As if the massive rusticated limestone walls of the Fulton County Courthouse did not offer enough protection, ten fierce stone lions stand guard at each of the building’s entrances. At the time of the building’s construction in 1896 county residents balked at the expensive additions made to the architect’s original estimate of $70,000. Changes to the entrances, marble wainscoting, metal furniture, and even $133 for spittoons brought the final cost of the project over $161,000. In 1896 the Rochester Sentinel carried an account of “leading taxpayers” who gathered to christen the lions and provide each with a name. The article stated, “Now that the court house lions are finished and must be paid for by the people it was proper to name them so the taxpayers who must foot the enormous bill of their cost may become more familiar with their pets and be able to salute them by name as they pass in to ‘behold the grandeur’ of the $175,000 unpaid for temple of injustice.”1
Though the lions’ names have been forgotten by most, the quality construction of the Fulton County Courthouse remains visible today in architect A.W. Rush’s fortress-like structure. Rush designed three of Indiana’s fifteen courthouses built in the popular Romanesque Revival style. This style of architecture, popularized by H.H. Richardson, incorporates rough-cut stone, arched windows, and entrances, which possess hipped roofs with cross gables.2 In order of size and budget, those A.W. Rush designs include the Pulaski County Courthouse (1894-1895), the Fulton County Courthouse (1896), and the Rush County Courthouse (1896-1898). Fulton County commissioners visited the Pulaski County Courthouse during construction to view the popular style firsthand. Consequently, these three courthouses are similar in design. Rush used Indiana’s own Bedford limestone and included central clock towers. The four-story Fulton County Courthouse, built by J.P Gibson of Logansport, Indiana, contains exterior elevations that are all different in design. The twin towers are also cone shaped, which is a unique feature that Rush only incorporated into the design of the Fulton County Courthouse.
The Fulton County Courthouse, located in downtown Rochester, occupies an entire city block. The building is sited on a Shelbyville Square, with the streets intersecting at the corners of the square. The Courthouse joined the ranks of historic courthouses on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. Also in 2000, restorative painters found the original wall colors throughout the courthouse. They worked their way through six or seven layers of paint, varnish, and glaze to find the original colors.3 Today, these colors have been recreated throughout the historic building.4
1 “Fulton County Courthouse Lions.” Save Outdoor Sculpture clipping files. Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana2 Blumenson, John. Identifying American Architecture: A Pictorial Guide to Styles and Terms, 1600-1945. W.W. Norton & Company (New York, 1981) 47.