Residents Battle To Save Osage County Courthouse From Bulldozer

Monday, March 28th 2011, 4:53 pm
By: News On 6

Craig Day, News On 6

PAWHUSKA, Oklahoma -- County Commissioners are pondering what to do about the aging courthouse in Osage County.

A study has made recommendations with one option being tearing down the nearly century old courthouse and building a new one. Historic preservationists are working to keep that from happening.

Officially, its agenda item number 27 before the Osage County Commission. To many who love Pawhuska's history it's the most important agenda item at the meeting.

Number 27 is at the heart of the discussion about saving the historic courthouse.

"Anything can be restored, anything. You cannot rebuild history," said Pawhuska native Lee Craun-Ward.

The Osage County Courthouse, which opened in 1914, is showing signs of age. It's expensive to maintain. It isn't energy efficient. The county needs more space.

Commissioners ordered a feasibility study to provide options of what to do. One option is to renovate and add an annex to the courthouse.

The other: build a new one and tear the old courthouse down. That's what historic preservationists don't want to see.

"If we tore all of the old buildings down to put up new ones, we would not have any statement of what our history was like," said Frank Lorenzo, Osage County Historical Society.

The study shows the restoration/annex option would cost $19.8 million. Demolition and a new courthouse: $20.8.

Those who love the nearly century old courthouse favor renovation.

"A lot of tax dollars are spent through visitors," said Craun-Ward. "Visitors do not go to small towns to see brand new metal buildings; they go to small towns to see majestic buildings such as this."

The commission didn't take action on the study's recommendations, tabling the issue for more input and study. Commissioners are open to other options, including possibly pursuing federal money for renovation work.

Regardless of which plan is eventually picked, voters would have the ultimate say.

"Tearing down shouldn't even be an option," Craun-Ward said.

Historic Preservationists say with some renovations, Osage County could create more efficient use of space in the old courthouse.

They're circulating petitions to save the courthouse and have created a Facebook page to generate support.