Marshall County Courthouse, 1872

Last month I put a photo on HH asking readers to guess where I was. Well, here's the answer: the Marshall County Courthouse spire's walking deck hatch. No, I did not go out onto the walking deck-in fact, since the railing is gone, I'm not so sure that anyone would attempt that!

The Marshall County Courthouse was designed by Gurdon Randall, a Vermont native who relocated to Chicago practicing architecture during the city's "rebuilding" after the great fire. The building was completed two years later-this photo is believed to have been taken shortly after construction was complete: note that the clock hands are still not in place and it appears a dedication platform (or hangman's noose?) is located near the base of the building. The Marshall County Courthouse has the distinction of being only 1 of 2 courthouses that sit in squares platted in residential districts rather than commercial districts (although the courthouse faces Center Street, the primary "civic" street in Plymouth, lined by churches, the old city hall, and library). Where is the other residentially placed courthouse? Fowler, in Benton County. Guess who the architect of that courthouse was? If you guessed Randall, that would be correct. Randall was commissioned to design two Indiana county courthouses-Marshall and Benton.

The Marshall County Courthouse, while in the terribly popular style of the era, Italianate (and looking very similar to Benton's), escaped the style applied to most Indiana courthouses. Most were designed in the Greek Revival style pre-1870 or in the Romanesque, Late Gothic or Neo-Classical styles that dominated county building programs from the 1890s-1910s. These later courthouses typically replaced aging courthouses built during the middle part of the 1800s. Marshall County's was too new to replace.

But it still needed "modernizing", so in 1916 the interior was refurbished with the addition of a significant amount of marble and mosaic tile that give the building its current interior appearance. While the 1916 renovation made lasting changes, the ceiling frescoes in the main courtroom are original to 1872 and depict the sitting governor of the time and Chief Justice Marshall, a member of the supreme court for whom the county was named. The state seal and a painting of wise King Solomon are also in the courtroom.

I was asked to help gather information for the state-wide survey of our historic courthouses which provided the opportunity to take the nickle tour. The hatch from which I shot the picture upward toward finial is approximately 100' or more above ground....and I think I could see to the next county over.


PNW Hoosier said…

Have you seen the coffee table book of photos from all of the county courthouses in Indiana? I don't remember the photographer that put it together, but the photos are amazing.

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