One hundred years later, the Vermilion County Courthouse stands as a memorial to one of the slickest legal maneuvers ever pulled off by local politicians.
The five-story building at Vermilion and Main streets took two years to build and cost county taxpayers $281,455.25. It was dedicated on Jan. 7, 1914.
“People of all ages and every condition of life availed themselves of the opportunity to go through Vermilion County’s temple of justice,” The Commercial-News reported on opening day. “Visitors gave expression to their pleasure by drawing liberally on their stock of adjectives and exclamation points. The adjectives ran all the way from ‘nice’ of the demure maiden to ‘magnificent’ of her brusque father.”
The architects were Lewis & Stuebe and the contractor was Magnus Yeager & Son, both of Danville. For 100 years, it has known an unending pageant of murderers, thieves, judges, lawyers, clerks, cops, reporters and regular folk.
It’s a unique, imposing, L-shaped structure. It has pilasters, porticoes, stained glass, oak, marble, and exterior walls of cut limestone. It would cost millions of dollars to duplicate today.
No other Vermilion County Courthouse stood even 50 years.
Court was first held in homes and in a log building on Main Street. The first “permanent” courthouse was about 40 feet square, and made of brick. Lincoln knew it well. Built in 1832, it burned in 1872.
The second courthouse, built in 1876, was the first to assume an “L” shape. Most county courthouses sit in the center of a courthouse square, but Vermilion County courthouses always have stood on the L-shaped county-owned lot at the northeast corner.
That courthouse cost $105,000, and it was beautiful: three stories, very Victorian, red brick with white limestone trim. “It was a good building, and the people thought when it was completed that they would not have to build another courthouse for 100 years, at least,” The Commercial-News reported in 1914.