Summertime Boredom to Beauty : Take the Kids to a Historical Courthouse

  • Blog Post by: Jason Brown
  • June 26, 2013 - 12:42 PM

While most of the cases we handle are venued in Hennepin or Anoka County, once in a while I get to take a field trip.

Last week, I found myself in Fairmont for a court appearance. And, the Martin County courthouse was absolutely stunning. Given my time constraints, I deeply regret having spent my lunch hour at a Taco John’s.

Built in 1907, and placed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1977, the Martin County Courthouse was built for $125,000.00. Enter, and you’ll be swept back in time.

Inside, you’ll find original metalwork, marble-topped counters and plenty of stained glass. Murals are painted in the third floor courtroom and within the interior of a metal-domed tower with period chandeliers to accent. The original dark woodwork, including massive doors, brings it all together.

The exterior is comprised of sandstone and limestone. The courthouse sits on a hill, overlooking Lake Sisseton.

The nice thing is that you don’t have to travel several hours to see something similar.

Pay a visit to the Ramsey County Courthouse for a real treat. The 21-story Art Deco structure was built in 1932. There are 23 kinds of wood, from 18 countries (each floor is different), and marble from all over the world.

A walk through the main lobby feels like you’re going to see The Wizard, and includes a 38 foot white onyx Native American statue that pivots 132 degrees every few hours.

The projected cost of building the “new” Ramsey County Courthouse was four million dollars in 1928. Funding was secured through bonds. But, when the economic downturn began in 1929, material costs dropped substantially. What’s a government to do? The County opted for “unparalleled opulence.” It is quite spectacular (if not over-the-top).

I have yet to mention the Brown County Courthouse, in New Ulm (with marvelous oil paintings throughout), the Mille Lacs County Courthouse, in Milaca (stained glass galore), or the old Dakota County Courthouse, in Hastings (built in 1870).

Today’s “government gray” just doesn’t compare. But, we're trillions in debt.

The Minnesota Judicial Branch site is the best of source of historical courthouse information online.

In addition, the Minnesota Historical Society has published a book entitled “Courthouses of Minnesota,” with photos by Doug Ohman and text by Mary Logue.

A month into summer vacation, and many kids are running out of things to do. Take ‘em to court!

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