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May 4, 2012

Pieces of fire-damaged courthouse to be auctioned

The Madison fire happened in 2009; auction set for May 16

MADISON — County officials are putting some of the salvaged pieces from the May 2009 Jefferson County courthouse fire on the auction block.

The county will hold a public auction at 4 p.m. May 16 at the county highway garage, which is on Clifty Drive. The auction will take place four days before the third anniversary of the fire.

The auction will include items such as county vehicles and equipment, office materials and some charred remains of the courthouse.

“There’s some things that I think people will be interested in for the historical value,” Commissioner Mark Cash said. “It might bring a few pennies, or it might bring more.”

Shortly after the fire, a contractor was hired by the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners to salvage much of the plaster moldings in the courthouse and to design new moldings similar to the originals. Meanwhile, volunteers and Historic Madison Inc. members helped collect much of the other charred items.

John Staicer, president and executive director of HMI, said the commissioners asked HMI to keep any items taken from the courthouse that it needed for historical significance or records.

“It was very difficult because it was pretty charred up,” Staicer said. “We tried to save as much as we could that told us something about how the dome and cupola was shaped, designed and originally built.”

Pieces of the scorched dome are still in storage at the Historic Madison Inc. warehouse on Elm Street in downtown Madison. The facility is used by HMI as an architectural salvage site.

The dome was original to the building, and it was constructed with small sections of metal crimped over one another.

Only hours before the fire, the dome was painted gold and looked to be in pristine condition. Much of the gold paint still remains on the charred remnants.

Several decorative plaster molds, which were taken from the old courtroom, have been cut into about half-foot segments and will be included in the auction. At a recent meeting, the commissioners said they envisioned the moldings being used by the public as possible bookends or simply purchased as keepsakes.

In addition, the auction will include parts of the clock, as well as several large pillars that feature detailed, ornate trim. HMI has pieces of three different versions - wooden, plastic and metal - of the clock faces that once served the courthouse. Each clock face was installed over the other.

“It was almost like archaeology,” Staicer said. “You had to peel back the layers to get to the original.”


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