Among the first to move into Georgian-Romanesque Lake County Courthouse in downtown Crown Point after it was converted into retail and office spaces, Edda Taylor has had her photography studio there for almost 25 years.
“I was in Paris doing a photo shoot,” says Taylor, who is originally from France. “I remember walking up flights and flights of stairs to a beautiful room with tall ceilings and large windows. When I came back here, this building was like that. I walked and walked up the stairs and threw open the door—it was unbelievable: 22-foot ceilings and huge windows. It was like a dream come true.”
At the time, Taylor’s friends said she was crazy to move in.
“I said it’s like an artistic destination,” she recalls. “And I was right, it all worked.”
“The courthouse is the heart of Crown Point,” says Jeanene Letcher, Indiana Room Specialist at the Crown Point Community Library. “But at one point, they were going to take it down for a parking lot.”
Carrie Napoleon, manager of the Lake Court House Foundation, says the county wanted to get rid of the building, known fondly as the Grand Old Lady, when courthouse functions were moved to a different location.
“The foundation started in the early 1970s to prevent that,” she says.
Indeed, while other cities and towns tear down aging structures, Crown Point celebrates its architectural history.
“The city makes an effort to keep its historic architecture integrity,” says Lechter. “I think most businesses and people respect that.”
The Lake County Historical Museum is one of the courthouse residents, says Napoleon, as is the Maki Ballroom, which is popular for weddings and other events.
“Some mornings when I drive south on Main Street to my store, I see the clock tower and think I have a business in that beautiful building,” says Cyndi Horn, owner of Mescolare, a gourmet food and kitchenware store in the Grand Old Lady.
Courthouse Square is one of four historic districts in Crown Point. There’s the East Side Historic District, encompassed by Nichols, East Clark and Grant Streets; and the Holley District, known for its turreted Queen Anne home where Lillian Holley lived. Holley was city’s sheriff when John Dillinger who was being held there, escaped. Sunnyside, the fourth district, stretches from East to Ridge Streets and includes homes on Joliet and Maxwell Streets as well as a few off Joliet.
During the summer, the library offers tours of the historic areas aboard Crown Point’s Molly the Trolley. The tours last 1 1/2 to 2 hours and cover about four miles, says Lechter. Dates and times will be posted on the library’s website, crownpointlibrary.org, when they are firmed up.
Luke Bapple was still in high school when his parents, Matt and Sandy Bapple, both certified public accountants, decided to move their offices into the Allman House. In 2001, the couple bought the Romanesque-Revival-style building built and used as a bank in 1895 from John Carroll, a retiring attorney who had offices on the second floor.
At first, they only tuck pointed the solid brick exterior and did a few other updates — with the help of Bapple’s maternal grandfather who was a carpenter.
“My grandfather really admired all the architecture flourishes and bric-a-brac,” says Bapple.
Eleven years later, the family of accountants (Luke and his brother Dave are also CPAs) decided to restore the interior.
“We completely gutted the first and second floors, put in new stairs and made sure the building was ADA compliant,” says Bapple, noting they worked with the Crown Point Historic Preservation Commission, an independent board that has to approve projects like this. “They were very helpful in working with us.”
They also received a $50,000 façade grant from the Redevelopment Commission, which covered the cost of replacing windows that had been boarded up and removing wood siding from the building at Main and Clark Streets.
Bapple says he’s glad they put the effort into restoring the home of Bapple & Bapple Inc.
“It’s a nice part of Crown Point’s history, and it’s part of our history now too,” he says. “The Square is a historic landmark and being here is a homage to its past and a vision for our future.”