by Tom Castaldi
Allen County’s first courthouse was built on the "courthouse square" in 1831 but was so poorly constructed it had to be abandoned a few years later as unsafe. The second courthouse was erected in 1847 by local contractor Samuel Edsall, yet this also proved to be inadequate. The third courthouse was a large brick structure designed by Edwin May of Indianapolis; its cornerstone was laid in May 1861 and the building was in use by July 1862.
On November 17, 1897, the day the cornerstone was set, thousands filled the streets around the court house square to see Governor James A. Mount and his entourage officiate in the ceremony. Louis Peltier, who had been born in the Fort in 1813, was the guest of honor. Designed by local architect Brentwood S. Tolan, the structure was completed on September 23, 1902.
Inside, the celebration of civilization and local history continues in brilliant color. Through each of the four entrances the visitor passes the bright pillars of marezzo scagliola an imitation marble that represents the largest collection of this lost art of faux marble in the nation and possibly in the world.
The four large murals in the dome were painted by Charles Holloway, a gold-metal winning artist at the Paris Exposition of 1900 who also executed the paintings on the proscenium arch of the historic 1888 Auditorium Theater in Chicago. On each of the walls the murals depict in allegory the opposing themes of Despotism and Anarchy (on the south wall) and Democracy and Lawful Government (on the north wall), with those of Peace and Prosperity (on the east wall) and finally images of War and Despair (on the west wall).
Originally published in Fort Wayne Magazine “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” Oct 2007 No. 36). Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; hosts “On the Heritage Trail,” which is broadcast at 6:35 a.m., 8:35 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Mondays on WBOI, 89.1 FM; and “Historia Nostra” heard on WLYV-1450 AM and WRRO 89.9 FM. Enjoy his previously published columns on the History Center’s blog, “Our Stories,” at history centerfw.blogspot.com.