The Allen County Courthouse in Fort Wayne, Indiana, stands as a monument to the civic pride and progressive spirit of the citizens of Allen County. Expressing in art and architecture the dignity of the government, the supremacy of the people, and the grandeur of the law.
The Allen County Courthouse was the crowning achievement of architect Brentwood S. Tolan (1855-1923). The building is constructed of Bedford, Indiana limestone, with granite columns and white Carrara marble staircases, balustrades and walls.
Entered on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, the building was further distinguished in 2003 as a National Historic Landmark, recognizing its value as a national historic treasure.
The Trust oversaw the monumental task of restoring all the grand artistic elements of an aging structure. An outpouring of support came from the community. During restoration, Lady Liberty stands tall inside the courthouse awaiting her return to the top of the dome.
The murals of Charles Holloway had been seriously compromised by prior preservation attempts and were loosening from the wall due to water damage. 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.
Eight years and $8.6 million allowed the restoration to be completed just in time for the building’s centennial anniversary on September 23, 2002.
Throughout the building portraits, murals, sculptures and bas relief tell the story of Allen County’s history through the 19th century. Since then, the Courthouse, itself, has earned a place in our history.
The building’s most distinctive feature is its extensive scagliola—a faux marble that uses a unique coloring process. David Hayles of Bristol, England, and one of the few persons skilled in the art and craft of scagliola today, noted that “…the scagliola in Fort Wayne is undoubtedly the most important example of the craft to be found anywhere in the world”.
Upon entering, visitors are first struck with the magnificent dome that towers 110 feet over the main rotunda. Light filters into courtrooms and hallways through stained glass ceilings and domes, conveying a sense of reverence for the law and setting an awe-inspiring tone for the legal proceedings.
The rich patina of the encaustic floor tiles complements the colors and textures of the building’s interior. Worn places in the amazingly intricate patterns speak to the thousands of people who have walked these halls carrying out the business of county government.
Law, Justice,and Mercy stand guard in the magnificent rotunda murals. In courtroom murals, stories of the Battle of Fallen Timbers come alive, and Justinian teaches us about the origins of our current laws.
Sculptures inside and out help us understand our past. Chief Little Turtle, Samuel Hanna, Colonel John Allen, and other important figures of history are all present. Other sculptures tell of arts and industry … of war and peace …and of law and order, reflecting a community steeped in culture and progress.
Hand painted stenciling in fine and varied patterns abounds on ceilings and cornices. Intricate plaster moldings gilded with gold, aluminum, and copper leaf showcase the opulence of the era and reflect the civic pride that was so important in the planning of this building
The pride of the planners is evident in the staircases, balustrades, and walls made of the finest white Carrara marble. The broad palette of colored marble is actually a wonderful deception – a faux marble technique called scagliola. Covering the walls, moldings, and columns, scagliola enhances the grandeur of all the spaces.