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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Ind. Courts - "Historian gives visitors inside look at courthouse mysteries"

Matt Fritz of the LaPorte Herald-Argus has this long story today on the LaPorte County Courthouse, about a presentation by La Porte County Historian Fern Eddy Schultz titled "The Inside Story of the La Porte County Courthouse." A sample:

During the presentation, Schultz shared with audience members the many details and mysteries of the building, details people might never have noticed if they only gathered there to pay bills or get marriage licenses or handle other legal matters.

Starting with the outside of the building, she noted there are (by her count) 45 faces carved into the red sandstone bricks used for the facade of the structure. These faces include men, animals, monsters, and many other visages, no two alike. Some of them are around the windows, some of them are hidden by the wiring around the building. How they were constructed, she did not know, but she surmised they could have been completed beforehand, or rough cut first and then installed, with a mason sculpting the finished faces. Their purpose beyond decoration was not known.

Of the red bricks themselves, she said they were an odd choice for a courthouse in Indiana, with La Porte sporting the only red sandstone used. Most courthouses were made with Indiana white limestone.

She said two additional faces can also be found inside the building by the front staircase. She has been unable to locate any others.

Of the inside of the building she said there is a lot of detailed woodworking and stained glass windows, most notably the one featuring the Goddess of Justice, in the circuit courtroom.

Unlike other representations of the Goddess of Justice, the courthouse's version is holding a book as opposed to a set of scales and a double edged sword. She said the scales measure a case's strength while the sword represents the power of reason and justice that can be wielded against a party. She did not know why the designers decided against these more common representations for La Porte.

Schultz said her own interest in the courthouse started when she was a girl. She used to ride up and down the original courthouse elevator, an open cage model installed in 1917, which allowed occupants to look out from all four sides and see the different floors passing them by.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 14, 2014 09:21 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts