Hoosier History Live! with Nelson Price, Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on 88.7 FM, WICR in Indianapolis.

Listen to Hoosier History Live! at 11:30 a.m. each Saturday on WICR 88.7 FM. You also can listen online at the WICR website during the broadcast or you can join our new listening group at Bookmama's in Irvington to listen to, and discuss, the Saturday show. We invite you to visit our website!


June 26 - encore show

County courthouses, with architect Jim Kienle


The Orange County courthouse. Image courtesy Indiana Historical Society.

Everyone loves Indiana county courthouses. Those architectural gems known as "the magnificent 92," the majestic courthouses that dominate town squares across Indiana, will be the focus of our show. Nelson's distinguished guest will be Indianapolis architect and historic preservationist Jim Kienle, of Moody Nolan, who is known for his award-winning restoration work.


As the lavishly illustrated book Magnificent 92 (IU Press, 1991) puts it, Hoosier towns "seemed to compete with one another for splendor and expense" in constructing their courthouses during the 1800s and early 1900s. There's no question that courthouses are cherished - and deemed worth fighting (or even disrobing) for. Remember the national spotlight that fell on members of a women's bridge club in Randolph County who posed for a calendar to raise money to save their historic courthouse in Winchester?


The Ohio County courthouse. Image courtesy Indiana Historical Society.Magnificent 92 quotes a 19th-century historian as rhapsodizing: "A man might sooner be the architect of that edifice than be President of the United States or King of England." By the way, most of the "calendar girls" were in their 80s; the eldest was nearly 94 years old. (They posed behind discreetly placed miniature replicas of the beloved courthouse.)


Last year, Jim restored the Orange County Courthouse in Paoli. Built in 1850, it is the state's second-oldest courthouse in continuous use and is seen annually by thousands of travelers who visit the nearby resort hotels in French Lick and West Baden. (Fun fact: The oldest still in use is the Ohio County Courthouse in Rising Sun, which was built in 1844. Like its Orange County counterpart, the Ohio County Courthouse was designed in Greek Revival style.)


Wabash County's courthouse. Image courtesy Indiana Historical Society.Jim and Nelson also will discuss bygone courthouses, including the ornate Marion County Courthouse, which was demolished during the early 1960s (a major shame, if you ask Jim and other historic preservationists) to make way for the 28-floor City-County Building that stands on its site. And how can we talk about Indiana courthouses without mentioning the landmark Decatur County Courthouse in Greensburg, which has a tree growing at the top of its 115-foot clock tower? According to the book Oddball Indiana (2002), the tree atop the courthouse in Greensburg is now in its 12th generation.


Nelson will ask Jim whether towns in other states have showcased their courthouses to the same extent, or is this a Hoosier thing? According to Magnificent 92, the flurry of construction between 1870 and 1899 across Indiana was such that more than 60 of the 92 courthouses were built during that era, with 23 others erected between 1900 and 1930.


"This wasn't entirely foolishness," according to the book's collaborators, Jon Dilts and Will Counts. "Old courthouses, built of wood or brick 30 years before, were small and dangerous. Records often had to be stored elsewhere where fire was not a constant threat."


Fun facts:

  • Bartholomew County Courthouse in Columbus, Ind. Photo by Molly Head.The Wabash County Courthouse received international attention soon after opening in the 1870s because it was the site of an early experiment in electricity. Thousands of spectators watched electricity jump from one lamp to another in the dome of the hilltop courthouse. (Regular listeners of Hoosier History Live! will recall a previous Trivia Mystery question about this event.)
  • In addition to the Marion County Courthouse, historic courthouses have been demolished in Muncie and Logansport.
  • According to Magnificent 92, the town of Leavenworth lost its status as the county seat in 1896 when the rival burg of English offered inducements that included a new, ornate Crawford County Courthouse. (Ironically, that courthouse also was among those demolished during the mid-20th century. Magnificent 92 calls its replacement "probably the least pretentious courthouse in Indiana.")

Our guest has focused his architectural career on bringing new life to historic structures and Main Streets in small towns. Jim and his wife, Marjorie Kienle, also were among the first wave of urban pioneers in the 1970s revival of the historic Lockerbie neighborhood in Indianapolis. Tune in to learn more!

- Show originally broadcast April 25, 2009.

Because this is an encore broadcast, there will not be listener call-ins or a RoadTripper report. Those will return with next week's show.


Your friends in Hoosierdom,


Nelson Price, host and creative director

Molly Head, producer, (317) 927-9101

Chris Gahl, Roadtripper

Richard Sullivan, tech and web director    

Garry Chilluffo, consultant



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The Fadely Trust. A fund of the Indianapolis Foundation.

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Please tell our sponsors that you appreciate their support:
Henry's Coffee Bistro on East, The Fadely Trust, Indiana Historical Society, Lucas Oil and Story Inn.


Acknowledgments to Scott Keller Fine Art and Antiques Appraisals, Print Resources, Indianapolis Marion County Public Library, Monomedia, Indiana Humanities Council, Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association, WICR-FM, Fraizer Designs, Drew Pastorek and many other individuals and organizations. We are an independently produced program and are self-supporting through sponsorships and through individual tax-deductible contributions through the Indiana Humanities Council. Visit our website to learn more.


July 3 show

Maestro Raymond Leppard's legendary life


Raymond Leppard. Image courtesy Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.In a first for Hoosier History Live!, our guest holds the title of Commander of the British Empire. That honor, bestowed by the queen of England, is merely one of many high notes in the remarkable life and career of Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra conductor laureate Raymond Leppard.


The 82-year-old maestro's visit to our studio comes as he is about to be named a Living Legend by the Indiana Historical Society at a black-tie gala July 16.


Maestro Leppard, who served as the ISO's music director from 1987 to 2001, certainly has become an adopted (and beloved) Hoosier since taking up permanent residency in Indianapolis and even became an American citizen in 2003. Born in London, he grew up in scenic Bath and became a prolific recording artist (his other honors include a Grammy Award) and conducted major orchestras around the world before his 14-year career with the ISO.


During that tenure, he led the orchestra on eight recordings and two tours of Europe. He also has written several film scores, including the soundtracks for Lord of the Flies (1963) and Hotel New Hampshire (1984). The maestro's legion of admirers also know he was a longtime friend of the late "Queen Mum" (mother of the current Queen Elizabeth) and that he initiated Indianapolis On-The-Air, a nationally syndicated radio broadcast of ISO performances.


In addition to the maestro, the distinguished Living Legends-to-be will include U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker and civic leaders Bill Mays, founder of Mays Chemical, and his wife Rose, a professor emeritus at the IU School of Nursing at IUPUI.


Fun fact: Raymond Leppard has honorary degrees from several universities, including the University of Indianapolis. So this Commander of the British Empire should feel at home in the WICR-FM studios.


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