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TURNING BACK TIME: Hoffman recounts building memories

January 25, 2013

Against a night sky, the Whitley County Courthouse dome is a central focus of the Columbia City downtown area. The courthouse is one of the only buildings in Whitley County to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Post & Mail photo / Nicole Ott

Editor’s note: The following is the first of a three-part series highlighting the Whitley County Courthouse

COLUMBIA CITY — It was a position that came with no corner office, no prestige and no grand title, but when Meredith Hoffman, of Columbia City, agreed to give tours of the Whitley County Courthouse, she wasn’t concerned with what was in it for her.

“I would guess I gave tours for 10 years,” Hoffman said. “It was something I wanted to do. I think the history of the Courthouse is interesting and a part of our county’s history. I wanted to be able to pass that along.”

Hoffman was joined by Beverly Henley and the pair escorted elementary students, aspiring historians and site seers through the ins and outs of the courthouse.

“I love the story behind our county and the courthouse,” Hoffman said. “My favorite part of the building is the chandelier on the third level. I love going up there and just looking up at it. It’s so big and beautiful.”

Hoffman remembers the scores of children parading through the courthouse.

“The kids loved the glass floor,“ said Hoffman. “They would always stomp really hard on it. They thought it was really something.”

As of Feb. 16, 1979, the courthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and offers architectural features that peak tourists’ interest.

“We would get these history folks that would want to know everything about the building,” said Hoffman. “They would want to know about the stone, the weight, the construction — everything.”

According to documentation compiled by Hoffman and Henley, the courthouse was dedicated June 14, 1890. The present building cost $148,320.85 to construct. It contains 2430 cubic feet of cut stone; 508,000 pounds of iron in the floors, beams, roof and tower; 10,000 pounds of iron in stairs and window shutters and 1,000 feet of glass tile.

Hoffman said her tours taught visitors the work of the courthouse and what business goes on there.

“The kids especially liked to meet the judge and see the courtrooms,” she said.

Hoffman and Henley stopped giving tours some time ago, but their appreciation for the building still is strong.

Hoffman now works in the county’s engineer’s office where she has numerous pictures of the courthouse at various stages of its existence.
“These pictures tell a story,” she said. “It’s one we need to share and pass down to different generations.”

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