Allen County, Indiana Courthouse

Rotunda ceiling, Allen County, Indiana Courthouse

It’s time to travel! Since we’ve returned to live in Indiana, hubby and I have decided to get reacquainted historically with our region. We have planned to visit historical sites throughout the Midwest this summer and I’ll be blogging about our amazing finds.

Wanted to start this series off with a courthouse because, as genealogists, we’re used to digging around there. Most people, however, get the willies just thinking of a courthouse visit. I get it – you’re either in trouble or you’ve been selected for jury duty. If your local courthouse was anywhere close to what the historic Allen County courthouse in Fort Wayne, Indiana looked like though, you’d get over the dread quickly.

Listed as a National Historic Landmark, the Beaux-Arts style building was dedicated in 1902. The architecture is breathtaking – from the rotunda to the numerous Italian marble columns, stained glass, and basreliefs in every courtroom. The murals have been repainted as total fools in the 1930s painted over them. (All I kept thinking was that old song “Folks are dumb where I come from” when I heard about the modernization to paint over them.) Unfortunately, the paint used could not be removed but the original drawings were thankfully stored in the Louvre and France graciously shared the design so they have been replicated.

We were lucky to have gotten a tour from a knowledgeable docent arranged through AARP. The Society of Indiana Pioneers to which we belong is planning another tour later this summer and we loved the visit so much that we plan on returning and bringing family with us.

Visiting this courthouse is like going to a fine arts museum. Most courthouses at the time cost about $80,000 to construct; this one cost $817,000!

We were just stunned at how much thought went into the basreliefs, which vary depending on your role in the room. For example, jurists face Lady Liberty to keep in mind their important task of being fair. The defendant faces honesty, and the judge faces justice. Some rooms are themed around Indiana history and highlight famous northeastern Indiana historical figures, like Anthony Wayne and Native American Chiefs.

Interested in taking a tour? Check out the courthouse website to arrange one.

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