Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Justice and Community Identity

The county courthouses of some of Ohio's 88 counties are among the most beautiful examples of public art and architecture in the Midwest. Most date from the mid-to-late nineteenth century and reflect the popular tastes and styles from which they emerge. Over my time in Ohio, I have become aware of the tenuous place these grand buildings hold in their respective communities and what it can mean for a community, both economically and symbolically, to maintain these buildings. Eighteen have been replaced by featureless pieces of modern or post-modern architecture (such as the Franklin Co. Courthouse in Columbus)
and others are endangered, as in the case of the Seneca County Courthouse in Tiffin. This is what the building looked like a century ago:
And what it looks like today. The County has received demolition bids to convert this Beau Arts beauty-in-distress into ROAD BASE. Of course, there has been an intense debate over preservation and the county commissioners seem to be coming around to the side of the preservationists. This is what the building looked like in January when Michelle and I toured it and donated to the preservationists cause. I hope to see it looking grand again.
I have made it a point to photograph the courthouses as I encounter them. This past weekend I was able to see two more: the Wayne County Courthouse in Wooster
and the Holmes County Courthouse in Millersburg, Ohio.


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