New windows add historic look

November 20, 2002 11:00 pm
Jack Isaacs, a Baker County maintenance worker, installs one of 12 historically appropriate windows that have gone up recently at the Baker County Courthouse. An architect with Marvin Window Products helped design the windows to make them not only look a century old but also easy to clean from the inside — a big plus for the county maintenance crew. (Baker City Herald/Glenda Carter).
Jack Isaacs, a Baker County maintenance worker, installs one of 12 historically appropriate windows that have gone up recently at the Baker County Courthouse. An architect with Marvin Window Products helped design the windows to make them not only look a century old but also easy to clean from the inside — a big plus for the county maintenance crew. (Baker City Herald/Glenda Carter).

By MIKE FERGUSON

Of the Baker City Herald

They're brand new, but they look old. Unlike their predecessors, they tilt inward, so they're easily cleaned.

The dozen historically appropriate woodframe windows that have been installed so far at the Baker County Courthouse are both a pleasure to behold and a cinch to keep up for the county's maintenance staff.

Not only do the windows look nice, but they're homegrown, too. Marvin Wood Products provided an Idaho-based architect to design a window to approach the grandeur of the old windows, which date back to the original 1908 Courthouse construction.

The company used ponderosa pine grown in the region for the frames, said Marvin's Baker City plant manager, Everett Vassar, and knocked hundreds of dollars off the purchase price.

According to Baker County maintenance foreman Gary Smith, Marvin Window Products is the only company he's aware of that makes 51-by-76 inch windows.

Upgrading the Courthouse windows began more than five years ago, Smith said. It's a renovation project that originated with Smith and former Commission Chair Steve Bogart.

"Back in those days, it was a little out of our reach dollar-wise," he said. "But (current Commission Chair) Brian Cole gave us the go-ahead to pursue it in earnest" more than a year ago.

Smith said that adding the windows is a continuation of the Courthouse remodeling project, which has mostly been done by in-house labor and has opened up the building's basement for use by county departments.

"Taking care of our building is a real priority for us," he said. "We feel a strong responsibility. I've been told by numerous commissioners to stay within our historical parameters. Every time we take on a project, we get calls from city, state and federal people who want to make sure we're staying historically accurate."

Price for the 12 windows installed so far is $17,406, Smith said — $1,420.67 per window on average. Smith said the window's double panes should speed the day when the cost of the windows has been recouped in energy savings.

Smith said he's heard stories that the new windows are keeping Courthouse workers and visitors snug and warm. Just after one of the windows was installed in Justice Court — during Baker County's cold snap at the end of October — Judge Larry Cole reported that a heater that "used to run all the time" came on only once all morning, despite temperatures that were in the single digits the mornings of Oct. 30 and 31.

The 12 new windows are tiltpack windows. They open from the inside; that, of course, makes them much easier for maintenance crews to clean, Smith said.

Previously, crews had to stand on long ladders outside the Courthouse to perform twice-a-year window cleanings. The third-story windows in District Court are beyond the reach of the ladders, Smith said, and window-cleaning was an overly-dangerous task during the icy clutches of winter.

Besides being easy to clean and energy efficient, the windows are coated to protect the Courthouse and its inhabitants from the damaging effects of UV rays from the sun, Smith said.

Four of the new windows have been installed in the commissioners' chambers, one in the hallway of the first-floor lobby, two by the stairway, three in Justice Court, with two more going in to the the office of Justice Court.

When funds allow, Smith said he plans to install three new windows in Cole's (soon to be Fred Warner Jr.'s) office, three in the County Clerk's office, two in the Treasurer's office next door, and one in the hallway off the lobby on the main floor.

A 25-year veteran of the county maintenance staff, Smith said he'd like to use the five years he has left before retirement to take care of some pet projects, including the repair and restoration of the Courthouse clock.

"That's long been a pet peeve of mine," he said. "I know it's a luxury, and I know most people know what time it is already because they wear a wristwatch. Even my cell phone tells the time. But our building is equipped with a clock, and we ought to fix it."

An estimate made about eight years ago pegged the cost to fix the giant timepiece at about $15,000, Smith said.