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TURNING BACK TIME: Courthouse dome holds a treasure of historic graffiti

January 28, 2013

With hoist pole and scaffolding work in place, workings in 1889 begin to cover the dome of the new Whitley County Courthouse with copper. The photo, believed to be taken by James Washburn, was discovered in debris following a fire in the Hood Furniture store in 1950. Post & Mail file reprint

Editor’s note: The following is the second installment of a three-part series on the Whitley County Courthouse.

COLUMBIA CITY — “Men of all ages have built monuments which, in a broad sense, have been indicative of their social, moral and intellectual stature.”

That statement was made by the Honorable William F. McNagny as part of his speech made June 14, 1890, at the dedication of the Whitley County Courthouse.

For those who have grown accustomed to the Courthouse, it may be a simple building, but for those who had a hand in its construction, the Courthouse was a symbol of county pride.

Meredith Hoffman, of Columbia City, spent some 10 years giving Courthouse tours. During her time, she explored the buildings crooks and crannies and feel “in love” with the history of the Courthouse.

Upon Hoffman’s view from the inside of the bell tower, she could see the mechanisms that operate the clock and the chimes.

According to documentation collected by Hoffman, there is one solemn vow written on the east wall of the dome. It reads: “Ross L. Weber and Walter E. Sanders quit chewing tobacco on Nov. 7, 1899.”

Although the entire structure is historic, the dome itself is the landmark that towers over the Columbia City area.

Repairs and minor changes were made to the dome over the years. The torch atop the dome was repainted with gold leaf from time to time until the price of the precious metal made it too costly.

In May of 1979, county council members set aside $200,000 of a federal reserve to do repairs on the structure.

Work began soon after to remove the old copper dome and make some modifications in the tower section. There was a shortage of craftsman to fashion the decorative metal panels that were in the clock section. Therefore, a design change was necessary and gave us dome the look it has presently.

For a more in-depth look at this story, see the Jan. 28 issue of The Post and Mail. Don't have a subscription? Call (260) 244-5153 or subscribe to our e-edition. For breaking news, sports updates and additional coverage, bookmark the homepage and find us on facebook.

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