Courthouse restoration back in full swing

Repair of Miss Columbia mural, plaster in hallway outside boardroom part of $75,000 project that is expected to be completed this fall

WORK ON RESTORING PLASTER ON the second floor of the Ozaukee County Courthouse outside the county boardroom is expected to be finished this fall. Tony Kartsonas of Historic Surfaces stood on scaffolding Tuesday and showed the new plaster work. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

After something of a hiatus, restoration of the historic Ozaukee County Courthouse is continuing with work being done on the ceiling outside the second floor County Board meeting room.

A canvas mural depicting Miss Columbia has been removed from the ceiling so that it can be restored and workers can repair the plaster beneath it.

“There’s been some degradation of the plaster beneath the mural,” county Administrator Jason Dzwinel said. “Some windows were uncovered and we’ll be uncovering more of that and bringing it back to how it looked back in the early 20th Century.” 

Dzwinel said he expects the current project to be completed this fall.

The cost of the ceiling work is about $75,000,  half of which was raised through private fundraising, Dzwinel said. 

The courthouse restoration project to date has cost about $1.375 million. That includes work restoring the clock tower and other exterior work, plus restoration and updating of the County Board meeting room. 

 “Grant funds and private donations paid for all of the decorative work and for about half of the total project,” Dzwinel said.  County funds have been used for plaster restoration and other spending for technology, heating and air conditioning and fire protection, he added.

The 115-year-old Miss Columbia mural, is being restored by Historic Surfaces in Milwaukee.

Miss Columbia, whose name is a feminization of Christopher Columbus’ name, was seen as a symbol of America’s spirit and ideals from the time of the American Revolution until the mid-20th Century when it was supplanted by the figure of Uncle Sam.

Plans to restore the Miss Columbia mural have been in the making for the better part of the decade when work was done to restore the county boardroom. 

The mural and other artwork from when the courthouse was built in 1901 were discovered during that project. The mural had been damaged by decades of smoke.

Historic Surfaces is the same company that restored the county boardroom.         

Next in the restoration process will be the second floor meeting room, Dzwinel said.

“We found two false ceilings there with a tin ceiling above those. We will restore the tin celing in that room and paint it,” he said.

“Long term we would like to restore some of the public areas on the first floor as the fundraising and other opportunities allow.”



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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