For Now, Old Rock Island Courthouse Saved

For Now, Old Rock Island Courthouse Saved

The imminent demolition of the old Rock Island County Courthouse is blocked as a state appellate court steps in. On Thursday, a ruling is issued that forces local agencies to follow Illinois law calling for public input on the preservation of historic buildings. The old courthouse was built in 1896 by Frederick Gunn and Louis Curtis.

According to a suit filed by preservationists, the old courthouse was considered “a significant example of Spanish Renaissance or Roman-style architecture.” In late 2018, the old courthouse was replaced by a new courthouse. The Rock Island County and its Public Building Commission moved immediately to destroy it, spurred by the county’s Chief Judge Walter Braud.

Landmarks Illinois and including the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Rock Island Preservation Society, the Moline Preservation Society, the Broadway Historic District Association, and local residents Fred Shaw and Diane Oestreich led the preservation movement. They filed a suit to block the demolition.

The preservationists partly charged that the local agencies were not following requirements to seek other uses for the property under the Illinois State Historic Resources Preservation Act. The suit was dismissed by the local courts but the preservationists appealed and won a restraining order. On Thursday, the Third District Appellate Court of Illinois ruled the old courthouse was eligible for protection.

The Court found it eligible for protection under the “plain and unambiguous language” of the state preservation act. The Court also emphasized that protectionists had standing to file the suit. Bonnie McDonald, the organization’s president said, “Landmarks Illinois is pleased the appellate court determined that the county must follow state preservation law, affirming the public’s right to be consulted on the future of their courthouse.”

Staff writer for the Chicago Morning Star

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