In 1872 architect J.C. Johnson completed the third and present courthouse for Adams County. Johnson utilized the hallmark mansard roof and tower on his Second Empire style designs for courthouses in Adams and Randolph counties. Both buildings experienced maintenance problems involving their towers, and in the 1950s Randolph County completely removed its tower.
By the late nineteenth century the swaying of the damaged Adams County Courthouse tower caused the courtroom ceiling below to crack. In 1900, Adams County Commissioners hired Fort Wayne architects Wing and Mahurin to design a new tower and dismantle the original one. For added stability, the architects relocated the new tower above the building’s main entrance. Once workers demolished the old tower, they removed the damaged plaster and lowered the courtroom ceiling. All of the original ceiling murals were lost, excepting a small portion under a beam that supports the bell tower.
Decorative sandstone quoins, incised with an irregular honeycomb pattern, known as vermiculated work, offset the red brick body of the Adams County Courthouse. Patterned slate and dormer windows highlight the steep slope of the distinctive mansard roof. A 1970s renovation closed off all but two of the original doorways that graced each side of the building. In an attempt to create more space, the 1970s renovations also added a second story loft to the clerk’s and recorder’s offices, lowered ceilings, and replaced the original front doors with double airlock doors.
In 1995 the county expanded its governmental space by converting the former Bellmont Junior High School into the Adams County Service Complex, thus saving the historic school from the wrecking ball and creating a circuit court courthouse annex.
In 2005 the clerk’s office in the old courthouse expanded into the area once housing the recorder. To create one large office, workers removed the 1970s loft addition and several brick dividing walls. Because of the load bearing function of the walls, their removal necessitated construction of a new support system for the courtroom located above.
The Adams County Courthouse is located on a Shelbyville Square plan ringed by commercial businesses. Unlike most courthouse squares decorated with war memorials, Adams County honors its battle heroes with a Peace Monument, designed by Charles Mulligan and dedicated in 1913. The large limestone monument features a stylized female figure symbolizing peace on the front, and on the back, a carved relief honoring battlefield nurses.