After the 10-year battle over the Seneca County Courthouse, authors Lisa Swickard and John E. Huss are hoping to produce a book documenting the day-to-day demolition of the historic building.
“Decommissioned: Final Days of the 1884 Seneca County Courthouse” depicts the step-by-step demolition in photographs and text.
“This really isn’t a history of the courthouse, it’s a documentary of the destruction of the courthouse,” said Huss, architectural designer and co-author.
The project began when Swickard and Huss found each other taking photos of the demolition. She said she decided to compile her photos into a book, until she realized Huss was doing the same thing.
“We can get totally different angles of the same shots, so we just decided to turn it into a book,” she said.
Swickard said she and Huss took 10,000 pictures; 260 of them are included in the finished book.
Swickard also said editor and photographer Allan Dietrich was an important part of the creation of the book and helped choose the pictures included and the layout of the finalized version.
The book contains an overview of the history of the courthouse in terms of the decision to raze the building, then moves to a pictorial representation of the protests to stop the demolition and, eventually, images
showing the demolition.
Huss said, with his architectural background and Swickard’s journalism background, they were able to explore both sides of the issue.
“I was there trying to record the architectural details and how the building had been constructed, because I had been following this for at least 10 years,” he said.
Swickard said, with Huss’s influence, she began looking into other architectural details while taking photos of the demolition, including stenciling found hidden by a false ceiling and the use of a bridge truss to construct a courtroom ceiling.
“That’s not the kind of thing that you would expect to see in a public building today,” Huss said.
Huss said although antique dealers tried to salvage woodwork, only about 10 percent was rescued from the demolition.
He also said the woodwork around the windows were different for each floor and were still intact during demolition.
“There were at least five or six different designs,” he said. “Some of them there are no examples left.”
He said everything left inside the courthouse was destroyed.
Included in the book are photos of artifacts that were salvaged from the courthouse.
“We wanted to make sure we had sections that were going to show the treasures lost,” Swickard said.
Swickard said many people were angered over what was not removed from the courthouse before the demolition. She said she hopes the book
has an impact beyond the local community.
“I would like to see this go a lot farther than just the Tiffin and Seneca County community,” Swickard said. “This is a study in what not to do as far as historic preservation and how important historic preservation is for all communities.”
She also hopes it becomes a teaching tool.
“So many times, things like this happen and there’s no record. I want people 100 years from now to be able to refer to this book,” she said. “I wanted to make sure, generation after generation, can see the importance of historic preservation and what happens when that’s ignored. People should get involved before it’s too late.”
Swickard and Huss will be at the Grammes Brown House during the Victorian Weekend House Tour 1-5 p.m. Dec. 8. A copy of the book will be available to look through, and they will be selling raffle tickets for a drawing Dec. 9.
First prize is the first signed and numbered book and a marble tile from the courthouse. Second prize is a tile paperweight and a 50-percent discount on one book.
Donations for raffle tickets are $10, three for $25, seven for $50 and 15 for $100.
Included in fundraising efforts
is a German dinner, planned for Jan. 11. Matted pictures of the courthouse are to be auctioned off for more funding.
Swickard said $25,000 is needed to print 1,000 copies of the book and will be printed as soon as funding is available.
To pre-order the $75 book or for questions, email Lisa Swickard at firstname.lastname@example.org.