Blackford County was founded in 1838 and named for Indiana Supreme Court Judge Isaac Newton Blackford. The first Blackford County Courthouse located in Hartford City, was completed in 1841 and was condemned in January 1893 as “unhealthy for people, inadequate in size, and unsafe for records.”1 In fact, a local man purchased the courthouse for twenty dollars.2 A new courthouse was immediately planned.
The architectural firm of LaBelle and French, of Marion, Indiana, were chosen to design the new building. This design team also built the 1894 White County Courthouse (Indiana).3 LaBelle and French were influenced by architect Henry Hobson Richardson and modeled the Hartford City landmark after two Richardson buildings: the Albany City Hall (New York) and the Allegheny County Courthouse (Pennsylvania).4
In July 1893, contracts were awarded, and though more expensive than originally planned, the county commissioners decided to continue with the project; not wanting to waste any time, work began in August.
The Richardson Romanesque architectural style focuses on mass, volume, and scale instead of decorative details. The style incorporates rough-cut stone, arched windows and entrances, which posses hipped roofs with cross gables.5 The Blackford County Courthouse contains rough stonework with large details, a three-story arched entrance and a hipped roof. The foundation of the courthouse was built using stone from nearby Montpelier, Indiana.6 The Amherst Blue limestone seen from the exterior is from Lorain, Ohio.7
The cornerstone ceremony for this second courthouse was held on November 2, 1893. Blackford Lodge #106 of Free and Accepted Masons presided over the ceremonies. Work commenced on the structure and was completed fifteen months later. The 165 foot clock tower was illuminated in February 1895 and the county took possession of the building the same month at a cost of $129,337.83.8
The courthouse is sited on a Shelbyville Square, with the streets intersecting at the corners of the square. On August 11, 1980, the courthouse was placed in the National Register of Historic Places. In 1993, the same lodge of Masons laid a commemorative stone to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of the building.9 In 1994, the Masons, along with the Indiana Historical Bureau placed a Historical Marker on courthouse grounds.