A project to replace the granite steps and stone facade leading to the main entrance of the Baker County Courthouse should be finished by the end of November.
The work is in its final phase, said Dan McQuisten, the county’s facilities manager.
“In general, the scope of the project or the intent of the project was to address some long-term deterioration in the stone facade that surrounded the steps at the courthouse and it’s been a long, ongoing project over the last several years,” McQuisten said.
The project has a $65,000 budget, and McQuisten said he’s not yet sure whether the county will spend the entire amount.
Workers over the past several years have replaced other sets of steps at the Courthouse, 1995 Third St.
McQuisten said the facade, made of a type of compressed volcanic ash known as tuffstone, which was quarried near Pleasant Valley between Baker City and Durkee, has deteriorated over the decades due to the ravages of weather.
“For lack of a better term, it’s rotted out,” McQuisten said.
The tuffstone is also used in several other historic buildings, including Baker City Hall and St. Francis de Sales Cathedral.
McQuisten said the Courthouse, finished in 1909, is mainly built of brick, steel and wood on a concrete foundation.
“When you look at the courthouse, you see this (tuff) stone all over, you think it’s a stone building,” he said. “But really, what you’re looking at would be thick stone siding. It’s literally just a facade on the exterior part of the building.”
The deterioration of the tuffstone facade around the steps threatened the integrity of the structures, McQuisten said.
The county sought to find replacement materials similar to the originals, he said.
Workers have removed the granite steps below the main entrance, on the east side of the Courthouse, as well as the underlying material that was wicking moisture and accelerating the deterioration.
With everything dried, workers are installing new steps and facade stone.
“Hopefully that will be another 100 plus year fix,” McQuisten said.