Sunday, December 15, 2013

Restoring our Grand Old Courthouse

"In 1873 during a session of the Circuit Court the courthouse burned almost to the ground. Many valuable county records were destroyed, but certain records were saved. In June of 1874 a contract for rebuilding the brick courthouse on the ruins of the old foundation and a part of the walls, was given to McCormack and Sweeney for $9000. The building is two stories high with the court and jury rooms above and the county offices on the first floor. Two iron stairways on the outside, over the front entrance, lead directly to the second floor. This courthouse still serves the county." (from 'History and Families - Brown County, Indiana 1837-1990')

In the past year our Archives has had more research requests on this topic. There are plans to have our old courthouse renovated and an addition added for more space for county offices. This is one of the types of research requests we receive occasionally. I'm glad that architects, contractors, and even county employees take an interest in preserving these grand old structures. They need maintenance and sometimes an overhaul - wood deteriorates, plaster falls, and bricks crack. Sometimes it takes a little more than an extra nail to hold it together. Our courthouse has been in use for 139 years and hopefully it will go on for many more years.

So I've put my volunteers to the task of collecting any and everything that we can find on the history of the courthouse. Our material has been scattered in books, county records, and photographs. For a good Archive to be useful it must not only gather data to preserve it, but sometimes we must put all this data together in a way so that it can be put to use by the average individual. That might include putting a file together, writing a synopsis, making a timeline (as in genealogy), or even publishing a book on the topic.

Of course, there have been problems with cost and public protests, but hopefully it will be successful in the following year. I don't want to get on my soapbox, but I believe that this grand old building needs to be preserved. I've seen the sadness of a once grand old structure fall into disrepair. We don't need to abandon it and build a new one. Many old courthouses are still in use today, so let's keep ours too.

Judge's Bench

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