So many stories to tell as the courthouse celebrates its 125th anniversary | New


What should we tell people about the 125 year old Jasper County courthouse?

November 12, 2021 is the tour day for the exact 125th anniversary of the Jasper County Courthouse. It was on the day of 1896 that the beautiful limestone cornerstone was placed at the northeast corner of the site of our courthouse. The names written on this cornerstone were Benj R. Faris, JC Martindale and Dexter R. Jones as commissioners.

The contents of the original cornerstone can be found today in a beautiful case on the ground floor of the courthouse. Do we say these things to our visitors?

In 1996, for the 100th anniversary, another cornerstone was added with the names of Kenneth Culp, Jr., Richard E. Maxwell and Willis R. Pettet, Sr. These fellows still reside in this Jasper County. Do we tell our tourists that Richard “Dick” Maxwell has continued as commissioner and works with James Walstra and Kendell Culp.

In my recent anniversary speech on the various courthouses in Jasper County, I mentioned that there were nine different courthouse locations, starting in 1837 in what is now Parish Grove in the County of Benton. The courthouse locations moved into the home of George W. Spitler, then a cabin in several motley locations in Newton-Renselaer in 1839. Let us mention these and Spitler’s talents of having all the county offices from Jasper, but the treasurer and the sheriff, all in one building? Do we mention the invasion of bedbugs in any of the structures?

There have been three courthouses in the present plaza of the Jasper County Courthouse. This plot has been platinum-plated by the original landowner James van Rensselaer. A white-framed two-story courthouse that van Rensselaer paid for, one in brick, and the current courthouse designated for the National Register of Historic Places is now located there. Are we talking about each? Are we talking about the fire started in the brick by an associate of General Milroy to hide his theft and mismanagement of Milroy’s legal affairs?

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Do tour guides and officials talk about this great structure from 1896 itself? Do we share information about its Gothic Revival style, its five-story clock tower or the gargoyles, medieval faces and organic designs made by 17 stonemasons? We mention the strange water-pressure clock known as the “Abe clock” after Abraham Halleck, another commissioner in 1896. It was replaced by a clock by Seth Thomas. Do we mention that members of the original Dieham family of painters repainted the Jasper County Courthouse with its original paint palette and gold leaf patterns in 1996?

Do I tell the Jasper County students of Kankakee Valley, DeMotte Christian, St. Augustine School, and Rensselaer Middle School that for 10 years starting in 1927, 2,500 students from 16 school societies came to the Jasper County Courthouse for the day of the school rally?

On Friday, November 12, the Jasper County Courthouse will be open to visitors from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and each office holder will speak about their duties. The open offices are the assessor, auditor, clerk, circuit and higher courts, information technology, planning and development, archivist, treasurer and veterans.

Are we celebrating that in 1962 former President Dwight Eisenhower spoke on the North Steps in honor of his friend and Congressman Charles A. Halleck? Should we say that the original slate roof from Maine was replaced in 1973 by several shingle roofs before being covered with slate from Vermont in 2012? Should we reveal that James Whitcomb Riley’s famous poem Little Cousin Jasper was the idea for launching our Little Cousin Jasper festival in 1974. Do we mention the number of windows, some filled with beveled glass? Are we talking about when the bell was removed from the tower? Do tour guides discuss that the building was constructed from Oolitic / Indian limestone? Are we to say that a time capsule was buried in 1996 to be opened for the bicentennial of the Jasper County Courthouse in 2096? What about the number of chandeliers?

Yes, that is enough information for you the reader, but what do people want to know about this amazing structure. As Judge Michael S. Kanne of the United States Circuit Court of Appeals recently said this one-of-a-kind building has influenced the design of federal courthouses across the United States in recent years. Architects Alfred Grindle and Charles Weatherhogg and Heinzmann Brothers Contractors built an entire building for the ages.

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