“Among courthouses built across the country, Bloomfield’s is unquestionably one of the most impressive ever realized in the French Second Empire style. There are many other courthouses in this style that are much larger and more opulent, but very few equal the sense of competence and delight conveyed by this cruciform building …”
— Society of Architectural Historians.
People from Davis County have known this for decades, as did our parents and grandparents. People often stop to admire the courthouse — many taking photos, which they post to social media sites. The courthouse has appeared in the New York Times, Newsweek, American Heritage and Midwest Living magazines.
I am grateful to the past boards of supervisors, as well as the present one, for maintaining and restoring this beautiful building. But the supervisors are about to make a decision that is contrary to all the good work that has been done to date.
They will receive bids soon for a new handicap-accessible entrance on the northwest corner of the courthouse. The entrance and associated handicap parking are not the issue.
The issue that should concern the people of Davis County is the eyesore of a parking area that is being shifted about 15 feet to the north and enlarged, gobbling up more green space from the courtyard. And the real kicker is the 10x12-foot maintenance shed and the 9x11-foot dumpster enclosure that will be built on the front lawn of the courthouse along Washington Street.
I wish someone would explain why we need to turn the north courtyard into a parking lot and maintenance yard when there are plenty of other locations for parking and maintenance equipment.
To be fair, the supervisors did not come up with all of this out of the blue. The historic structure report in 2011 by architect Douglas Steinmetz presented a concept for a new handicap entry that included parking, a maintenance shed and dumpster. So much for historic preservation.
A dumpster and tool shed could be located anywhere offsite near the square — perhaps reaching an agreement with the City of Bloomfield to locate them in the city’s maintenance yard. And it probably would be cheaper than trying to concoct a design that is “sympathetic” to the courthouse.
The six non-handicap parking stalls could be reserved adjacent to the courtyard. That’s where judges and the sheriff’s cars parked before spaces were carved out in the courtyard in the 1980s.
The supervisors could decide to shift the driveway a few feet north of the existing drive and relocate the two handicap parking spaces to avoid potential problems of people backing into the new entry or the courthouse itself.
The supervisors should be encouraged to return the courthouse park and get rid of the courthouse parking lot. Think green spaces, not parking spaces.
Let’s not embrace mediocrity and ugly up the grounds of our wonderful courthouse with a dumpster, tool shed and a larger parking lot. Many Iowa courthouses, such as the Dallas County Courthouse in Adel, do not have parking lots, sheds and dumpsters around their courtyards. You don’t see dumpsters cluttering the Iowa Capitol grounds in Des Moines.
There are options. No amount of landscaping can hide the dumpster enclosure, maintenance shed and bigger parking lot. Davis County should give visitors something to admire when they stop to look at, and photograph, the courthouse. Show them our civic pride. Don’t junk up their photos.