Project Spotlight: Historic Mitchell County Courthouse Undergoes Restoration

This article was published on: 11/17/2021

Mitchell County utilized the State Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit Program for an exterior restoration project on its courthouse this year. (Photo courtesy of Doug McKinney)

Construction of the Mitchell County Courthouse was completed in 1901 at a cost of $38,310. An exterior restoration project to repair and restore mortar joints completed in July 2021 came in at a cost of just over $147,000.

“Some people have lived in the county all their lives and do not remember a cleaning as thorough as what was recently done,” Tom Claussen, Chair of the Mitchell County Board of Commissioners, said. “I guess you could say it was due — but that is not bad for 100-plus years.”

Claussen took an active interest in the restoration of the county courthouse when he first took office in 2010. Between his commissioner duties and his role on the K-State Research and Extension Post Rock District board at the time, he estimates he was walking into the courthouse 2 to 3 days a week. Over time, he noticed issues with the mortar. “You could stick your hand in cracks in some places and it was pretty unsightly when you got closer to the building,” Claussen said.

The Mitchell County Board of Commissioners applied twice for grant funding through the Kansas Historical Society Heritage Trust Fund Program and were turned down both times. Ultimately, the county used the State Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit Program instead.

The Kansas State Tax Credit is equal to 25 percent of qualifying expenses incurred during a qualified project on a qualified building. The Mitchell County Courthouse was first listed on the National Register of Historical Places on November 23, 1977, making it a qualified historic structure for the program. Stone work was the chief aspect of the improvement effort. All work was carefully done to preserve the history of the building including using period-correct mortar mix and keeping with the original trowel design.

Mid-Continental Restoration Co., Inc. based out of Fort Scott, Kansas, received the bid to do the rehabilitation work. NCRPC staff provided assistance with the project application and administration.

“The contractors were wonderful people to work with and they did a great job,” Claussen said. “Working with NCRPC helped make the process a lot easier too.”

The county now has tax credits to place. For non-profit organizations, local governments, and other property owners that do not have a Kansas state income tax liability, credits may be transferred or sold to other taxpayers.

“We have had a lot of positive comments about the project,” Claussen said. “People are proud of their courthouse wherever they are from because that is where they go to conduct business. We are especially proud of our courthouse and the work that was done.”

Other improvements separate from this project have been made to the courthouse over a period of several years. Within the last 10 years the county has replaced the windows, fixed the clock on the courthouse tower, lined the gutters to keep them functional, and added split duct heating and cooling systems allowing the removal of window units. A damaging hail storm in 2015 made it necessary to replace the roof of the courthouse. Repaving the parking lot is on the radar for a future improvement project.

Learn more about the State Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit program.

This article appeared in the November 2021 NCRPC Newsletter.

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