Indiana courthouses

My trips along Indiana’s old roads have taken me past many of its courthouses, and I usually stop to photograph them. It seems like Indiana experienced a courthouse-building boom in the 1800s, with many counties building, razing, building, razing, and building again in those years. But with few exceptions, that boom had ended by about 1900.

Most of these courthouses are grand structures. I shudder to think of what a modern courthouse would look like, given our bent to build as cheaply as possible now.

Fulton County, Rochester. I was passing through on the old Michigan Road one day as the sun was low in the sky. It bathed this 1895 limestone building in a delicious light.

Fulton County Courthouse

Clay County, Brazil. Completed in 1914, this courthouse on the National Road boasts an F-86 jet on its grounds. See a closer view of the jet here.

Clay County Courthouse

Vigo County, Terre Haute. I’ve tried to photograph this courthouse a bunch of times and have concluded that you just can’t get a good angle on it. I did get a nice frontal image of it with my Konica C35 in 2012 (see it here) even though I couldn’t back up enough to fit the whole thing into the frame. The building was completed in 1888, faces what is now US 41, and borders what was the original alignment of the National Road.

Vigo County Courthouse

Jefferson County, Madison. I came upon this 1855 courthouse shortly after fire severely damaged it, leveling its dome. Restoration efforts had begun, and they have since been completed. I might get my chance to see it again this year in its completed state as I’m considering revisiting the Michigan Road, which Madison anchors.

Jefferson County Courthouse

Orange County, Paoli. This 1847 building reminds me of something you’d see on a southern plantation. It’s a commanding presence on Paoli’s square along the Dixie Highway.

Courthouse at Paoli

Lawrence County, Bedford. I can’t tell you much about this courthouse other than it appears to have been completed in 1872. It stands on an old alignment of US 50.

Lawrence County Courthouse

Jackson County, Brownstown. It was tough to photograph this 1870 courthouse because of its tree-filled lawn. It’s on an old alignment of US 50.

Jackson County Courthouse

Monroe County, Bloomington. This is another tough courthouse to photograph head on because of trees, so I moved around to its east side for this photo. It was completed in 1908 and stands on the Dixie Highway.

Monroe County courthouse

Wayne County, Richmond. This imposing courthouse on the National Road was completed in 1893.

Stately Wayne Manor

Decatur County, Greensburg. Famous for the tree in the clock tower, this courthouse on the Michigan Road was completed in 1861 and expanded in 1994.

Decatur County Courthouse

Fountain County, Covington. A real latecomer among Indiana courthouses, it was completed in 1937 and was built by the Public Works Administration, a New Deal program.

Fountain County Courthouse

Parke County, Rockville. I took this photo early in my road-tripping days, when I was out exploring US 36 and the Pike’s Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway. I was really going more for a streetscape. This courthouse was completed in 1882.

Parke County Courthouse

St. Joseph County, South Bend. South Bend is fortunate that both its current (1897) and former (1853) courthouses still stand. This is the current courthouse; the former stood here but was moved 30 yards to the northwest. I surely wish I had tipped my camera up just a bit to fit the entire flagpole in the frame.

St. Joseph County Courthouse

Johnson County, Franklin. This 1882 courthouse stands on old US 31, which before that was the Madison State Road. Here’s another photo in which I cut off the top of the flagpole. D’oh! I love how the blue sky makes this building really pop.

Franklin, IN

I look forward to seeing more of Indiana’s courthouses as I keep exploring the state’s highways.

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10 responses to “Indiana courthouses”

  1. Denny Gibson Avatar

    Very nice photos of impressive buildings. I also saw the Madison courthouse right after the fire. As I’m sure you know, it happened as they were refurbishing it for the town’s bicentennial. I was there a few months later when scaffolding was in place and repairs in progress but not since. Soon.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yes, it was tragic what happened to Madison’s courthouse. I’ll be in Madison on the 26th for an HMRA meeting so I hope to make time to go visit it then.

  2. hmunro Avatar

    What magnificent buildings — and I love how different they all are in style. You’re right that modern construction just doesn’t have the same durability, personality, or panache. It’s a good thing wise heads prevailed and that all of the buildings you picture have been preserved. I wish we’d been as wise here in the Twin Cities.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I think in some cases it was less about wise heads prevailing and more about the county not prospering enough to warrant new construction, but hey, whatever it takes to keep these old buildings in use, I guess!

  3. Roadtrip62 - Don Milne Avatar

    Just beautiful, even without the flagpoles. When I drove through northern Ohio on US-6, I also noticed some magnificent courthouses from the same era. Up there, clock towers rule!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      That’s the thing about the old two-lane highways: they went right through the county seats!

  4. davidvanilla Avatar

    Nice collection! For several years I have stopped and snapped Indiana courthouses. I have realized I will never get them all, but I don’t obsess about it.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yeah, a few counties are a little hard to reach. Like whatever county New Harmony is in. Dang, that’s a long drive.

  5. pesoto74 Avatar

    They sure seem to have taken a lot more pride in their public buildings than we do now. It seems like that kind of care went into other buildings like churches, hotels etc… I am not sure what caused the change. Although for all our supposed advances it seems like we often get a lot less for our money than we used to.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yeah. We seem capable of building only pole barns and smooth concrete buildings with no character today. I think it has to do with a lack of civic pride and also a desire to do everything as cheaply as possible.

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