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Demolition of old Rock Island County courthouse moves forward
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Demolition of old Rock Island County courthouse moves forward

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Demolition looms over the old Rock Island County courthouse as board members vote next week whether to move the process forward. 

Board members will consider a memorandum of agreement during the Oct. 19 regular meeting stating the county must complete a historic recordation of the courthouse before demolition can take place. 

The agreement, between the county, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the Illinois State Historic Preservation Office, recognizes the courthouse as an historic structure that must be recorded for posterity. The courthouse was deemed eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places by the SHPO in November 2017.

"The Appellate Court said the Historic Preservation Act applies and that we had to go through a consultation process with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources," said County Board Chairman Richard Quijas Brunk. "The recordation is the result of that consultation process outlined by state statute. The IDNR determined the recordation process was appropriate."

A recordation is an archaeological record of a historic building prior to demolition that involves detailed photos and measurements.

The historic courthouse, 210 15th St., Rock Island, was built between 1895 and 1897 and designed by the Kansas City architectural firm of Gunn & Curtis in the Spanish renaissance style. Rock Island stone cutter Charles Larkin constructed the Bedford limestone exterior. Floors in the central rotunda area are made of marble and mosaic tile.

Six plaintiffs filed suit Feb. 6, 2019, against Rock Island County and the Public Building Commission to stop demolition.

Landmarks Illinois, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Rock Island Preservation Society, the Moline Preservation Society, the Broadway Historic District Association and Frederick Shaw, one of the bondholders in the Justice Center Annex project (which serves as the new courthouse) filed the suit in Rock Island County. Diane Oestreich, a member of the Rock Island Preservation Society, joined as an additional plaintiff in the case as a taxpayer.

The case was dismissed in March 2019, but the plaintiffs won a temporary restraining order preventing demolition through the Third District Appellate Court until the consultation and recordation process was completed. 

Brunk said the IDNR has provided a list of certified contractors for board members to consider for the recordation process. He hopes the county will have a proposed recorder to approve during the November meetings. 

The recordation contractor, when finished, will submit the photos and information taken on the courthouse to the SHPO. Upon approval, the SHPO will submit the recordation package to the Heritage Documentation Programs in the National Park Service for deposit in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. and in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Ill. 

Brunk said demolition could begin in the spring of 2022.


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