The Ex-Capital Birthday Weekend, Part 4 of 10: A Capital Pack of Markers

The Old State Capitol Building in Corydon, Indiana, surrounded by trees in autumn.

The Old State Capitol in the old state capital on good ol’ Capitol Avenue. Capital!

Back in 2016 Anne and I visited the Indiana State House on the occasion of our state bicentennial and enjoyed the up-close look at where our local government met and worked in easier times before work-from-home became a survival option and later became simply the latest fashion. Before our centrally situated hometown of Indianapolis became the official workplace of the governor and all the rest, Hoosiers reported to the State House’s prequel structure near our southern border.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In addition to our annual road trips, my wife Anne and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a short-term road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

In October 2022 Anne turned 52. Indiana offers no shortage of tourist attractions for history aficionados like her. We’ve visited quite a few of those over the years, but this year we felt it was time to check off one of the Hoosier State’s biggest trivia answers: Corydon, our original state capital before Indianapolis…

A closer shot of the Old State Capitol building in Corydon with more shadows from the nearby trees.

A closer shot of that Old State Capitol, this time from the same side of the street.

Before the white settlers who overtook the land were granted statehood, Harrison County was established in 1808 and named after Indiana Territory governor and local landowner William Henry Harrison (whose Presidential burial site we visited in Ohio on our way home from Cincinnati Comic Expo 2016). In 1813 Corydon took over as the Territory capital from Vincennes (which we visited for fun during the pandemic). In 1816 our first State Capitol building was built for the princely sum of $3,000, which afforded 2½-foot-thick walls made from blue limestone up to a modest two stories. Its original purpose was to serve as the county courthouse, but the state’s General Assembly and Supreme Court did their business there till 1825, when the seat of government was transferred up here to Indy.

Corydon remains the proud home of the Old State Capitol, which can be toured at set times. We politely opted out, preferring to keep our day loose and free of confining appointments. That choice would end up spoiling one of our later sightseeing attempts, but in the morning we were content to walk around the town square and its collection of points of interest.

The three-story Harrison County Courthouse in Corydon, with white columns and brick walls.

The Capitol is utterly dwarfed by its next-door neighbor, the Harrison County Courthouse dedicated in 1929.

Harrison County historical marker, recounting what I just got done paraphrasing.

A nearby historical marker commemorates Harrison County origins.

Historical marker titled "Indiana Capitol" in front of the old Capitol.

Not to be outdone, the old Capitol has its own marker.

Historical marker titled "First State Capital".

Did we mention Corydon was our first state capital? Yep, there’s a marker for that.

Historical marker about the Polly Strong slavery case.

As in Indy, some markers are more candid about shameful moments in history, like that time in 1820 when a local court defied our state Constitution and told enslaved litigant Polly Strong that slavery was cool.

Other side of the Polly Strong historical marker.

The other side of the same marker reveals the happy ending, when the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that the state Constitution was in fact real and the local court should get Polly Strong’s name out of its mouth.

Battle of Corydon historical marker.

One more marker for the collection, noting the Battle of Corydon, one of the extremely few Civil War battles waged on Northern turf. We’ll dive into that in another chapter.

Corydon's war monument collection.

Every Indiana town above a certain size has its war monuments, honoring locals who fought for freedom in their name.

Battle of Tippecanoe monument in Corydon, a small obelisk.

Corydon has a bonus monument for the Battle of Tippecanoe and its follow-up during the War of 1812. We visited that battleground up near Lafayette on the occasion of Anne’s birthday in 2019.

WWI German 77mm trench mortar beside the courthouse.

This WWI German 77mm trench mortar was a 550-pound gift from the French forces that captured it.

Empty howitzer stand next to the courthouse.

A companion piece on another courthouse corner, a German howitzer captured by Americans in 1918, was curiously missing from its parking spot upon our visit.

Peaceful Resolution of Conflict stone monument with an Eisenhower quote about the wastes of war.

A counterpoint to the above is the Peaceful Resolution of Conflict monument, which contains an Eisenhower quote about what wars waste.

Frank O'Bannon statue, sitting down with his hands on one knee.

Corydon hometown legends include Frank O’Bannon, our governor from 1997 until his unexpected death in 2003. My son met him in 2001 at a school function.

Three more columns with plaques listing O'Bannon family highlights.

Next to his statue, additional plaques detail the long history of the O’Bannon family, which included ownership of local nonpartisan newspaper The Corydon Democrat from 1963 until this past June.

(Fun trivia: the O’Bannons sold the Democrat to the Kentucky-based Paxton Media Group, notorious for buying up Indiana newspapers and gutting them. Ask locals about the once-resourceful journalists of all sizes at Crawford County’s Clarion News, the Dubois County Herald, the Paoli News-Republican, and the Springs Valley Herald, among an awful lot of others. To be fair, they not preying just in Indiana, either.)

An early 1800s church bell hung at ground level in the grassy town square.

A church bell from the early 1800s.

A sugar maple tree in autumn; at the base is a small plaque honoring band director E. Hurst Miles.

A sugar maple tree planted decades ago in honor of a beloved school band director.

An eagle flying over our heads.

To end this government history salute a bit too on-the-nose, here’s an eagle we saw flying overheard as we walked north up Capitol Avenue. Bald eagles aren’t ubiquitous, but Indiana does have its share.

To be continued! Other chapters in this very special miniseries:

Part 1: Unrelated Pastry Prologue
Part 2: Welcome to Corydon
Part 3: Halloween and the Hallowed Tree
Part 5-up: [coming soon]

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