Located on the public square in the center of Covington, the Fountain County Courthouse replaced an earlier structure (1859–1861, Isaac Hodgson) that had long since become unsafe and overcrowded. It is one of three New Deal–era courthouses built in Indiana. Completed in 1936, the Art Deco building was designed by local architect Louis R. Johnson and prominent Lafayette architect Walter Scholer.
The Courthouse is a two-story rectangular structure with a raised basement. It features a restrained exterior of limestone, albeit with elements of rich ornament, such as the vaguely Egyptian-inspired, four-foot-tall light fixtures; the stylized ram’s horn limestone sculptures that grace the main entrance, which boasts three sets of bronze double doors; and Art Deco motifs such as speedlines. The staid exterior belies the exuberance within. Lit with a massive skylight, the interior awes with its rich materials, chiefly a dramatic, curvilinear, pink marble staircase that dominates the two-story lobby.
Even more stunning are the 2,500 square feet of murals designed by nationally recognized but locally born artist Eugene Francis Savage. Funded through the New Deal’s Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), work on the murals began in 1937 and took more than three years to complete. Several local artists, or artists with local connections, executed the murals in a more or less unified style. One of the murals references the Public Works Administration, which also contributed some funds toward the project. Savage agreed to direct the mural work, which depicts themes of western settlement and the county’s history, as long as he was allowed free rein on two gigantic allegorical works on canvas that flank the main entrance. The Disbursement of Tax Dollars and The Receiver of Taxes, both strongly modeled vignette clusters reminiscent of Thomas Hart Benton’s work, illustrate positive and negative uses of tax dollars—quite a controversial display for the interior of a public building. The murals, which had deteriorated in several places owing to leaks in the roof, were restored by local artists in the 1980s. Savage’s canvases, on the other hand, had held up much better, and enjoyed a professional cleaning in the late 1990s.
Enyart, David. “Indiana Courthouse Histories.” Allen County Public Library. Accessed March 14, 2018. http://www.genealogycenter.info/.
Steelwater, Eliza, “Fountain County Courthouse,” Fountain County, Indiana. National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, 2007. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.