I love old county courthouses like the Elkhart County Courthouse in Goshen, Indiana. Courthouses like this gem along the 1913 route of Indiana's Lincoln Highway often sit in the heart of a small town's business district and offer a closer look at a town's history and culture.
Elkhart County built its first real courthouse in the early 1830s, after Goshen became the seat of the county's government in 1831.
There weren't many architects or contractors available to tackle the job of designing and constructing a major municipal building in the then-sparsely populated rural area, so the county turned to a man recommended as a "good home carpenter" to take on the job.
Jacob Studebaker modeled the first courthouse after a courthouse in Dayton, Ohio supposedly modeled after the main building at Princeton University in the early 1800s.
Legend says that Studebaker walked to Dayton to take exact measurements of the exterior and interior of the courthouse there in preparation for drawing up his plan for the courthouse in Goshen. I think that may be a bit of a tall tale as the two cities are nearly 200 miles apart and travel between the two would be a slow and difficult journey through extremely difficult terrain.
Studebaker's plan called for a building with a square brick structure with a square brick cupola on top of it that resembled a coffee mill and wings extending from the north and south sides of the building. The building completed in 1822 stood on the site until demolished in 1869 to make way for a larger structure.
The county brought architects J.H. Barrows and George O. Garnsey from Chicago to design the replacement courthouse for the Goshen site at the end of the 1860s.
The pair designed an imposing brick building with a tall clock tower that looked more like a castle than Studebaker's humble "coffee mill" building. This courthouse opened for public business in 1870.
The Barrows and Garnsey was the basis for an extensive courthouse enlargement and redesign by the Chicago firm of Patton and Miller in the early 1900s.
Work on the courthouse began around 1904. Many considered it as virtually a new courthouse at its dedication in 1909 because of a number of radical changes to the structure.
One of the biggest changes was to remove courthouse's south-end bell tower and relocating the tower and its bell to the center of the structure, flanking it with extended north and south wings.
The original side-mounted tower was twice the height of the main building, while the newer tower was shorter and struck many as more pleasingly proportionate, along with the symmetrically situated wings at each end of the structure, to the rest of the building.
The Renaissance Revival style courthouse earned a place on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
Part of the fun of visiting county courthouses is seeing the various historical markers, art work and other historic items that often find homes on the buildings' lawns.
Two large cannons and cannon balls flanking one of the building entrances disappeared during World War II, confiscated as scrap metal. One piece of Civil War-era artillery and a county war memorial remain on the grounds today.
Two of the more notable things on the courthouse campus at Goshen are a police booth, which I'll feature later this week in a Photo Friday post, and a golden statue of Neptune.
The Neptune statue, based on the work of nineteenth-century French sculptor Gabriel-Vital Dubray, is just one of many copies of this classic representation of the mythological god of water appearing in public places across Europe, South America and the United States.
Here in Goshen, Neptune commemorates the gratitude of one Greek immigrant to his adopted land and success as a Goshen candy maker.
Want to learn more about the towns along Indiana's Lincoln Highway? Check out The Lincoln Highway Across Indiana by Jan Shupert-Arick and the Indiana Lincoln Highway Association.
Check out Zinc Sculpture in American, 1850-1950 by Carol A. Grissom to learn more about zinc statuary and its popularity in public art pieces in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
© Dominique King 2012 All rights reserved