Trends Summer 2011 - Page 2

by Kay Kruse-Stanton Lawfully Preserved Remodeled Lincoln County Courthouse retains historic charm while facility receives long-overdue functionality improvements W hen the Lincoln County Courthouse opened in September 1903, it served not only as the administrative center for the region – it was a source of pride. Merrill, Wisconsin, the county seat, had been incorporated only 20 years before. The region had few buildings that presented such an architectural statement. In fact, the editor of a newspaper at the time wrote, “The Lincoln County Courthouse is without any exaggeration the finest edifice of its kind in this state.” It’s no wonder that the building is now on the National Register of Historic Places and that it has remained a symbol for the region. But the courthouse is undersized by today’s standards, constructed when County government’s role was relatively 2│TRENDS small and about half as many people lived in the area. So few court cases were heard in 1903 that the novelty of court activity drew curious spectators. Today, the two judges serving the County have full calendars every week, and a family court commissioner shares the space on Mondays. The building also did not have a secure, separate entrance for law enforcement to escort detainees to court. Prisoners, visitors, and employees all passed through the same public spaces on their way to courtrooms. After nearly a decade of analysis and planning, Lincoln County has solved the administrative space problems and has provided a secure means of moving detainees into courtrooms – all while preserving the historic character of the courthouse. It wasn’t an easy task,