By Dustin Ensinger
A statewide organization has come to the aid of a downtown Delaware building that county officials hope to demolish to make way for a new courthouse.
Preservation Ohio has included the former Elks Lodge as one of 11 buildings on its 2014 list of the most endangered historic sites.
“This is a highly significant property,” said Ohio Preservation Executive Director Thomas Palmer. “Not only is it important to the downtown fabric, but there was a pretty significant person associated with the house.”
The building was constructed in 1877 by Dr. Ralph Hills, a founder of Ohio Wesleyan Female College and Oak Grove Cemetery.
The building was placed in the city’s historical preservation district in 2001.
The county purchased the building in 2006 for $393,000 with plans to build a $51 million courthouse on the property. However, those plans stalled in 2008 with the economy.
But the county is once again exploring the possibility of constructing a new courthouse, with the site of the former Elks Lodge as the top possible location.
County officials have said that if the building is not torn down, they would look to build a courthouse outside of the city.
Palmer, who is a Delaware resident, said the county should at least try to incorporate a portion of the historic structure into a new courthouse.
“We know of many example of these kind of structures that have been successfully incorporated into other structures,” he said.
However, county officials say that at a price tag of about $1 million, it would be too cost prohibitive to incorporate the existing structure into a new building.
But Palmer believes the cost could be much lower. He said the county should bring in an architectural firm that specializes in historic structures.
“There might be a differing opinion from someone who has actually done one of these kind of projects,” he said.
Palmer also said the area’s historic nature makes preserving the building – at least part of it – a worthwhile endeavor.
“Delaware has a great track record of using these structure to promote quality of life,” he said. “There’s economic development in Delaware that you can trace to the kind of buildings that are there.”
Dustin Ensinger can be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @EnsingerDG.