edrick Wilson, Artist, Briarcliff Manor, New York. Glass of English Manufacture. Artwork executed by Gorham Manufacturing of New York. Cost: $4,000.” The Great Hall boasts a
vaulted roof of English stained g;ass.
Within the Court House are six wall murals by Frank Brangwyn, Violet Oakley, Charles Yardley Turner, Max Bohm and Frederick Wilson. Included is a stained glass window that, together with the exterior sculptures by Daniel Chester French and Karl Bitter, comprises the most important assemblage of public art in Cleveland. The main courtroom of the Eighth Appellate District Court of Appeals contains two murals measuring 37 x 13 feet painted by Charles Yardley Turner.
The building is presently home to the Cleveland Law Library, the Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations and Probate Courts, and Ohio's Eight District Court of Appeals.
Since 1977 the Court House has been part of a steady restoration process that is still ongoing. The building had been damaged from overuse, and deterioration was compounded by the “modernization program” in 1964 which incorporated electrical rehabilitation, dropped ceilings, and other modern changes. The major damage to the building occurred when electrical components were converted from DC to AC, and air conditioning was installed although the original design was very sustainable. The courtrooms originally contained skylights and scroll work that were removed to accommodate the update. Decorative elements were lost or destroyed during that time. The challenge has been to restore the character and decorative element of the building while providing adaptive functional uses
for court operations.
Berj Shakarian, the County Architect from 1978-2009, initiated a gradual restoration with the main event of this restoration being painting the dome in the West Court and opening up the skylight in the Grand Hall, which had been blocked off during World War 2 in fear of night bombings. Berj researched and restored the original colors in the restoration.
SCOPE OF WORK:
Work on The Old Court House painting project commenced on the evening of December 12, 2011. The invested time and cost for painting as of April 16th total is 1,599 hours, investment in paint is $7,900. Original estimate projected 2,000 total man hours, translating to $135,560/labor, $13,000/material (total $148,560) for the project. Outside vendor estimates were approximately $150,000.
Sherwin Williams provided paint which matched the historic colors presently in the Courthouse. One gallon of paint covers one coat of approximately 150 sq ft of wall. Painting from the ribbon down to the marble band is approximately 25 sq ft. The ceiling repair on the 3rd floor was very time consuming, as it has such a variety of colors and required painters to apply color in stages. In addition, Painters could not just touch up; they had to paint from corner to corner so not to leave delineation marks. The project
was calculated to take approximately 3.3 weeks each for floors 1-3 and approximately 1-2 days for the small area in the 4th floor law library.
Restoration, plastering and painting of the interior public space of the Old County Court House, to include the 4th Floor Law Library Foyer. Work to include: plastering, repairing, and touch up painting of cornice where needed to blend; Painting of walls, on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd floors, Painting of Foyer and anteroom of 4th floor Law Library. Painting of 1st, 2nd, 3rd floors to start at the marble ledge up to the cornice, repair or retouch of decorative ceiling where needed; Ceiling plaster to be cast, refurbished, sealed, and painted in
the Northeast Corner Elevator Foyer.
Photos in the slideshow below show work in progress with more photos to be added once the project is completed.
Additional Photos can be found at: http://cuyahogacounty.us/photos/2012_01_Courthouse/index.html