Old Perry County Courthouse
The Rome Courthouse, constructed in 1818, is located in the unincorporated community of Rome, Tobin Township, Perry County, Indiana. The Rome Courthouse was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in May, 1981. This structure served as the center of Perry County and can be found in a large lot in the center of the once busy community of Rome. In frontier times the town marked an Ohio River crossing point for pioneers using the Rome Trace, one of the earliest frontier trails leading to the Northwest Territory.
The old courthouse was patterned after the first state capitol building at Corydon, built in 1816. It is a two story square structure constructed of brown, handmade bricks, standing on a high stone foundation with walls 20 inches thick. An octagonal cupola looks down on the standing seam roof. Originally the cupola had windows, although presently it has shutters.
In December, 1858, after a three year battle, the legislature relocated the county seat to Cannelton, Indiana. $2,000 was subscribed from the residents of Rome for the upkeep of the building, and some remodeling was done. Then, in 1860, the former courthouse was opened as the Rome Academy. Enrollment for the first session was 40, which soon increased to 60. The first principal was N. V. Evans, who was succeeded by Wm. Daily, one of the foremost educators in the state, having been president of Indiana University at Bloomington.
Over the years, the building has been used by several other groups. The Masonic Lodge used the building after their building burned in 1867. The Board of Trustees later leased the building to St. Luke's Episcopal Church of Cannelton. Their parish changed the name to St. Alban's Academy. Later it was used as a public school of the Perry County School System. The building was used in this way until 1966 when the new Perry Central School was built, and the Rome School was closed. At that time, it was privately leased to be preserved and restored.
In 1973, the citizens of Rome formed the Rome Community Center, Inc., a not-for-profit corporation. In 1988, the corporation purchased the building from the Perry Central School System. The specific purpose of the corporation is the preservation and restoration of the building. To meet this responsibility, two fund raising projects are held each year, both part of the county-wide tourism activities. Each April the Dogwood Festival is held, and in October the county hosts the Hoosier Heritage Festival. The Dogwood Festival at Rome is held in conjunction with the Rome Methodist Church. In addition, the group searches for other ways to receive funds, such as grants.
The old courthouse has great value as a historic site, as well as a community center.
Rome Courthouse: The First
The first court of Perry county met, or was called, at the house of James McDaniel, Jr., and adjourned to convene July 3, 1815. At this session Isaac Blackford was presiding judge. A small court house was erected in the summer of 1817 and the first court held there in July, 1817. The last court held was in October, 1818, with adjournment to meet in Washington. On January 10, 1818, an act providing for the removing of Perry County's seat of justice having been passed, in November of the same year the records were removed to the new county seat at Washington shortly thereafter named Rome. Several Trojans moved to Washington, yet the town prospered slowly, becoming the natural shipping and trading point for a large territory north and west of Perry county. The commissioners in their first session divided the county into Troy, Tobin, Oil, Anderson, Clark and Hurricane townships. Hurricane was what is now the present townships Hammond and Huff of Spencer county. Among the early residents of the town were James Taylor, Capt. Isaac Wright, Solomon Lamb, Levin Wright, Jacob Protsman, John Huffman, Reuben Bates, John McDaniel, James Bristow, James McDaniel, Francis Posey, Aquila Huff, Moses B. Niles, Williamson Fortune, Dr. Isaac N. Greathouse, Henry McGuffey and Thomas Polk, Jr.