By Colin Foster
January 25, 2014
By David Fong
Regional Sports Content Director
Just as few structres in Miami County rise higher than the dome atop the Miami County Courthouse, few tales stand taller than the one surrounding the courthouse istelf.
The story of the “Courthouse War” begins in the early 1800s, when residents of Piqua — then known as “Washington” — began lobbying legislators for their town to become the Miami County seat.
Washington leaders argued that not only did they have the larger town, but that the swamps that surrounded Troy at the time were sure to make visitors ill. Troy residents countered that they should have the county seat because of Troy’s more centralized location with the county.
State leaders elected to build the first Miami County Courthouse in Troy — and would go on to build three more courthouses between 1803 and 1841. In 1887, county commissioners decided to build a new courthouse — and Piqua residents viewed that as one final chance to get the courthouse moved back to their city.
Piquads petitioned the state legislature and eventually got a commission from Columbus to come to Miami County to settle the dispute once and for all. According to legend, the first day of the visit legislators were given a tour of Piqua, where they were shown the town’s size and prosperity — both of which, at the time, exceeded those of Troy.
The next day, however, the Columbus visitors visited Troy, where they were treated to a banquet at the Lollis Hotel. The story goes that in addition to the banquet, the ones who would make the final decision were treated to a deep well of adult beverages and the party lasted well into the night.
As a result, the courthouse stayed in Troy.
That wasn’t the end of the rivalry, however. When the statue of Lady Justice was placed atop the courthouse dome, she was placed with her posterior facing Piqua — on purpose.
“Madam Justice looks past Troy to the towns of Tippecanoe and West Milton, while she turns her bustle in the direction of Piqua,” an editor of the Tippecanoe Herald wrote in 1887.
While the courthouse was finished in 1888 — two decades before the Troy Daily News came into existence, the TDN did give extensie coverage to the Miami County Courthouse’s restoration in 1998. A 20-page supplement trumpted the renovation project, which cost close to $6 million and took nearly three years to complete.
A list of renovation work completed included dismantling, restoring and re-installing the central dome, four corner domes and the pavillions replacing all originals wood windows and fasteners to make the building watertight re-working and restoring the slate roof providing the building with exterior lighting replacing the clockwork restoring the existing bell and statues and painting and finishing the building to the original color.
Before the project even began, the county had to remove 43,000 pounds of bird debris, dirt and rust from the courthouse attic.