Web Exclusive: Indiana’s historic courthouses come to life through a photographer’s lens

Tippecanoe County Courthouse (photo by Joey Lax-Salinas)

On a sunny day with white puffs across the sky, Joey Lax-Salinas framed his camera lens directly on the glittering glass of the new Marion County Courthouse.

After wandering around the towering structure for over an hour, he heard the shutter click lightly for one last time before backing away. This, he thought, was the end of more than a decade of work.

The Crown Point native has taken photos of more than 400 towns and villages across Hoosier State in his spare time. It started with northwest Indiana, where Lax-Salinas resides, and has spread to every nook and cranny of the state.

Folded into its mission to showcase the positive characteristics of Indiana was the task of capturing the historic and local landmarks of each city, which includes each of the state’s county courthouses.

“I’ve always loved architecture, but I feel like this took it to a new level,” Lax-Salinas said.

Lax-Salinas recently completed its journey of photographing every active courthouse in the state by documenting the brand new Marion Community Justice Center in Indianapolis. Now, he’s put all of the courthouses in a tangible collection that some Hoosier judges praise as an exciting way to document — and preserve — a piece of Indiana’s judicial history.

Preserving History

Joey Lax Salinas

Lax-Salinas began taking photos of her northwest Indiana community and posting them to social media after graduating from Indiana University. Once people started asking if they could use his photos for their business and promotional materials, he jumped headfirst into the photography market. It was then that he said he saw a dire need to promote his beloved hometown.

“When I went online and Googled images, I always got all these really old or really grainy images, nothing that really showed Hammond or described Hammond as we know him today,” Lax-said Salinas. “I kind of took it upon myself to go around and take some positive photos of Hammond that we could use to make it a destination.”

That was 2012. In 2016, Lax-Salinas began branching out into other parts of the state, photographing historic downtown plazas. This meant running into a variety of courthouses usually nestled in the heart of a city.

More than 100,000 miles in and 10 years later, Lax-Salinas scratched the last three courthouses off its list in Cass, Crawford and Marion counties last month.

View Photos: View a selection of photographs of the Lax-Salinas Courthouse here.

Judge Marissa McDermott

Lake Circuit Judge Marissa McDermott planted a seed in the mind of Lax-Salinas by compiling all of her photos of Indiana courthouses into a single frame to showcase the rich architectural history of the State. In addition to selling the images individually, Lax-Salinas offers a master collage of all courthouses in a variety of sizes.

“I knew he was taking on this project of photographing all the courthouses and I said, ‘You know, it would be so nice to have all of this on one poster or in a way that someone could l ‘frame it and display it,'” McDermott said.

McDermott, who is interested in history, said she always enjoyed going to state courthouses while practicing law.

“It was always fun to see the different buildings. So the idea of ​​having all of this on one poster, I thought, would be something that would be appealing to anyone interested in Indiana history, anyone interested in law,” he said. she stated. “I just thought it would have a lot of cross-appeal.”

Having a copy of the courthouses also appealed to Lake Superior Court Judge Kristina Kantar. She was the first person to purchase the framed print from the Lax-Salinas Courthouse collection and said she was proud to own the piece.

In years past, Kantar has purchased other Lax-Salinas photographs of the surrounding community, including a church she can see from her office window and a historic Hammond railroad bridge that was dismantled and stolen. in 2014 and 2015 by a now federally convicted Whiting.

“At the time (Lax-Salinas) said he was working on this courthouse project,” Kantar recalled. “I told him to let me know, then all of a sudden he said he did this project.”

Kantar has already planned to hang the framed artwork inside the entrance to his Gary courtroom.

“I was really excited because I had only been to four or five of the Indiana courthouses,” Kantar said during the unveiling of the piece. “I had no idea some of these places existed, and some are absolutely beautiful.”

Architectural diversity

There are a lot of logistics involved in photographing a courthouse, Lax-Salinas said. He can usually capture an entire courthouse in about 30-45 minutes, walking around and trying different angles.

Before getting into the car, the photographer said he did extensive research on the location of the courthouse, the direction its central focal point faces, and what time it should arrive for the best lighting.

“Intense is definitely a good word to use for that,” he laughed.

Each courthouse is unique in its architectural design based on when it was built, he said. Courthouses built in southern Indiana along the Ohio River typically date back to the 1850s, he said, while courthouses in northern Indiana typically post-1880. a handful of Indiana courthouses are more modern.

Lax-Salinas said he gravitated to courthouses built between 1870 and 1890, including Johnson, Monroe and Lake county courthouses.

“That 20-year period seems like the sweet spot,” he said. “Those that came after that between 1900 and 1920 are generally very bouldery, limestone and very monolithic.”

Judge Kristina Kantar

Kantar said she prefers old-fashioned courthouses, like the structure in Montgomery County.

“(I) look forward to visiting some of them to better appreciate their beauty,” she said.

The judge gushed about her own courthouse, citing its high ceilings and windows, original wood furnishings and decorative features.

McDermott said she appreciates when cities and towns are able to retain their original architectural history and structures. She praised the Allen County Courthouse as a “spectacular” sight, for example.

“It has Italian marble and hand painted friezes and it’s absolutely stunning,” she said. “It’s still just a beautiful building to visit.”

Bringing attention to the state’s history and improving Indiana’s overall image was the catalyst for the Lax-Salinas Courthouse Project. He said he hopes his photography can help encapsulate the beauty that Hoosier State has to offer its citizens and visitors.

“That’s always been my goal, is to use the courthouse and these features to create this really cool image that’s proud – that people in town can say, ‘Hey, this is my town'” , did he declare.

McDermott said she plans to buy the print for her own courtroom so everyone can enjoy it.

“And to see all 92 counties represented in one shot, I think is a really good idea,” she said. “I think a project like this would help maintain the history of these old buildings and perhaps help preserve them for future generations.”•

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