When the flagpole on top of the Spokane County Courthouse began to tilt nearly three years ago, county commissioners knew they had a remodeling project.
But in a process that many homeowners can relate to, that remodeling project grew, from an early estimate of about $10,000 to a major renovation and restoration. Final price tag: about $2.5 million to replace the 2,000-pound flagpole and its base, shore up the tower of the 1895 structure, and restore and renovate some of the first-floor offices into a customer service center.
On Thursday, county officials did what a homeowner might do when the expensive work is done – especially when it’s much more than one expects to pay. They showed off the new stuff, and put up pictures of how bad the old stuff was.
The tower was so bad, Facilities Director Ron Oscarson said, that some mortar had disintegrated and bricks could be pulled out of the wall by hand. There were steel beams that were originally the steel tracks from railroad lines. Wood was rotting and exterior flourishes were cracked and in danger of falling to the ground below.
The renovation also exposed some of the original exterior walls that were covered by an addition in 1942 that closed in a courtyard in front of the original jail, where, as County Commissioner Mark Richard noted, hangings took place.
The county got help from the state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation. State Preservation Officer Allyson Brooks presented a check for more than $1.6 million during the ceremony, noting that restoration work provides good jobs for builders and craftsmen.
The county also recognized another historic restoration that took place last summer just outside the building, for the Latitude Pier set up in 1896 to start the survey of the Idaho-Montana border. Local contractors, masons and surveyors pitched in with county employees to restore the marker, which carries a disk that says the pier is 1,891 feet above sea level and warns of a $250 fine for removing it.