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Spencer County Courthouse
Rockport, Indiana, USA

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Situated high on a bluff above the Ohio River, the Spencer County Courthouse stands in a square at the east end of Main Street in Rockport.

The classic revival building was designed by Indianapolis architect Elmer E. Dunlap. Construction of the courthouse was begun shortly after World War I. It was the fifth such structure to be erected in Spencer County.

Spencer County was established in March 1818. A log structure was quickly erected as a temporary courthouse until the construction of a more substantial brick building. This second courthouse was completed in 1822, but burned 12 years later. A two-story replacement, also of brick, was finally completed in 1838. That building is remembered for the fact that Abraham Lincoln spoke there in 1844.

The mid-nineteenth century was generally a prosperous time for Rockport and the county, and a larger courthouse was erected in 1863-1864.

It served for 50 years before the county determined the still-solid building had outlived its usefulness and was inadequate for modern needs.

In 1915, the county hired an architect and approved his designs, but World War I interrupted building plans. As soon as wartime restrictions on construction were lifted in early 1919, work got underway on the new courthouse.

First, the square had to be cleared of the existing Civil War-era courthouse and the adjacent jail, along with a handful of outbuildings and a few residences.

All of the county offices had to be temporarily relocated. County commissioners asked high-level members of the Free and Accepted Masons to lay the cornerstone in what they were touting as the finest courthouse in southern Indiana and a monument to the intelligence and patriotism of the people of this county.

On July 18, 1919, the parades, musical performances, speeches, rituals and other pomp and circumstance lasted about five hours.

The courthouse was due to be completed late the following summer - August 1920, but it was nearly another year before the scattered and cramped county employees were able to occupy their spacious new quarters.

The new courthouse was dedicated on July 14, 1921. Evidently, the county was so thrilled to have its sparkling new courthouse completed at last that dedication ceremonies began in the morning and continued all day long and into the night.

The final cost was just short of $276,000. The courthouse was expected to last 100 years. The 78-year-old structure was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1998.

Taken from This Is Spencer County, supplement to The Spencer County Journal-Democrat, September, 2000.

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