What’s being saved and lost in the RICO Courthouse demolition

ROCK ISLAND, Illinois-- The Rock Island County Courthouse looks different than it did just a few months ago.

The clerks and attorneys have all moved next door to the new Rock Island County Justice Center Annex. Hundreds of pieces of furniture have been pulled out and repurposed. And most courtrooms are empty, with the court benches stored away.

"Everybody's gone. Everything's gone. And you can really see the wear and tear the buildings has suffered through time," project manager Phil Thiele says.

He's been overseeing the asbestos removal in the courthouse. His company, Gilbane, also built the new annex.

Demolition has been delayed as the project waits for a demolition permit from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

Thiele says crews found 2,000 additional square feet of asbestos they'll need to remove. He says that will take six more days of work and hopes the permit will be approved in the meantime.

For now, they've also removed most of the items with historical significance.

There's a big desk in one courtroom crews still need to remove and one courtroom full of benches that will be saved.

"It is a little different to be in a building where it's just the four of us here," Rock Island Historical Society President Merredith Peterson says. "It's just kind of like... 'Wow!'"

There's one last historical piece Peterson is waiting to see taken out of the courthouse. There are three marble tablets that used to hang on the walls. They're inscribed with hundreds of names.

"These are the names from the early settlers and old pioneers who actually came first to the county starting in 1838," Peterson says.

Thiele says these tablets, the heaviest weighing 800 pounds, will have to be lifted out the window with a crane before demolition.

Peterson says the Historical Society will find somewhere to display them.

"Their stories and sacrifice of what they did to establish our community... it's all built on their hard work," Peterson says, running her hand over the engravings.

But there are some things that won't be saved from the courthouse. Thiele says there are cubicles and furniture that nobody would take, not even for free. He says the cast-iron and wrought iron railings along the stairs and rotunda will be scrapped. He says they can't be repurposed because they don't meet safety codes.

Peterson says it's not easy to see the courthouse turn into a shell of what it once was.

"There was a lot of work that went before (this courthouse)," she says. "Just as there's a lot of work to tear it down and move into a new place. It's never easy."

But the memories and those who built this place won't be forgotten.

County officials are keeping track of the historical items from the courthouse. They'll be put on display for the public.

Thiele says demolition could start as early as the week of January 27.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.