Exterior renovations continue with removal of courthouse trees

Crews removed the trees lining the Missoula County Courthouse lawn last week as the multi-year renovation process enters its final phase. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

The historic Missoula County Courthouse entered the final phase of a multi-year renovation effort last week as arborists began removing the large trees lining the building’s lawn.

The outdoor restoration work marks the fifth and final phase of the $13 million effort, which began several years ago to restore the 1910 courthouse to its original luster.

“The exterior renovations to the courthouse lawn are a beautiful way to mark the end of this six-year project,” Missoula County Commissioner Cola Rowley said Thursday. “In addition to landscaping, we’ll be replacing non-historic light fixtures with historically correct fixtures, and we’ll be installing the originally restored copper entrance doors.”

The fifth phase of work includes repainting the surface walls, replacing some landscaping and installing a snow-melt system with new concrete sidewalks.

New seating and directional signs will be added, along with repairs to the granite entry leading up to the building. The county also has applied for a grant to restore the Dough Boy World War I statue on the courthouse lawn.

“It would be nice to polish him up a little bit and build a nice little plaza for it,” said Commissioner Jean Curtiss.

Crews fenced off the courthouse lawn back in June. The exterior work is expected to run through October and cost around $790,000.

That includes the cost of removing the property’s aging trees and planting new sugar maples.

“The trees surrounding the courthouse have reached the end of that life cycle and need to be replaced,” said city forester Chris Boza. “Now is the time to renew the circle of life for future generations of Missoulians to enjoy.”

Phase 1 began in roughly 2010 and included renovations to the first floor of the courthouse, along with the first and fourth floor annex. Phase 2 moved on to the second floor of the courthouse.

The final interior phase saw the completion of the uppermost floor. That included a remodel of the historic Missoula County District Court courtroom and seismic reinforcement of the historic clock tower.

The courthouse lawn has served as the town square for more than 100 years. It was time, commissioners agreed, to give it a new life.

“We look forward to reinvigorating the urban forest by planting the native species, sugar maples,” said Rowley.