AMIDON, N.D. – Court is not in session, and there definitely is no order.
On Tuesday, 10 men, two excavators and a bulldozer began the final stage of demolishing the Slope County Courthouse, the historic structure that has come to define the city of Amidon.
While plans to remove the outdated courthouse began more than a year ago when the county broke ground on its new office, the final demolition of the building – the last wood-framed courthouse in the state – marks a significant moment in Amidon and Slope County history.
“It’s been there for almost 100 years,” said Lorrie Buzalsky, the county auditor. “A lot of people are sad to see it go.”
The old courthouse had too much going against it – a lack of insulation, asbestos throughout, ancient radiant heating, electrical wiring that was not up to code and doors that were not handicap accessible.
While the walls came down Tuesday, the start of the demolition began last week. The windows were removed and given to county residents who could repurpose them. Pipes from the heating system were piled out back, awaiting a trip to the scrap yard. And on Monday afternoon, workers with Ainsworth-Benning Construction Inc., the company that built the new courthouse, tore the shingles from the roof.
“That was a really old, uninsulated building,” Jason Klingenberger, the project’s superintendent, said as he looked over the gutted building.
From the main street of Amidon, the brick facade of the new courthouse stood in stark contrast to the whitewashed walls of the old. The loss of the courthouse is a huge change for Amidon, a map-dot of a town with a listed population of 20 residents. It is the smallest county seat in the state. It was once the smallest in the nation until Gann Valley, S.D., dropped to 14 residents in 2013.
While county employees have already moved into their new offices, there is still work to be done.
The new courtroom, outfitted with modern skylights, still needs the drop ceiling installed, and the building’s hallways are still cluttered with stepladders and other construction equipment.
As the building is being completed, county employees have turned to makeshift signs – made of construction paper – to let people know where the new county treasurer’s office is located.
“They’ve got more offices in this building than they have people in the town,” said Bruce Hanson, senior superintendent for the project.
The new courthouse is expected to save the county a considerable amount of money in lighting and heating costs, too. The new building, which provides far more space than the century-old rooms of the old courthouse, is expected to use one-tenth of the electricity, Klingenberger said.
But for Buzalsky, who has worked in the old courthouse for nearly 18 years, the new offices will take some getting used to.
In the old courthouse, Buzalsky said her office was located so that everyone who had to travel from one end of the courthouse to the other had to walk past her desk.
“It was like Grand Central Station,” Buzalsky said. “I will have to go find people so I am not lonely now.”