Pitkin County Courthouse floors revealed after 50 years
As workers slowly empty the Pitkin County Courthouse of its historical treasures in preparation for a nearly $5 million renovation, they’ve also unearthed a treasure long forgotten.
After removing the carpet last week from the main floor, what look to be the building’s original hardwood floors from 1890 when it was constructed saw the light of day for the first time in a half-century.
“Everybody keeps commenting on them,” said Jodi Smith, Pitkin County’s facilities manager. “They look so beautiful.”
The 50-year-old carpet also apparently masked a odor particular to old buildings, which is now prevalent on the first floor. The unoffensive odor smells like old wood and musty history.
“It makes you think of all the history and people who came and went (before),” said Pitkin County Commissioner Patti Clapper.
Because of all the comments, Smith said she’s researching the cost and feasibility of refinishing the floor on the main entrance level.
“I think it would be cool,” she said.
With the old photographs gone, the steam-powered piece of mining equipment that sat in the lobby for decades carted off to the Aspen Historical Society and the old carpet taken up, the building’s main floor has a decidedly different atmosphere. The space feels larger and footsteps previously muffled by the thick carpet now echo and bounce off the walls.
Mark Maline, who helps maintain the courthouse, said Friday he doesn’t think the newly exposed floors are original.
“They’re in too good a shape,” he said.
Smith, however, said she thinks the floors are original, though she has no way of knowing for certain.
Pitkin County is planning to spend an estimated $4.73 million to renovate the historic building. The Aspen Police Department and several county offices moved out of the courthouse last summer and into new buildings next door, freeing up a significant amount of space.
Plans call for the courthouse to have just one public entrance — there are now three — with a security station standard at most courthouses throughout the country. Office space for court clerks, judges, the DA’s Office and probation officers also will be renovated and expanded, while plans also call for a third courtroom to be built in the basement.
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With solid recent rainfall, all fire restrictions in Pitkin County will end Friday morning.