Sample Chapter – Indiana’s Counties – Dearborn County Courthouse

Sample Chapter

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Indiana’s Counties
Dearborn County Courthouse


Dearborn County officials laid the cornerstone for Dearborn County’s fourth court house at a festive ceremony on April 13, 1871. The new court house would replace the first one, built in 1810, that had been gutted by a fire.
The First Court House
Built in 1810, the first Dearborn County Court House was a two story brick structure that mimicked the standard court house design of that period. It had a hip roof and octagonal cupola. This court house burned on March 26, 1826. Only the brick shell remained.
The “Second” Court House
Most of the county records burned in the fire so county officials asked Dearborn County residents to bring their deeds and other public records to Lawrenceburg to copy them by hand into the records. County commissioners decided not to build a new structure. They decided to use the exterior walls to house the building, constructing a new interior within the burned out walls. This building opened in 1828. The commissions authorized two annex buildings nearby to house the county clerk and the treasurer.
The Third Court House
On September 26, 1836 the county seat moved to Wilmington where it remained until it moved back to Lawrenceburg on January 4, 1844, when Indiana Governor James Whitcomb signed a law authorizing the creation of Ohio County and along with it the relocation of the county seat from Wilmington to Lawrenceburg.
The New Court House
By 1870 Dearborn County needed a new court house. The needs of the county had outgrown the capacity of the old court house. The commissioners inspected several Indiana court houses and decided they liked the Floyd County court house the best. The contacted the architect that designed it, George H. Kyle to build the new one. Mr. Kyle, a Virginia native living in Vevay since about 1840, had designed other court houses and had built up an excellent reputation. He drew up plans which the commissioners accepted on June 15, 1870. Construction of the structure took three years and was completed in 1873. The cost of the courthouse was $135,775.00. During the construction county functions took place in the Odd Fellows building at the intersection of High and Walnut Streets.
Cornerstone Ceremonies
The cornerstone laying ceremony took place with an estimated 5,000 spectators on April 13, 1871 and included guest speaker Louis Jordan. County officials included a time capsule in the cornerstone in which they secreted many items from the period. These included histories of the Masons, Odd Fellows, Druids, Good Templars as well as Lawrenceburg religious societies. They also inserted other historic documents, continental money and old coins from the Revolution.
Completion of the Court House
Workers completed construction in 1873. During the three years construction the Odd Fellows Hall served as the temporary Court House. The building cost $135,775.00 to build. It was a three story building that included city hall offices and a public opera house. The magnificent court room occupied the back half of the second floor. Built from pearl gray limestone quarried at Elliotsville, Indiana the Greek Revival three structure features four fluted columns and an arched doorway. Most of the interior features of the Court House have remained unchanged from the original structure, including the wooden and iron doors and the folding iron window shutters. Five rooms in the courthouse retain their original fireplaces. The courthouse included city offices, an opera house and a seventy foot long by fifty foot wide court room on the second floor. Community public ceremonies took place in the court room and included high school graduations and political rallies. The court room was divided in 1903 by order of Judge George E. Downey .

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