Courthouse Task Force
|Following both organized and spontaneous local support for saving the 1875 Randolph County courthouse in Winchester, county commissioners rescinded their demolition vote.|
When Randolph County commissioners voted to demolish their 1875 courthouse, residents were stunned. Even without its Second Empire-style mansard roof and clock tower—removed in a 1950s remuddling—the imposing brick and limestone courthouse on Winchester’s town square reflects the commitment our nineteenth-century counterparts gave to this symbol of community life and the seat of local justice.
Though the courthouse was saved—thanks to a broad-based, unrelenting campaign that took a little more than a year—Indiana Landmarks took the alarm seriously, creating the Courthouse Task Force to investigate protective legislative action and encourage county commissioners to embrace preservation and restoration of these important landmarks.
Indiana’s historic courthouses symbolize our forebears’ confidence and pride in democratic government and American justice. They display high-style architecture, executed on a grand scale, placed—almost always—in the heart of the county seat.
Time marches on, however, and what was state-of-the-art in 1880 may fall short of the mark in the twenty-first century. Growth of population, crime, and government functions may leave the courthouse short of space. Accessibility standards require elevators and suitable restrooms. Energy efficiency is always a concern. And their beloved, even iconic status has not insulated courthouses from threats of demolition, improper renovation, and incompatible additions.
|After an eight-year multi-million dollar restoration, Allen County's 1902 Beaux Arts courthouse won notice from the Smithsonian Institute for its unparalleled combination of classical architecture, murals, and decorative painting.|
The good news is that courthouses are adaptable, and no deficiency should be fatal. Skilled architects can remedy both common and uncommon courthouse problems and concerns while preserving the historic appearance and inherent character. The money for courthouse restoration and retrofitting can come from many different sources.
To help make the argument for renovation, Indiana Landmarks compiled examples of courthouses that have been restored, and those that have been renovated or enlarged without damage to their original character, beauty or history. We published the profiles, including each project’s cost and funding sources, in “Saving Indiana’s County Courthouses.” Download a copy of the brochure (855kb PDF).
Courthouse Preservation Advisory Commission
Indiana Landmarks helped fund the inspiring grassroots preservation and legal campaign that saved Randoph County's courthouse, and took it a step further in successfully lobbying to create a state courthouse commission to study the condition and preservation needs of Indiana’s historic courthouses. In 2011, the Courthouse Preservation Advisory Commission presented its final report to the General Assembly. The new report makes recommendations for planning the restoration, rehabilitation, and maintenance of historic courthouses. Read the complete report, “Indiana’s Historic Courthouses: Reinvesting in Community Treasures". (Note: the file is quite large: 12mb PDF. It may take a few minutes to download.)