That’s No Courthouse! Towers, Theatres, and Jails

Even though I’ve taken more than 3,500 photos across Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio, I’ve only had brief opportunities to take pictures of non-courthouse structures that interest me. I’ve been diligent about only photographing courthouses in an effort to try and keep some sense of scope to the project, but occasionally an easy opportunity to do a little more came my way. Here are some of those photos.

The old Hancock County Jail and Sheriff’s Residence in Greenfield

We can start with old jails. A lot of them still remain across the state, but I didn’t realize that until it was too late and I’d have to do a ton of backtracking to capture them all. I was already in Greenfield when I found this one, said “what the hell,” and took a couple of photos of it. The jail was constructed in 1897 but was designed in a different style than the Richardson Romanesque courthouse built across the street the same year. The mansard roof gives the jail a Second Empire feel, but the detailed cornice and quoins imply an Italianate influence. The building now serves as the Hancock County Prosecutor’s office, and I’m pretty sure the cupola is a modern addition.

The old Whitley County Jail and Sheriff’s Residence in Columbia City.

You can find another pimp old jail in the Whitley County seat of Columbia City, but this one’s in far worse repair than its counterpart in Greenfield. Vacant except for Halloween stints as a haunted house (note the coffins outside- they aren’t original), the building’s grounds are used as a parking lot for an adjacent auto dealer. What we’re looking at here isn’t really the jail, however- it’s the sheriff’s residence, just like the one in Greenfield. An archaic Indiana law dictated that sheriffs had to live in the jail itself, so many counties built luxurious domiciles in front. Hopefully this one gets the restoration it appears to need.

The old Wayne County Sheriff’s Residence in Centerville.

We’ve talked about the old jail in Centerville already on this site, but it’s another good example of a sheriff’s residence. This one was used as a Masonic hall once the county seat moved to Richmond, and now it’s the township library- the jail portion to the rear was carted off when the county seat moved. A 1925 addition to the east and a modern addition to the west have helped preserve the building, and cannonball holes are still visible around the front door due to its role in the Wayne County ‘Courthouse Wars’ of the 1870s.

The old Crawford County Jail in English.

Finally, let’s take a look at the old Crawford County Jail in English, Indiana. Poor English- the town eventually relocated to higher ground about two miles up the road after a disastrous series of floods at the confluence of Bird Dog Creek, Brownville Creek, and the Blue River decimated it. Nevertheless, the county used this sad building as their official lockup for nearly fifty years until it was moved in 2003, to a new justice center located behind a Jay C food store on IN-64. Can’t imagine the accommodations being luxurious.

The Lincoln Tower in Fort Wayne.

In stark contrast, let’s take a look at some towers now. There’s none better in Indiana than the Lincoln Tower in Fort Wayne. Located across Berry Street from the courthouse, the Art Deco skyscraper was Indiana’s tallest for 32 years. It spikes 312 feet into the atmosphere, spans 22 stories, and functioned as the headquarters of Lincoln National Bank and Trust until 1995. Eventually, a new bank called Tower Bank took the high-rise over as their headquarters, and the building remains a Fort Wayne landmark. The lobby is two stories tall and features intricate murals representing the spirit of industry as well as the seasons. An adjacent snack shop still features a 1930-era soda fountain.

The abandoned AT&T Microwave Long Line Tower outside of Wauseon, Ohio.

I got a little more liberal with my strict, ‘only courthouses’ policy by the time I finished taking photos in Indiana and made it to Ohio, and I found a different type of tower southwest of Wauseon while on my way to take photos of the courthouse there. This here’s a retired tower from AT&T’s long line program that provided long-distance service to customers via microwave signal. The 162-foot-tall tower provided a line-of-sight connection between Toledo and Bryan, which was then transmitted through similar towers in LaGrange, Goshen, Mishawaka, LaPorte, and Valparaiso on its way to Chicago. This tower, along with the rest of the network, was eventually usurped by fiber optics capable of carrying significantly more bandwidth. I’d passed this tower’s mysterious counterpart outside of Valpo several times but had never taken photos of it. I had to stop when I found this one. Maybe there’s a new project in my future.

