In 1852 Edwin May, architect of several nineteenth century Indiana courthouses, designed an elaborate, classically-inspired building with a temple front and an impressive clock tower for Franklin County. By 1877 architectural fashions changed and the building in Brookville suffered from maintenance issues. As one account states:
The first, or original style of the present court house was of the Italian flat-roofed order, not pleasing to the eye, and not well calculated to be durable, especially the roof, which gave some trouble from leakage.1
In 1877, in an attempt to correct the leaks, workers piled up building materials on the roof and crashed into the courtroom below. Despite the estimated twenty people in the courtroom and several workmen on the roof, no one was seriously injured.2 The courtroom temporarily relocated while workers completed the repairs.
Commissioners were debating the topic of a new courthouse by 1905. Indianapolis architect Elmer Dunlap examined the existing building and declared it fit for renovation rather than replacement.3 In 1910 the Commission hired Dunlap, who renovated the Jackson County Courthouse the same year. Despite retaining the basic bones of the 1852 building, all that remains today of Edwin May’s design is the clock tower. Dunlap flanked the original building with wings and replaced the Italian-inspired round arches with flat window surrounds and Ionic columns reflecting the Neo-Classical style popular in the early twentieth century.
To address a lack of space in the historic courthouse, commissioners elected to rehabilitate the old Brookville High School, abandoned by the school system in 2002. Rehabilitation of the school not The Franklin County Courthouse is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Brookville Historic District. The Courthouse occupies the popular Shelbyville Square plan with streets converging at the corners to form right angles.
1 Atlas of Franklin County, Indiana. (Chicago: J.H. Beers & Company, 1882; reprint Knightstown: The Bookmark, 1976), p.25.2 Ibid.