A History of the Blackford County Courthouse
Presented by the Blackford County Historical Society
The current Blackford County Courthouse began as the old courthouse of 1841 was ending. On January 19, 1893, Judge Joseph Custer condemned the wood structure because it was considered unhealthy for people, inadequate in size, and unsafe for the records of the county. Thus, the old courthouse was offered for sale and was purchased by Mike Capper for $20.
Commissioners Hughes, Miles and McGeath looked to the architects LaBelle and French of Marion, Indiana, to design the new courthouse. On the day the contract was to be awarded in July 1893, a total of seven bidders showed up with estimates that far exceeded the arcitects projections. The commissioners at first wanted to reject all bids but after considerable discussion came to the conclusion that a suitable structure for the present and future generations could not be built for much less and that a cheap structure could not “withstand the ravages of time.”
Amherst Blue stone was chosen for the building and by altering the specifications, the price was cut down from $105,412 to $97,200. The contract was awarded to Christian Boseker & Sons of Fort Wayne. Over $3,100 was saved by changing from French to American plate glass, $1,000 on the main stairway by less ornamention, $700 on cement by changing from Portland to Louisville, $500 on frescoing of the court room and changing other minor details that would not effect the appearance of the courthouse.
As it stood the figure was a big one for such a small county. But work began in August, 1893, on the foundation with stone from the Montpelier quarries.
Cornerstone ceremonies were held on November 2, 1893, with the Blackford Lodge #106 F.& A.M. presiding over this gala occasion.
Cornerstone ceremonies were held on November 2, 1893, with the Blackford Lodge # 106 F.& A.M. presiding over this gala occasion.
Workers employed as stone cutters received thirty cents an hour and worked nine hours a day. Approximately 50 men were employed at one time.
From the original architects’ plans, the following description is taken: The style of architecture will be Romanesque. Its massive walls rise before you in dignity and strength. The great tower can be seen for miles around, while the richly carved entrances add beauty to the entire effect.
The size of the building will be 71 by 120 feet with a square tower on the southwest corner rising to the height of 165 feet. The two main entrances are on the south and north sides and open into the main entry hall 22 feet wide. The floors are laid in tile while the walls are wainscoted with marble. To your right as you enter from the south is the treasurer’s office. Directly across the hall is the recorder’s office with a large fireproof record room 16 by 21 feet. The clerk’s offices are directly north consisting of main office, private office and large record room. Leading from the private office is a stairway to the courtroom above. On the opposite side of the building are the auditor’s offices.
Ascending the grand staircase in the south end of the hall we land on the second floor directly in front of the main entrance of the courtroom. The room is 63 by 67 feet, with large bays projecting on either side. The ceiling which is 30 feet high is divided into deep sunk, richly embossed panels with craved medallions. Over the judge’s bench and in the center and the alcoves on each side are large arches. The courtroom is well lighted with large windows with semi-circular transoms of art glass.
The building will be heated and ventilated by the Smead system. The furnaces, fresh and foul air rooms, and dry closets will be in the basement. There will also be five offices in the basement, one each for the surveyor and sheriff, and three unassigned. The floors throughout will be of steel beams and fire proof tile arches.”
The courthouse tower was illuminated in February, 1895, and shortly after at the February commissioners meeting, the county officially accepted the courthouse from the architects LaBelle and French and contractor Boseker & Sons and ordered the county officers to their new offices.
When finished the courthouse of Blackford County cost $129,337.83. The commissioners in 1893 thought it a “model of its kind and a bargain at the price.” We, today, KNOW it was a bargain for its price.
The circuit court has undergone the most change from the original plans. The ceiling has been lowered, the arches are now gone, and part of the court room has been made into a law library.
The Blackford County courthouse was put on the National Register of Historic Places on August 11, 1980.
As part of the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Blackford County courthouse, Blackford Lodge #106 F.& A.M. laid a commemorative stone on November 13, 1993.