Restoring the Past

When County Commissioner Joe Kiefer stepped inside the Old Vanderburgh County Courthouse for the first time after taking office five years ago, marble coating was falling off the walls, light fixtures were deteriorating, and paint was chipping off walls and peeling away.

As a child, he always had a fondness for the building, a structure he calls “a masterpiece of architecture” and a valuable asset to the community.

Over the course of four years of budgeting and work, the courthouse’s four floors have undergone periods of restoration and renovation. Dennis Au, the city’s Historical Preservation Officer, worked to make sure the renovations resembled the original building’s interior.

Stone tiles in the flooring were replaced with exact matches from a Tennessee quarry, while brass handrails in the rotunda and on staircases were cleaned and polished and the original wrought iron fixtures supporting them were painted.

The lighting in the rotunda before Kiefer took office was “shabby” and cluttered with extension cords. “It was essentially light bulbs with cheap sockets you might find in someone’s garage,” he says.

The rotunda was gutted of the light blights and now is illuminated with attractive, high efficient LED lighting.

While the major plans have wrapped up, renovations and restorations are ongoing.

“We’re not stopping,” says Kiefer. “We’re doing something every year.”

The Old Courthouse now lights up the city skyline thanks to a fundraiser in October to purchase color-changing lights for the building’s main tower.

“Next, we’re looking to get lights for the top of the tower,” says Kiefer.

For more information about the Old Vanderburgh County Courthouse, call 812-435-5241 or visit

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