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Historic Structures of

Crown Point, Indiana

The Crown Point Courthouse


Crown Point Courthouse, Crown Point, Indiana

The Crown Point Courthouse in Winter

Photo by Timothy Arends

The "Grand Old Lady," as the Lake County Courthouse is fondly called, was designed by J. C. Cochran of Chicago, Illinois. It was to be built at a cost of $52,000 by Thomas and Hugh Colwell of Ottawa, Illinois. In 1907, Beers and Beers of Chicago were chosen as architects for the north and south two-story extensions of the Court House with construction costs mounting to $160,000.00.

Since its erection in 1878, this building, which combines Romanesque and Georgian styles, has been a landmark in Lake County. It was saved from demolition by a group of dedicated citizens (town leaders wanted to turn it into a parking lot!), placed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 17, 1973, and was rehabilitated by the Lake County Court House Foundation, Inc.

It now houses a plethora of unique shops and a museum featuring memorabilia from the time the town was founded until the time the county government vacated it.

All around the square and on the streets that extend therefrom, one finds shops that cater to almost every need. Many of the buildings, such as Cheshire Hall, built in 1873, have "modernized" fronts, but a number of the facades on the square date back to the 1890s.

A Brief Historical Review of The Lake County Indiana Courthouse

The first permanent settlers in Lake County were Solon Robinson and Mariah Evans Robinson. The family arrived in October 1834 near Crown Point, the county seat, was founded in 1834 and incorporated in 1868. Solon Robinson deeded the major portion of real estate on which the Court House stands. In his conveyance, he clearly provided for "this land to be used for a public square..."

The Court House has been, since its erection in 1878, a landmark in Lake County. For many years it has been the most massive structure in breadth and height constructed by early settlers, and can be seen for miles on top of the morainic divide. The Court House displays a type of architecture of the Victorian Period and a most interesting combination of Romanesque and Georgian styles. It has a sort of quasi-military effect in appearance.

The central portion, including the clock tower, was started in 1878, dedicated in 1880 and cost $52,000.00. 500,000 hand-kilned brick from Henry Wise brickyard in Crown Point were used in construction.

Because of the growth of county government, the courthouse was enlarged by adding a north and south tower. This addition, started in 1907 and dedicated in 1909, cost $160,000.00.

Continued county growth demanded the single story north and south additions to be added in 1928 at a cost of $80,000.00.

The Court House is unquestionably a familiar landmark and rich in historical associations. On October 7, 1896, the silver-tongued orator William Jennings Bryan addressed the citizens of Lake County when he was campaigning for the United States Presidency and stressed the importance of free silver.

The Court House, enlarged in 1907-09 depicts an age which reflects the development and growth of Lake County. This period reflects the great economic expanse of the oil industry started by John D. Rockefeller and the beginning of the steel mills by Judge Elbert Gary, making the Calumet Region one of the greatest industrial regions of the world.

On June 19, 1909, the first major auto race in the United States was held south of the Court House, over an approximate 25-mile track known as the Cobe Cup Race. This grueling contest was the forerunner of the famous Indianapolis "500". The winner's cup was presented on the east steps of the Courthouse to Louis Chevrolet, a Swiss-born master mechanic, who later became the famous engineer and designer of the Chevrolet Motor Company.

Dr. David R. Hermanson, Professor of Architecture and planning at Ball State University and noted authority on historical buildings in the state of Indiana, said: "The Lake County Court House is without question one of the finest architectural expressions in Indiana. It is a major monument, and in my estimation, the most significant building in Lake County."

The Court House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 17, 1973.

The Lake Court House Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization now continues to maintain and refurbish the building.

Through the Foundation's efforts, and with the help of numerous people donating many work hours, the refurbished Victorian, Romanesque and Georgian-styled edifice now attracts many visitors.

The building has 22 commercial shops on the lower level. The Lake County Historical Society is presently located on the main floor in an art and cultural museum. Since 1976 over $750,000 has been raised by individual contributions, shop area rentals, and dues for refurbishing the building.

Information from the Lake Court House Foundation, Inc.


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