10 Most Endangered

Washington County Courthouse

Courthouse Square, Salem

Salem - Washington County Courthouse by Lee Lewellen
(Photo: Lee Lewellen)

Seeking Justice for a Classic Indiana Limestone Courthouse

Most people would be surprised to learn that a venerable nineteenth-century courthouse faces jeopardy, but the Washington County Courthouse is endangered. At the center of the National Register-listed courthouse square in Salem, the 1888 courthouse towers over the landscape, an imposing reflection of the commitment our nineteenth-century counterparts gave to this symbol of community life and justice.


(Photo courtesy Washington County Historical Society)
Courthouse steeple fire in 1934 (Photo courtesy Washington County Historical Society)

Louisville architect Harry P. McDonald designed the building in the Romanesque Revival style, using artfully rusticated Indiana limestone with arched entryways and a conical clock/bell tower to convey solidity and strength.

Salem - Washington County Courthouse
(Photo courtesy ARSEE Engineers, Inc.)

The appearance of solidity is deceiving. Lightning struck the beacon-like tower in 1934, sparking a fire. Ill-conceived repairs at the time trapped water in the stone and caused deterioration over the intervening decades, making the tower unstable. The structure needs reinforcement before a high wind causes a collapse. Chronic roof and masonry leaks also require urgent attention.

In a rural county with limited resources, it will be a tough challenge to find the money to rehabilitate the courthouse.

For More Information

Greg Sekula, Director
Indiana LandmarksĀ Southern Regional Office

Jeremy Elliott
Washington County Historian
John Hay Center


Act Now to Save This Place

Saving threatened buildings takes teamwork. You can be a part of that team. Reach out to local leaders. Let them know these buildings are important to you. And support state and local preservation groups.