Lexington General Services Commissioner Sally Hamilton said Friday that the historic courthouse on Main Street will be closed immediately because of the presence of dangerous levels of damaged and deteriorating lead-based paint in the building.
“We are taking the most conservative, responsible steps we can take,” Hamilton said. “Safety must come first.”
Currently, the building houses the Lexington History Museum, the Lexington Public Safety Museum and the Kentucky Renaissance Pharmacy Museum. On Saturdays, patrons of the Farmers Market use restrooms inside the building.
The museums have been notified that the building is being closed to the public. Hamilton said lead abatement contractors will be brought in immediately to assess the cost of addressing the lead problems. “That will tell us more about how long the building will have to remain closed,” Hamilton said. “We may very well find that we can’t afford to address the issues right now. This building has a number of problems, and fixing them will likely be very expensive.”
In addition to lead concerns, the building has asbestos and structural problems. The city is also assessing mold levels.
The decision to assess the building’s lead, asbestos and mold levels grew out of a complaint in April from a volunteer with the Public Safety Museum. The city hired a local firm, Air Source Technology, to conduct a study and decided a full assessment was needed. In its Lead-Based Paint Risk Assessment Report, which the city received Friday, the company identified “Deteriorated lead-based paint on the interior building components” and “Lead dust on the floors and other components.”
Lead is hazardous, especially for children who are 6 or younger. People can inhale or swallow lead dust or paint chips. The building dates to 1898. For a Century it was home to Fayette County court operations. In 2002, the new courthouses opened on Limestone Street.