Status of old Will County Courthouse rising

National Park Service will consider putting courthouse on National Register of Historic Places

will county courthouse, government

Advocates for preserving the old Will County Courthouse advanced their cause last week when a state agency nominated the building to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The courthouse in downtown Joliet became the first building from the Brutalist school of architecture to be nominated for the register, said Hudson Hollister, co-chair of the Courthouse Preservation Partnership.

Getting on the register would make tax credits available to incentivize private developers to put the building to a new use, Hollister said.

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“This dramatically changes the economics of redevelopment versus the economics of demolition,” Hollister said Monday.

It would not necessarily prevent demolition, however. The Will County Board, which will decide the fate of the building, so far has been voting for demolition.

The Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council voted unanimously on Friday to nominate the courthouse, built in 1969 and vacated in 2020, to the National Park Service to be placed on the national register.

The nomination does not guarantee placement on the register, but Hudson said the National Park Service typically accepts state nominations.

Courthouse Preservation Partnership joined Landmarks Illinois in proposing the nomination.

In nominating the courthouse, the state advisory council said the courthouse was the first Brutalist building in Illinois to get a nomination to the register. The style emerged in the 1950a utilizing concrete and other materials in the construction of buildings often stark and imposing in appearance.

The old Will County Courthouse seen on Aug. 5, 2021.

The courthouse over the years has been viewed by many local residents as ugly but is being reconsidered with the prospect of demolition.

Getting the building on the national register “would validate this as one of our nation’s most significant places,” said Bonnie McDonald, president and CEO of Landmarks Illinois.

“The National Register of Historic Places is our nation’s list of the most significant places that tell our story,” McDonald said.