The Bryan Theatre in Bryan, Ohio.

Lastly, theatres! I’ve loved old theatres –and their marquees- ever since my dad took me to see Star Wars Episode III at the 1948 Rosa Theatre in Waupaca, Wisconsin when I was thirteen. Here’s the Bryan Theatre on the courthouse square in Bryan, Ohio. Operating since 1939, the theatre was apparently twinned (divided into two screens) at some point and now houses three auditoriums. It was bumpin’ on Saturday afternoon -February 17- when I was there. It’s good to see these places thrive.

The Celina Theatre in Celina, Ohio.

Here’s the art deco, 1940s-era Celina Cinema 5 as also seen on February 17. It too was twinned and operated as a two-screen theatre until three more theatres were added on to the north side of the building in 1993. It’s a great example of a small-town theatre with a beautiful, neon marquee.

Lima’s Ohio Theatre.

The Ohio Theatre in Lima sits just north of the historic courthouse on W. North Street. Although I was too lazy to jaywalk across the road, here’s a shot of its marquee. The theatre originally contained 1,804 seats but closed as a theatre in 1978 after 51 years. The building apparently operated as a nightclub and maybe still does. I couldn’t tell, but its upper windows are boarded up. Even though the terracotta exterior seemed like it was peeling off from its façade, the marquee advertised a March 30th show, and it was April 1st -yesterday- when I was there.

Jasper IN Astra Theatre

Back in Indiana, here’s the Astra Theatre in Jasper, which is currently undergoing renovation. A small, 488-seat theatre nestled in the corner of the town’s Lancaster-style courthouse square, the Astra originally opened in 1935. But it eventually closed and was finally purchased by a nonprofit in 2015 with hopes of restoring it as a cultural center for DuBois County. I wish them the best of luck and hope its blade marquee makes another appearance above the entryway.

The Royal Theatre in Danville, Indiana.

Here’s the marquee of the historic Royal Theatre in Danville, Indiana, a downtown landmark since 1927. Unlike many, the theatre’s exterior was designed in the English Tudor style with a steeply-pitched roof and exposed half-timbering. Although the inside was updated in 2001, two rows of original wooden seats were preserved at the back of the auditorium. You can still sit there and enjoy a movie, retro-style, if you can cram yourself in between their confining armrests (note: I can, but just barely).

The old Mounds Mall Cinema in Anderson.

Finally, here’s the old Mounds Mall Cinema I-II, located on an outparcel southwest of the recently-closed mall in Anderson. The theatre opened in 1974 with two screens and presumably operated until 2004 when the Mounds Mall 10 was built to occupy the space of a former JC Penney store about three hundred feet away. The mall’s had it hard for as long as I can remember and although I’d already grabbed photos of the courthouse in Anderson, I stopped by while taking pictures of the closing shopping center to bolster a post about the Floyd County Courthouse in New Albany.

Theatres, towers, old jails, and more: If I’d paused to take pictures of everything interesting I ran across while doing this project, it would never end. I definitely missed a lot, but thankfully I found the strength to limit myself to courthouses- almost. Non-courthouse images represent less than 1% of my total photo haul, but there may still be more interesting miscellaneous photos to share. Stay tuned, because I might decide to inflict even more of them on you!

Author: tcshideler

When I'm not driving around, drinking fountain pops, and taking photos of county courthouses, I like to perform and record rock music in my band, spend time outdoors fishing and camping, read, and watch pro basketball and hockey.

One thought

  1. The Lincoln Tower loomed large in my childhood. My parents opened a passbook savings account with Lincoln National Bank in the early 1960s. For years I watched my wealth accumulate in the little blue booklet with the figure of the Lincoln Tower in (what I assumed to be) gold leaf on the cover. What a beautiful building.

    I also saw a movie at the Celina theater with my older cousins who lived in Celina. This was probably the late 60s and was the only time I was ever in a theater where 2 old ladies served as ushers who roamed the aisles with their flashlights. I have since attended matinees where I wished for those stern ladies to take control over unruly kids.

    I have not inhabited any of the jails, fortunately.


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