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Polk County Historic Courthouse Renovation

Friday, April 5, 2019

Polk County Courthouse

We’re back at the Polk County Courthouse – this time to renovate and restore the interior of the building. Demolition work for this hard-bid project is officially underway. Over the next two and a half years, we will complete the historic restoration of 135,063 square feet from the lower level to the attic including restoring historic plaster, millwork, doors, terrazzo, and the scagliola throughout the space. Five grand courtrooms will be fully restored to their original condition. Ornamental plaster ceilings will be cleaned, repaired and repainted and the courtroom bench millwork will be fixed and restained. The project also includes updates to meet modern building codes: installation of new elevators, renovations to the existing elevators and the addition of a fire sprinkler system. 

Neumann Brothers completed the historic restoration of the exterior of the Polk County Courthouse in 2014. The exterior renovation project was completed during phase 1 of a four phase plan over several years. These phased projects were voted on in 2013 to update existing downtown buildings including the Courthouse, Polk County Justice Center and the Polk County Criminal Courts building that we recently turned over to the county.

The project requires a significant amount of coordination due to the relatively short timeline and the complex nature of the work to be completed. The courthouse will remain open throughout the project. Traffic inside the building will have to be routed safely around the construction work taking place. Safety is always our top priority and coordinating with the building owners, subcontractors and vendors to ensure all construction related risks are kept to a minimum is essential. 

Due to the historic nature of the work on this project, we’ve selected a strong team of contractors with many years of historical restoration experience to complete the plaster and millwork restorations. Typically when considering refinishing historical elements, the items are removed and refinished off site before being reinstalled in the updated space. However, due to the age of the items to be refinished on this project, crews are going to have to refinish them in the building. This means that extra care has to be taken during the demolition phase so as not to damage the historic pieces.

This project should be completed in September 2021. Until then, we’ve set up shop once again at the Polk County Courthouse. We’re excited to be back in the building to bring the interior back to life while preserving the incredible details that have made it the bookend landmark in downtown Des Moines to the Capital building in the east.