The Seneca County Courthouse in Ohio (2017-)

It’s rare for a historic courthouse to be demolished, and it’s less common to see a downtown flourish afterward. Nevertheless, both of those things happened in Tiffin, Ohio, in 2017. For a modern building, the Seneca County Justice Center credibly anchors Tiffin’s city center, and its construction led to a historic rebirth of the city.

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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 Benton County, Indiana Courthouse (1874-)

An inept county government! Back-room, special-interest scheming! Second Empire masterpieces and decapitated clock towers! We’ve talked about several of these topics as they relate to county courthouses on their own, but they all dramatically combine to tell the story of Indiana’s Benton County Courthouse. In my view, the convergence of those intriguing stories makes it perhaps the most compelling of Indiana’s old courthouses.

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The LaGrange County Courthouse in Indiana (1878-)

I was pretty neurotic when I started my courthouse project- I’m shy, and I was afraid of being confronted by someone who saw me as suspicious. I’d read horror stories about real photographers escorted away from government buildings by apprehensive local officials. It took about three years, but it finally happened in LaGrange, Indiana during my second trip there. Sort of.

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The Porter County, Indiana Courthouse (1883-)

As I’m happy to repeatedly assert without concession, us Hoosiers are lucky to have so many historic courthouses in Indiana. But that’s not to say that keeping the venerable structures around has been easy: old courthouses across the state have been subject to wrecking balls, ugly renovations, tornadoes, and even bombings. It’s quite a portfolio of maladies that Indiana’s courthouses have been subjected to, but the most common danger has generally been the threat of fire. Many of the oldest were built before fireproofing was a thing, and historians have documented at least 42 conflagrations inside our courthouses. Of those 42 fires, 18 resulted in the major loss of county records. 26 totally destroyed county courthouses here1.

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The Randolph County, Indiana Courthouse (1877-)

It’s normally pretty easy to have your voice heard by local government. Just for starters, you could show up at a commissioners’ meeting, sign a petition, or hold a protest outside the county building.

But! If all else fails, it might not hurt to gather up six of your elderly bridge club friends and pose naked for a calendar that draws attention to your plight. That’s what the self-styled “Courthouse Girls” from Farmland did while the historic Randolph County Courthouse awaited the wrecking ball- and it worked! The building was saved.

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