Sunday, September 29, 2013
Ind. Courts - Historian writes tribute to Indiana Courthouses
"In walls of justice, Hoosier spirit lives" is the heading to the long Sunday Centerpiece article written for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette by Eric Sandweiss, Carmony Chair of History at Indiana University-Bloomington and editor of the Indiana Magazine of History. The article is accompanied by many photographs, such as this one of the "meticulously restored rotunda of the Allen County Courthouse." Here is a sample:
Today, even as our small towns struggle and our suburbs sprawl, the Indiana county courthouse remains a persistent symbol of the self-governing pride that took root under the Constitution Elm at Corydon. The imposing courthouse – set apart in the heart of town, its pediment or dome visible above the cornices of surrounding business blocks – stands testament to a time when finely crafted details of brick, iron and stone seemed an appropriate offering to Hoosier civic spirit.ILB: The Marion County Courthouse, replaced by the City-County Building, is pictured in this 2009 post at HistoricIndianapolis.com. There is both a small photo of a postcard of the courthouse in its prime, and another of the partially demolished building, contrasting with its replacement.
For many Indiana counties – consider Lockridge’s make-believe Raintree, or my own Monroe – the grand edifice that seems now like it must have arisen from Precambrian bedrock is itself a latecomer, the brash replacement for some earlier effort that did not clear the high bar of aesthetic ambition and civic hubris set by our Progressive Era forebears.
So it’s no surprise to see the same impulse at work in our own time – even if today’s rebuilding campaign is more often driven by a desire to add parking or improve ventilation than it is to elevate the dignity of the common citizen. If you think the survival of the old county courthouse is something to take for granted, I advise a day trip to Anderson or Muncie [or Indianapolis]. And while I can’t say that some future generation of Madison or Delaware County citizens might not bless their ancestors for erecting today’s concrete-and-glass monoliths, the case for maintaining our surviving golden-age courthouses seems, from our perspective, almost too strong to bear arguing. Are these not symbols of the ambitions that earlier Hoosiers challenged us to realize? And are we not up for the challenge?