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Woodstock gets courthouse via auction

WOODSTOCK – With a price tag of $110,000, the city of Woodstock was the only bidder for the former McHenry County Courthouse at an auction Thursday.

The property itself officially was donated to the city last week by its former owner, Centralia Investors.

A lawsuit involving a tenant and liens against the property held up the donation, but a $105,000 lien purchase made the city both the lien holder and the property owner.

Attorney Ryan Farrell said that as such, the city didn’t actually expend $110,000 on the property because it already was owed that money.

“That money goes back to the city,” he said. “Because we took an assignment of the [lien holders’] rights, that also includes an assignment of getting back the money that they’re owed.”

There were no other bidders at the auction for the building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Current tenants Cliff and Beverly Ganschow bought the old courthouse in the 1970s and operate an art gallery in the building, but Centralia held the title.

The Ganschows have 30 days to redeem their rights, Farrell said.

“That basically means they have 30 days to pay what was owed,” he said. “That doesn’t make them the owner of the property. ... They cannot own the property unless the city sold them the property.”

As both the lien holder and the property owner, the city had filed a motion for an agreed order that would have made the auction unnecessary.

The matter went before Judge Thomas A. Meyer about 20 minutes before the scheduled 10 a.m. start of the auction.

An attorney for the Ganschows, however, objected and requested time to file a written response, so Farrell withdrew the request and the auction proceeded.

According to the Old Courthouse Arts Center’s website, the building at 101 N. Johnson St. was built in 1857.

The sheriff’s house and jail building were added 30 years later.

In addition to the art gallery, Le Petite Creperie & Bistro is the other tenant in the building. While there is a provision in the agreement for the restaurant to continue as a tenant, there is no exception for the Arts Center.

Mayor Brian Sager, who entered the city’s winning bid, said that the city has an interest in the architecture and historic integrity of the building as well as its economic viability.

He declined to say whether the city plans to evict the Ganschows.

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