CHESTER — As part of the Ohio Local History Alliance Region 9 meeting on Saturday, members of the Chester-Shade Historical Association discussed the history of the Chester Courthouse and Academy and the past restorations.
The Chester Courthouse, which was Meigs County’s first courthouse and now Ohio’s oldest standing courthouse, was constructed in 1822. After 136 years, in 1958 efforts were made to stabilize the building because it was leaning downhill. That’s when the buttresses were added to the front of the building for support.
In 1996, after a few tries to get funding, the association received grants to renovate the courthouse. The goal was to get the building back to what it was originally. The windows were replaced as the same size, the original door hinges and handles are there, and the walls are just as thick as they were in 1822. According to the association, the project cost $160,000.
The handrail along the steps is made from several different types of woods found in Meigs County. According to Mary Powell and Dave Schatz, one of the rails is made out of poison ivy.
The Chester Courthouse reopened to the public on July 1, 2001.
In 2002, the group started the restoration process for the Chester Academy, which sits to the right of the courthouse. The building was constructed in 1840 and has been used for a teachers’ school or college, high school classes, storage of county records, Daughters of America and Shade River Masonic Lodge, according to Schatz.
The academy’s renovation was not planned for after they restored the courthouse, according to Mary Powell. After repairing the roof in 2002, they received the Saving America’s Treasures Grant in 2004. There were no staircases to enter the building’s top floor, but Baum’s Lumber used their crane to remove items. As with the courthouse, the association was committed to restoring the building to as it was originally. The bell tower on the roof was even placed off center, just the way they found it. The association was able to save the middle level’s floor, which has rings etched in it for children to shoot marbles, according to Shatz.
“When I look at what Meigs [County Historical Society] has ahead of them … they’re going to have a lot of fun,” said Schatz of the renovations the historical society is doing in Middleport.
The property of the Chester Commons, Courthouse and Academy is owned by the county and maintained by Chester-Shade. The two buildings house a courtroom, museum, folklore, genealogy collections, educational programs and social activities.
The Chester-Shade Historical Association is open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Kayla Hawthorne is a freelance writer for The Daily Sentinel.