Historical Restoration

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Neumann Brothers is proud to share the completion of the Webster County Courthouse historical restoration project in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Originally built in 1902, the Webster County Courthouse is a four-story Classical Revival-style building located in the heart of downtown Fort Dodge. The limestone façade of the structure features four columns, mansard roofs, and a copper clock tower. The inside of the building is just as rich with original marble flooring, brass railings, original paintings, and a vaulted skylight.

Over the years, the Webster County Courthouse underwent multiple repairs to maintain the historical clock tower. Due to feasibility and difficult access, most of these repairs were temporary relief. In 2019, the Neumann team started an interior and exterior restoration on the courthouse. When approaching historical projects, it’s crucial to work with historically accurate materials and preserve as many original elements as possible. This historical restoration of the Webster County Courthouse is truly three projects in one–a clocktower restoration, skylight restoration, and roof replacement.

Clocktower Restoration

Webster County Courthouse Exterior Clock Tower with Copper TrimThe copper clocktower atop the four-story structure is the signature feature of the Webster County Courthouse. The 1882 Menelly & Co. bell, belonging to the original clock built in 1902, chimes every hour to notify the town of the time and is a favorite downtown landmark.

Neumann partnered with OPN Architects for the clocktower restoration project. Both Neumann and OPN have experienced restoring historic courthouses in Iowa. The goal was to preserve as much original copper as possible. Over time, the copper clocktower developed a beautiful patina–the green-colored process that occurs on the surface of copper. Patina creates a natural protective layer around copper, making it a great material to use.

New copper was flown in from France for the project. The team prioritized symmetry when repairing the copper. If there was damaged material on the right side, the team also removed material from the left side, creating an aesthetical balance of old and new copper. A unique characteristic of copper patina is that it promotes its own development. As rain runs down the copper clocktower, the existing patina will leach into the new copper. This process causes the new copper to turn green more quickly, helping the overall tower color balance.

Skylight Restoration

Webster County Courthouse Interior Skylight with exposed beamsWhen working in buildings over a century old, sometimes elements of the structure have been replaced or removed. The original Webster County Courthouse skylight was replaced years ago–however, the replacement was not identical to the original skylight from 1902. It was important to the Neumann team to restore the skylight to its roots.

The old fiberglass had deteriorated and turned yellow, casting a dreary shadow below to the foyer of the courthouse. The team removed the entire upper roof 40-foot skylight and demolished the existing wood structure in the roof. The new skylight was installed to the original length of the 54-foot skylight. In addition to restoring the original size and shape, the new vaulted skylighted refracts light to maintain the building’s temperature and bring in bright, natural light. The tenants of the courthouse say the difference in the indoor light quality is like night and day!

Roof and Gutter Replacement

Webster County Courthouse Exterior close up of gutters and roofThe Webster County Courthouse has two mansard roofs and two flat roofs. Several years of roofing needed to be removed, including the visible slate tiles from 1902. The Neumann team identified replacement slate tile that would preserve the appearance of the original building. During the slate tile replacement, the team also reinstalled copper hips, copper valleys, and copper cresting to restore the historical building’s appearance.

While the replacement slate tile roofing was being installed, a derecho brought category 3-4 hurricane winds across the Midwest, and the state of Iowa was devasted. Fortunately, due to the high-quality slate tile and excellent craftsmanship, the courthouse roofs didn’t suffer any damage, and the slate tile roofing remained in place with zero issues.

The success of the Webster County Courthouse is a testament to the teamwork between Neumann Brothers, OPN Architects, and all of our trade partners. Neumann is proud to be part of this magnificent historical project and bring new life to a building that will serve a local Iowa community for years to come!