WASHBURN, N.D. — The grand dame of McLean County history started to fall apart late Thursday afternoon, when a demolition crew took a few swings at her with the proverbial wrecking ball.
A subcontract crew for Swanberg Construction began tearing down the historic McLean County Courthouse a few weeks later than anticipated, hampered now by snow and mud around the building.
County Auditor Les Korgel, along with a few other employees, stepped outside to watch the tall crane and ball make loud, pounding swipes at the brick exterior.
“I feel a big pang,” Korgel said. “When you’ve worked there for a quarter of a century, it’s tough to see it go.”
The courthouse was built more than 100 years ago. It occupies a prominent space in Washburn’s skyline on a hill above the Missouri River. Its absence will be notable.
County employees have been in the new courthouse building right next door since the first of the year.
The old one was abandoned because two employees were diagnosed with a respiratory ailment possibly caused by spores from bat droppings in the building.
In the meantime, a heritage group worked valiantly to try to save the building in an 11th-hour legal move that proved unsuccessful in court.
Work started late in the day and stopped soon thereafter. A worker said the courthouse’s distinctive peak will go first and then cable will be wrapped around the peak columns so the building can get pulled down enough for a backhoe to get into the guts of it.
The project will cost $1.1 million, including demolition, cleanup, parking lot construction, and remodeling the annex into ground-level storage and maintenance space.