Local legend has it that when Parke County commissioners selected a new county seat in 1824, they toasted their decision with whiskey and broke the empty bottle on a rock.1 Further legend suggests that the rock also provided the new town's name. Whether true or just a great story, Rockville remains the county seat today. As was common in early Indiana history, Parke County erected a log courthouse that was subsequently replaced by a brick structure. The first brick building was completed in 1832; by 1879 it was deemed inadequate and planning began for an improved building.2
Commissioners hired the father and son team of Thomas J. and Brentwood Tolan to design their new building. The building, constructed 1879-82, bears a striking resemblance to the Tolans' later courthouse designs for Kosciusko and Delaware (razed 1966) counties.3 In addition to Kosciusko and Delaware, the Tolan firm also designed courthouses in Allen, LaGrange and Whitley counties.
The mansard roofs on the corner and central pavilions characterize the Second Empire style of the Parke County building. Indiana limestone faces the structure which rests upon a foundation of native sandstone. The domed tower, rising from the center of the roof, displays a clock on each side. Classical elements such as columns and pediments further adorn the entryways.
The courthouse was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1993 as part of the Rockville Historic District. In 2001 rehabilitation of the courthouse occurred, including new roofing, painting, exterior handicapped accessibility, new HVAC and wood sash windows.
1 Robert Taylor, et al. Indiana: A New Historical Guide. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1989, p. 301.2 Laura Thayer. Rockville Historic District National Register of Historic Places Registration Form. 1992, Section 8, p. 6.