Hamilton County Courthouse 100 Years Old and Counting
By Csaba Sukosd | November 1, 2019
The Hamilton County Courthouse has a prominent appearance in downtown Cincinnati. On Oct. 18, it managed to stand out even more as the historic setting celebrated its centennial.
Hundreds of people gathered for the building's rededication 100 years after its original unveiling in 1919. The event's featured speaker, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, revived previous comments of fellow former U.S. Senator Warren G. Harding, the eventual president who presided over the original dedication a century ago.
"It is a very fitting thing in dedicating this temple of justice and seat of government to dedicate ourselves anew," Gov. DeWine said to the crowd, which included Harding's great grandnephew, Dr. Warren G. Harding III, and Ohio Supreme Court Justices Patrick Fischer and Patrick DeWine.
The county's sixth courthouse is home to the common pleas court, municipal court, small claims court, and clerk of courts offices. The fourth structure at its current site was necessitated after the previous one was torn down and three others were destroyed by fire. Assembled during World War I, the current courthouse was constructed with an emphasis on using higher-quality materials, such as granite, limestone, and marble, as part of its architecture.
"They said in their writings, there is no shoddy material in this building. It is fit to stand for 100 years, and we are here to say it has done its job," Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Melba Marsh, who organized the event.
Judge Marsh's history with the venue is as storied as anybody's. She started working at the courthouse when she was 15. Since then, she's served as an assistant prosecutor, municipal court judge, and became the first woman and African American to be presiding judge of the common pleas court.
"It's the people inside that building who make it just, merciful, and equal," Judge Marsh said. "You have to stand up for those things, and this is the building where standing up counts the most."
Should the principles somehow be forgotten, those trying to uphold the law can look at the building as a guide with its judicial foundation - "The pure and wise and equal administration of the laws forms the first end and blessing of social union" - etched in the structure's stone exterior.
"It's like the building is talking to you, and saying this is what we're about. This is what you should be about," Judge Marsh said.