The Defiance County, Ohio Courthouse (1873-)

The Defiance County Courthouse was built in 1873. It spent eighty-five years as one of Ohio’s finest Second Empire structures before an unfortunate renovation turned it into the most hysterically ugly building I’ve ever seen. In 2016, it was renovated in a process that borrowed elements from both iterations to give the building a new lease on life.

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The Jay County, Indiana Courthouse (1916-)

You wouldn’t know it from all the cornfields, but Indiana is slowly turning into a suburban state. From 2015 to 2050, STATS Indiana projects that only 19 of our 92 counties will increase in population by more than 10%. Fourteen more will see population increases of up to 10%, and most are next to Indianapolis, Louisville, Cincinnati, Fort Wayne, South Bend, and Evansville1. Unfortunately, rural places like Jay County are projected to decline. That’s a shame since its county seat, Portland, is home to a fantastic courthouse.

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The restored Montgomery County, Indiana Courthouse (1876-)

The Montgomery County Courthouse was built in 1876. Sixty-five years later, an artist commissioned to paint downtown Crawfordsville noticed that the tower appeared to be leaning. It was wartime, and officials acted in haste by decapitating the courthouse, melting its bell down, and dumping the clockworks by the county’s highway barn. Although a local citizen rescued the clock and put it up at his jewelry store1, the rest was history.

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The abandoned Dearborn County, Indiana Courthouse (1836-1843)

I stumble across abandoned schoolhouses, Marsh Supermarkets, and theaters pretty often, but it’s rare that I run across an abandoned courthouse! Nevertheless, one sits just off the beaten path in a forgotten community called Wilmington. Although it might not seem like it now, justice in Dearborn County was administered from this simple structure for seven years before it was promptly forgotten about.

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The Henry County, Indiana Courthouse (1869-)

Jot this down: “It must be free from dampness, which would destroy the precious records of the county, on which so much of the ‘peace and quiet’ of our community depends. It must, of course, be fire proof and sufficiently commodious for all legitimate purposes not only now, but for many years to come; must be of durable materials, and last, it must be ‘good looking,’ a monument of the enterprise and taste of the people of one of the wealthy counties of the State1.” That’s the edict Henry County officials delivered in 1864 before they took bids on a new courthouse to replace one that had been lost to fire.

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The Fayette County, Indiana Courthouse (1849/1891-)

The Fayette County Courthouse has a weird design unlike any of its peers in Indiana. In fact, some of it dates all the way back to 1849! By that measure, it’s the second oldest courthouse still in use in Indiana. You wouldn’t know that by looking at it, though, since almost all the visible parts of the building resulted from an extensive 1891 renovation that vastly increased its size and ornamentation.

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The Noble County, Indiana Courthouse (1887-)

I’ve admired the Noble County Courthouse in Albion since I was a kid. I remember driving past it with my dad and even going inside it for some reason. Even at a young age, I knew the courthouse was unique: it didn’t resemble any others in the state and though I seem to recall a taxidermy display in its basement, I never expected the building to tell an intricate tale of geopolitical maneuverings. Of course, that’s what I found when I started researching it.

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The Cass County Courthouse in Indiana (1979-)

If you’re a fan of architecture like me, it’s easy to forget that, at their core, courthouses are buildings that house the courts. I can throw all the shade I want toward officials who vote to demolish a historic courthouse, but I start to come around when it becomes apparent that the building is no longer able to adequately serve its purpose. That happened in Logansport in the late 1970s. As a result, Cass County has the dubious distinction of being home to Indiana’s most recent historic courthouse casualty.

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The Wayne County, Indiana Courthouse? (1811-1812)

What constitutes a building? No, really. What does? When I was twelve, my dad gave me a booklet of graph paper and told me to go design an addition to his house. As a big fan of architecture, I happily obliged! Would the changes I’d suggest turn it into a completely different structure? I wasn’t sure then, and I’m not sure today. I have the same questions about Wayne County’s 1811 log courthouse, which has an extraordinarily convoluted history.

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Indiana’s 1839 Greene County Courthouse cupola

Greene County’s first courthouse in Bloomfield was a log structure built in 1825. Nine years later, county officials ordered the building’s foundation be repaired “so as to prevent the hogs from disturbing the court or any other public business1.” By 1835, county commissioners decided to build another courthouse. Today, all that remains of the second structure is its cupola. It’s been used as a lawn ornament for the past hundred and thirty-seven years2!

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