Doing our part for generations to come

In 1994, facing alarming and irrevocable deterioration of the murals and scagliola, the Allen County Courthouse Preservation Trust, Inc., a 501(c) (3) organization, was formed. Its mission was to assure that the Allen County Courthouse is an active and appealing community resource and national historic destination for generations to come.

Justice before

Above: Mural before renovation
Top of page: Mural after renovation

Toward that mission, the Trust oversaw the monumental task of restoring all the grand artistic elements of the aging structure. Financial support was provided by the community as a whole and in particular, by the local Bar Association. After eight years and $8.6 million, the restoration was complete and the Courthouse was rededicated in a centennial celebration on September 23, 2002.

The murals of Charles Holloway had been seriously compromised by prior preservation attempts and were loosening from the wall due to water damage. Perry Huston, who had previously helped restore the murals in the Library of Congress, was called in to supervise the work. The restoration was done one square inch at a time, and the process took more than two years to complete, at a cost of $1.4 million.

David Hales demonstrating scagliola creation

Scagliola is an imitation marble made from a hard gypsum compound which includes marble dust and involves a unique coloring process. The material is sanded and polished to a high gloss. The Allen County Courthouse contains 28 colors and 24 patterns of scagliola—one of the most extensive examples in the world. David Hales from England, one of only a few scagliola artisans, was brought to Fort Wayne to do the replacement and repair work.

Although the original decorative light fixtures in the courtrooms had been lost, the original molds were discovered at the Stewart Iron Works in Covington, Kentucky. The courtroom light fixtures are now exact reproductions of the originals.

While much has been done, there are still many more projects planned in the restoration effort. As long as the Courthouse is in use, wear and tear will always be a reality, but it is the goal of the Courthouse Preservation Trust to provide this historic treasure with the upkeep it deserves.

A JEWEL HIDDEN
IN THE MIDWEST

Courthouse Restoration 1993-2002
by Donald D. Doxsee

Allen County Courthouse