This project will provide much-needed tourist facilities on the ground floor of the County Courthouse for thousands of travelers who pass through the city on the Byway. This project will coordinate with a multi-million-dollar courthouse restoration already underway.
**Tourists on the Byway**
The city (population 966) is a tourist and service center for the area. In 2005, 17,615 tourists visited the area. Visitors flock to the area each Spring to see ranchers burn part of the 4.5 million acres of prairie. Each June, 15,000 visitors attend the city's Rodeo, the longest-running professional rodeo in the State and the city's Folklife Festival. The city provides lodging, shopping, and attractions for these tourists.
** County Courthouse Visitors**
The County Courthouse is a key historic resource along the Byway. Because of its historical and architectural appeal, it is among the sites visited by the thousands of tourists who visit the County each year. Completed in 1873 the courthouse is the oldest county courthouse still in use in the State. In 2006 alone, approximately 2000 visitors signed the courthouse's guestbook. Recent visitors have recorded their places of origin with red stick pins on a map in the courthouse's entry. Hundreds of the visitors who tour the courthouse each year take advantage of guided tours offered by the County Chamber of Commerce. The tour facilities will provide for extended hours for touring, including weekend touring hours.
There are currently no public restrooms in the County or the city. There is no place for large tour groups to gather - or for the visitors to learn the history of the courthouse and scenic byway.
The project will provide the following:
*1. Public Restrooms*
There are currently two small restrooms on the courthouse's ground floor. The earliest of these, constructed 1925, was subdivided in 1962 to create both men's and women's restrooms (See Photos 6-7, Attachment C, page 5). These restrooms, located north of the northernmost entry on the building's west elevation, are woefully inadequate for public use. The existing restrooms will be replaced with two new unisex restrooms. Rehabilitation plans call for the removal of the small women's restroom, on the west, to provide corridor space for the new elevator to be installed to the north (See Ground Floor Plan, Attachment C, page 9). This restroom will be replaced by a new restroom to be located in the area now occupied by the boiler (See Photo 4, Attachment C, page 5). The second unisex restroom will be located in the space now occupied by the men's restroom.
*2. Visitor Orientation/Interpretation*
There is presently no orientation space within the courthouse. When the Chamber of Commerce provides guided tours of the courthouse, there is no place for tourists to gather. Because it is important that tours of the courthouse not interrupt county business, guides must separate large tour groups into smaller groups for tours. The proposed orientation space will provide a place where tourists can gather before a tour, where tour guides can address larger tour groups, and where visitors can learn about the history of the courthouse and stone construction through wall-mounted interpretive exhibits while waiting for their tour. The interpretation space will occupy space currently used for offices. Plans call for the relocation of these offices to other buildings in downtown.
In addition to construction costs, the budget for the orientation/interpretive space includes funding necessary to hire an exhibits specialist to provide text for wall-mounted interpretive panels and for the materials and assembly of the permanent interpretive exhibit.
The proposed project will fulfill goals in the Corridor Management Plan by providing public restroom facilities and historic interpretation of the courthouse and the byway.
The project will benefit the byway traveler by providing clean public restrooms in a central location and by providing context for their visit to the courthouse and to the area.
The project will meet multiple goals established by the Corridor Management Plan (CMP), including the creation of "interpretive centers" (CMP, page 7), "[e]ncourag[ing] preservation and restoration of historic structures (CMP, page 22), promoting tours (CMP, page 39), and providing tourist facilities such as restrooms (CMP, page 48).