Unique solution applied to Pitkin County Courthouse steps
After spending the winter under plywood and a sheet of plastic, a portion of the historic Pitkin County Courthouse finally began receiving some attention last week when workers applied a novel fix, a county official said Friday.
“It’s exciting,” said Jodi Smith, county facilities manager. “We’re really happy with the results.”
The problems began late last fall, when the ground beneath the wall supporting the west-facing stairs shifted, cracking the wall and pushing it out and down about half an inch, Smith said.
Because the building is 125 years old — it was completed in 1891 — Smith and other officials from the county and city of Aspen wanted to take their time and make sure the repairs were done with a thorough plan, so they wrapped the portion of the building in plastic to protect it from the winter elements and went to work on designs, she said.
A plan to dig up the area and restabilize the ground failed to draw any interest when it went out to bid early this year, said Smith, who estimated it likely would have cost about $200,000.
However, another contractor came up with a plan that called for stabilizing the ground underneath the wall rather than digging it up, she said. That plan, which was signed off on by city and county historical preservation officials, called for injecting the ground with a material that fills in fissures and immediately hardens, Smith said.
On Tuesday, workers injected the material — which Smith likened to spray-foam insulation used in walls — 7 feet, 5 feet and 3 feet deep beneath the wall, she said. As a result, the stairs actually lifted up and are more or less back into place, she said.
“They might not be in exactly the same spot, but they moved to a place we felt comfortable,” she said. “It really made the ground stable.”
Now masons will spend the next two weeks or so repairing cracks in the wall and reattaching the stone, Smith said. A loose capstone at the front entrance on Main Street also will be reattached.
The project cost less than $90,000, she said.
“It’s exactly what we were going for,” Smith said.
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