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 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 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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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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The Adams County Courthouse in Indiana (1872-)

Indiana is littered with counties that have been forced to decapitate their courthouses over the years due to natural disasters or structural problems. Although you wouldn’t know it today at first glance, Adams County’s in Decatur is one of them. Its architect, J.C. Johnson, seemed particularly bad at designing clock towers. I guess that’s what’s bound to happen when you’re a self-taught courthouse architect1.

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The Blackford County Courthouse in Indiana (1894-)

Although it’s been long since bypassed by the interstate, Indiana State Road 3 still provides a scenic route through the countryside of northeastern Indiana that can be traveled pretty fast. I became acquainted with the road from trips to visit family during my childhood, but it took constant weekend drives back home to Muncie from my Fort Wayne apartment to become really close with it. Without question, the highway’s most prominent landmark is the Blackford County Courthouse in Hartford City. I eventually wondered how such an impressive courthouse wound up in a county seat that seemed so small.

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The Marshall County, Indiana Courthouse (1872-)

Studies show that the presence of a historic courthouse on an old-fashioned square acts as an anchor that draws people towards downtown1. County seats in Indiana feature three kinds: the Shelbyville Square, which takes the form of a regular city block; the Lancaster Square, which resembles an enlarged traffic circle; and the Harrisonburg Square, which combines the other two types2. The historic Marshall County Courthouse in Plymouth doesn’t sit on a square. It doesn’t even sit downtown! Nevertheless, the building has thrived outside its natural ecosystem for a hundred and fifty years.

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