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MUSCATINE — Though obscured by a drop ceiling, the Muscatine County Courthouse's third floor courtroom still has a ornamental plaster ceiling. 

"Plaster restoration in particular is a little bit of a lost art," said Michael Nolan, lead architect on the courtroom's restoration. For Nolan, the goal is to get the courtroom in shape for decades to come without losing all of the historic detail that preceded.

"From an aesthetic standpoint, we are going to take a lot of the historic, decorative woodwork that is in there (and) preserve as much of that as we can and then mimic that all the way around the courtroom to try and bring that back a little closer to the original," Nolan said.

According to Nolan, the courtroom has not seen work since a restoration in the 1970s. His examination revealed, over time, the room was altered to fit individual tastes and preferences.

"Right now there is kind of a hodgepodge of different areas where things have been done to make it functional, but we are going to try and take some of it down and match the woodwork," Nolan said. "We want to match finishes all the way around."

Nolan's firm, Horizon Architecture was hired to create an overview plan with probable cost for the courtroom's renovation. The plan presented at the Monday, Aug. 6, meeting of the Board of Supervisors included demolition, salvage and removal of much of the floor's existing partitions; the construction of new partitions and furnishings; upgrades to the HVAC, electrical and plumbing fixtures; restoration of the plaster ceiling and walls; and installation of new audio-visual equipment. All-in-all, the project estimate Nolan gave to the board was for $921,725. 

"Half of that work is going to be going toward restoration and upgrade of the spaces," Nolan said. "The other quarters are broken out into the audio-visuals, bringing up the technology to a level. And then a quarter for mechanical upgrades on that."

In addition to a jury support space, a room for defendants in police custody will have its own secured restroom facility. 

While the large price tag caught Supervisor Robert Howard's eye, he was in general in favor of seeing the space receive more some renovation.

"I particularly like the work and effort put in to try and keep the aesthetics same as we have so that it works with the look of the whole building," Howard said. 

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