The first courthouse in the country was built in 1708, in Queenstown, Maryland where it still stands as a one-room wooden structure. The town designated it as historical site. Before courthouses were built, official city business was conducted in churches or taverns. In the eighteenth and nineteenth century, the courthouses served multiple purposes for the community. Meetings, debates, speeches and political events were routinely held in the courthouse that had not yet evolved into what its primary purpose is today: a house of justice.
Across the country, we find stately courthouses in the middle of the town dominating the town center and the city skyline. Built in grand style, many have domes, towers, great clocks, and grand pillars. The architecture varies in styles: Neoclassical, Federal, Greek Revival, Romanesque, and Modern. Sadly many of the older courthouses are neglected due to the newly built courthouse. There is little use for buildings too small to hold court and ancillary offices, often being in a dilapidated condition with crumbling walls and collapsing roofs. A great number of courthouses are being demolished, the lucky ones saved by the Historic Preservation movement. They are getting a new lease on life while housing museums, community centers, and offices.
Washington County Courthouse
Salem, Indiana April 27, 1986
Washington County Courthouse, built in 1888, is in the center of the town square and was placed on the National Register Places in 1980. The architecture is Romanesque with arches over it doors and windows and rounded towers with cone-shaped roofs. (Return to Gallery)