For nearly a century after the magnificent Allen County Courthouse was built, the building’s de facto front side faced Main Street.
But members of the Allen County Courthouse Preservation Trust – who had already raised millions of dollars to restore the remarkable but deteriorating murals inside the building to their original glory – had a vision.
The true front of the building was supposed to be its east side, but several mostly unremarkable buildings between Clinton Street and the Courthouse obscured the view. Indeed, as long ago as 1909, a noted Boston architect recommended the city demolish everything between Clinton and the Courthouse.
It took nearly 90 years, but the preservation trust prevailed in its goal to expose the Courthouse’s true front. After the old buildings finally came down, the view of the Courthouse that emerged allowed everyone else to see the trust’s vision.
Soon after came the Courthouse Green, the park immediately east of the Courthouse. With the park and appropriate lighting now in the true front of the building, the view was – and still is – awesome.
Would moving a statute of Gen. Anthony Wayne, the city’s namesake, make it more awesome? Well, no. Would it detract from the view? The preservation people think so, though for most people, probably not much.
But Mayor Tom Henry’s plan to move the statue has generated controversy, as well as criticism from the preservation trust.
Henry thinks the statue would be more visible on the Green, especially since trees surrounding it at Freimann Square have made the statue less visible since it was moved there – not its original spot – in 1973.
And it seems a bit disingenuous for Henry to answer concerns about cluttering up the Green by suggesting a covenant banning any new structures, after the statue is relocated. Kind of like a president demanding peace, after we win the war.
The issue may well come down not to aesthetics but cost. Henry believes the statue could be moved to a new base on the Green for less than $100,000. But a contractor who examined the statue for the trust noted cracks and said it could cost up to $600,000.
But does Henry really want to draw the ire of a group of philanthropic, community-minded citizens who have done the community such a favor by restoring and preserving the Courthouse’s interior and creating such a spectacular view? And does Mad Anthony Wayne need to be moved again to a third location when the Freimann site is more than adequate?
No. Trim the trees and leave him there.
Not the first
The Courthouse Green has been subject to previous disagreements about what’s there. Complaints came about a flagpole and a palm tree the parks department planted.
And at one point, the county commissioners sued the city’s Redevelopment Commission in an attempt to prevent the closure of Court Street, which ran along the east side of the building, now the site of a large sidewalk. The suit was settled, and Court Street is nothing more than a memory.