Polk County Historic Courthouse

Des Moines, Iowa
  • Client
    Polk County
  • SQ. FT.
    135,063 square feet
  • Budget
    $2,208,228
  • Market
  • Year
    2017 Phase 1; 2020 Phase 2
Awards
  • • Illuminating Engineering Society
    Merit Award

Restoration of the Polk County Courthouse occurred in two phases. Phase One included repair and restoration of the exterior, while Phase Two sought to restore and rehabilitate the interior of the historic courthouse.

Phase 1 | 2017

The exterior scope included on-site investigation, estimating, documentation, and a public bidding process. Lead-coated copper detailing was added to each belt course, lead-coated copper flatlock was added in the balcony recesses, and lead-coated copper detailing was added at the tower and roof levels. The exterior stone surface had large amounts of soiling and salts, which caused micro-fracturing of the limestone through the mechanisms of inter-granular crystallization. The salt was extracted to prevent further damage to the stone. Biogrowth soiling on the surface resulted from the inability of the limestone material to dry, ultimately causing the dirt and grime of the city to collect and discolor the stone. Moisture testing of the existing brick masonry was also completed as a part of this project, and exterior lighting was added and designed to evenly showcase the architecture.

Phase 2 | 2020

On the interior, much of the work sought to bring the building back to it’s former grandeur. The design approach included categorizing spaces as character-defining spaces – those essential to the character of the courthouse, or non-character defining spaces – those requiring modifications for functional needs.

Guidelines for rehabilitation of character defining spaces included reconstruction of missing elements based on original documentation. Over the years, historic elements including ornate plaster ceilings, lobbies, original doors, stairs, millwork and historic finishes and lighting had been replaced, hidden, or covered up in their entirety. New elements, elements that had never existed before, are clearly distinguished in material and form. All new finishes and materials were based on the historic scheme.

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