By Aziza Jackson
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Lexington’s historic courthouse square recently underwent a $32 million renovation to restore the 120-year structure for public use.
According to the Lexington Herald-Ledger, Fayette County officials marked the completion of the restoration project with a ribbon-cutting ceremony after the courthouse had been left vacant and neglected after the courts moved to new buildings in 2002.
“A place that in the past often held difficult and troubling memories is now a place where all people — all people — can go to create memories,” said Mayor Jim Gray in his remarks, according to the Herald-Ledger. “In many respects, today’s re-dedication represents our city’s renaissance, a renaissance of both spirit and place.”
Earlier reports indicate that after years of neglect, Gray and the Urban County Council made the decision to restore the building as civic space. About $8 million of the project’s budget comes from state and federal historic preservation tax credits.
The courthouse was reportedly built between 1898 and 1900 in a Richardsonian Romanesque style after the previous courthouse burned. The building was then replaced by two new courthouses in 2001 and reportedly became the Lexington History Museum. The city reportedly shuttered the building in 2012 because of fears about lead and asbestos contamination.
Wiedemann and Barry Alberts of Louisville’s City Properties managed the renovation for Historic Lexington Courthouse LLLP, a for-profit entity headed by city chief administrative officer Sally Hamilton that will reportedly be responsible for the operation of the building.
The Herald-Ledger reports that architects re-imagined the interior of the courthouse as event and entertainment space, a visitor’s center and offices for the Breeders’ Cup organization that will in turn provide income for the building’s ongoing operation and maintenance and welcome the public.
Project manager Holly Wiedemann’s team reportedly cleaned a century’s worth of grime from the building’s carved limestone walls, replaced the structure’s roof and restored details such as the dome clocks and copper weather vane.
The Herald-Ledger reports that the courthouse can now serve as a civic asset rather than a vacant, crumbling liability for the county.
A report from the Lexington Herald-Ledger contributed to this story.