Path Home Shows 2008 Show Archive November 2008 Show 0845 Courthouse Dome

Courthouse Dome

An old courthouse receives a new hairline.
Courthouse Dome

Courthouse Dome

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Cordell Main Street

Show Dates

Show 0845: Courthouse Dome

Air date: November 9, 2008



Rob:  For nearly a century the copper dome of the Washita County courthouse looked over the town of Cordell.  Last spring, the historic structure was taken down to repair decades of wear and tear.  And this fall, Cordell residents gathered as a new copper dome was put in place on a structure townspeople believe is the jewel of Oklahoma courthouses.

Years ago there were trees that went all the way around the courthouse square, and that the pigeons would land upon the dome and people would shoot the pigeons off of the dome.  And that’s why it leaked so bad and was in such bad shape.  It had been repaired several times over the years, but it was just falling apart.

In 1911, it cost 75,000, the whole courthouse; and today, this thing’s 750 just for the dome, 750,000.

Now you weren’t around back then were you, when they built it?

No (laughing), that was before my time.

It is a brand new dome.  We are utilizing a light weight aluminum frame with a plywood sheathing and copper cladding, whereas the other dome was basically a wood structure with a copper cladding.  You know, we’re using modern technology today.  We’re using cranes, and using things that were not available back in the day when they built this building.  I was amazed, because they didn’t have the tools that I had today, to put this thing together.

You know the craftsman that built the original dome built it on top of the building in whatever the prevailing weather conditions were.  However they were able to get the materials to the top of the building and everything, and it’s always, you know, it’s always peaked my interest.  We still have to put stuff together the same way it was put together a hundred years ago with solder and so forth.  But, the fact is, we’re doing it in a controlled environment where these guys were just up on top of the building, craftsmen, doing their work.

They did it a hundred years ago.  We should be able to do it now.

The cornerstone was laid on December 28, 1910; when the original bid was let earlier in December, the cost had been 72,000 and some odd dollars, and the dome was designed to be made of iron.  Of course, before work started commissioners changed their mind and decided that they would like for it to be copper and that added 4200 dollars to the cost.

It’s the stories.  It’s the history.  You can’t talk to anybody who doesn’t have some kind, they applied for their marriage license here, they were married by the judge in the courthouse; everybody’s got a story.

You know, them turkeys a pretty big deal; and every year, he’d throw a bunch off of that courthouse, people would gather around and catch them.  I think that was about 1940.  I was standing over there on that corner, dad told me not to get out there where I’d get run over, you know, by the crowd.  They throwed a turkey hen off there, and she come right straight to me, and I grabbed her, and it nearly knocked me down whenever I grabbed her.  A guy standing there, he was a grown man, he said, give me that turkey kid; he said, that’s my turkey; and another guy standing there said, no, that’s that kids turkey and you leave him alone, he caught that turkey, I seen him get it.

This is really still just one of the earlier stages too.  There’s additional work to be done in the courthouse.  This is a nice visual beginning, really, to a continued renovation and restoration of our historic district.

Well, it’s history.  It’s history.

So what we do with that history is our responsibility.  Preserve it or lose it, one or the other, you preserve it or lose it.

Rob:  Now, interestingly, the same gentleman who designed the Washita County courthouse is also the designer of our state capitol.