Scaffolding that has stood inside the Luzerne County Courthouse rotunda since August is coming down, providing the first public glimpses of a $2.13 million restoration project.
“It is unbelievably beautiful,” said county Court Administrator Michael Shucosky, who observed a steady stream of workers and visitors pausing on the upper floors Thursday to see the change.
“Everybody is in awe today. I think it has exceeded everyone’s expectations,” he said.
The view of the dome was blocked by temporary floors incorporated in the scaffolding to allow restoration workers from Connecticut-based John Canning Co. to move about freely as they repaired art and other finishes damaged by past water leaks and smoking.
James Haddock, who oversees the civil and criminal court records offices, described the transformation as “breathtaking.”
New LED lighting and a return to the original color scheme from the historic building’s opening in 1909 make the dome pop, Haddock said. For example, a wreath around the dome’s circular stained glass was converted from beige to creamy white.
“It’s bright now. People are really shocked how big it looks,” Haddock said. “It was dark and decaying. Now it’s gorgeous.”
Crisp strokes and colors make the restored artwork stand out. At least a quarter of the 96 murals inside the dome had to be removed for conservation work because they were no longer adhered to the plaster and were only hanging from nail tacks, representatives of John Canning have said.
“It’s amazing how much individual art is up there,” Haddock said.
Shucosky said some of the paintings appear to be three-dimensional by design.
County Manager C. David Pedri said he has received exuberant feedback from the first public peeks of the dome.
“More people can begin to see the beauty of this building, which will be restored to its historic grandeur,” Pedri said, repeating his thanks to county council for allocating funding.
While the project is in its final stages, he stressed work will continue because the deadline for substantial completion is not until March 9.
A public grand opening will be held next month, Pedri said.
County council allocated $2.07 million in past-borrowed funds for the project in the capital plan, and the county received an $80,000 state Historical and Museum Commission grant plus $104,385 from casino gambling revenue.
The courthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.