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Hall of Justice Dome & Mural Restoration

The Douglas County Courthouse (also called the Hall of Justice) located at 1701 Farnam Street in Omaha, Nebraska, was constructed in 1912 and was designed by renowned Omaha architect John Latenser, Sr.

A major feature of the National Register courthouse interior is a magnificent central rotunda that is surmounted by a skylight dome with an ornate stained glass laylight assembly. The walls below the dome are composed of eight monumental murals that depict the historical growth of the Omaha area, from the Native American settlers to the creation of the urban landscape.

The murals have had a complicated history of catastrophic damage and several unsuccessful repair and restoration attempts. The murals were severely damaged by a fire in September of 1919 when a mob stormed the courthouse and set it ablaze. The courthouse sustained severe damage and the fire “turned them (murals) mostly to soot.” Repainted in 1922, with later interventions in 1932, 1955 and 1980, the murals continued to suffer deterioration from chronic water infiltration from the skylight above.Several murals had been repainted over the years to include inappropriate additional imagery, often changing the work’s original intent.

In 2015, at the request of the Omaha Douglas County Public Building Commission, BVH Architecture led a multi-phase project that halted this deterioration and restored the rotunda to its original glory.  

Phase 1 of the project replaced the rotunda’s domed skylight system and restored the stained glass laylight system. Phase 2 restored all eight murals and included ornate plaster restoration, the application of goldleaf finishing and installation of new LED lighting. BVH Architecture together with  Evergreene Architectural Arts, analyzed, restored, and conserved all eight of the 107-year-old murals. Paint samples, exposure windows, and original documents were all consulted to bring the aging and deteriorating paintings back to life.  These efforts resulted in the team successfully restoring the pieces to their original state, through in-place restoration of three murals and complete recreation of five murals in the original artist’s style. 

Location

Omaha, NE

Year Completed

2017

Owner

Omaha Douglas Public Building Commission

Size

3,025 sq. ft.

BVH Team