About the Courthouse

Cropped Plaque 

County Commissioners Lewis Essex, John P. Holtz and John W. Welmer, met on December 14, 1870 in the little square brick courthouse located in the center of Public Square, “ordered, that a new courthouse be located and built on or near the north east corner of the Public Square facing on Washington and Tipton streets, and that I. Hogson (sic), architect of the city of Indianapolis be and is hereby selected and appointed to prepare for said Board of Commissioners the proper and necessary plans, drawings and specifications for said new courthouse.”  In justifying their action, the minutes stated that “the Commissioners deem the present courthouse and offices therein insufficient for the convenience, necessity and wants for the people of the county, and in the event of a fire, that the destruction of the entire records and papers of the county would be the inevitable result.”  They further noted that “In the opinion of the Commissioners to undertake to enlarge, remodel or replace the old courthouse in its present dilapidated, crumbling and unsafe condition would be useless and an unnecessary expenditure of money.”

Even though the old courthouse was frail, there is no doubt that the Commissioners met with opposition to the project, as five years later on the completion of the new courthouse the Louisville Courier Journal commenting on their action, stated; “We do not know, but we expect the farmers and solid men of the county shook their heads dolefully and looked mighty serious in the 1870 when the building of such an expensive structure was first mentioned.  It looked indeed at that time thought such a dangerous project.”

Notwithstanding the opposition, architect Isaac Hogdson, a native of Belfast Ireland, and a resident of Indianapolis, moved with speed, so that by March, 1871, the necessary plans were complete and the Auditor was authorized to advertise the project for bidding.  Bids were received until April 18, 1871 and on that day the contract was let to the local contracting firm of McCormack and Sweeney for $142,900.  The work was immediately commenced under the supervision of John Redmond, foreman.  Ground was broken for the foundation May 1, 1871 and the first stone was laid July 26, 1871.

Courthouse Arch DedicationOver $8,000.00 was paid to the Union Foundry Works of Cincinnati, Ohio for the wrought iron fence enclosing the Public Square.  The foundation stone is from the quarries of North Vernon, the finishing stone from those at Ellettsville and the brick from Indianapolis.

The iron doors, gates, window shutters, gallery railings, roof pavilions and the lower casing and trimming were bronzed.  The sashes, sash doors were glazed with the best plate glass.  The wooden doors, sashes, blinds, trimming and other interior woodwork were finished in oil.  The corridors were paved with encaustic tile in colors.  The offices were provided with open grates and marble mantles.  The entire building was heated with steam and indirect radiation.  It was lighted with gas from richly furnished chandeliers with the approaches being lighted with large clustered lamps set at the entrance steps.  The entire building is fireproof. The roof truss structure is of iron, the slate at that time being fastened to iron lathes, as well as the joists and plastering lathes being of iron.  Although office floors were of wood ingeniously attached to the iron joists, the joist space between floor and ceiling below was filled with dirt and sand as additional fireproofing.

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