Cook County's original courthouse was a 24 by 30 foot two-story frame building that was used for the first time on New Year's Day, 1889. The building had a hipped roof that supported a tall flagpole. O.A. Norman designed it and it was built by Saul and Skinner, contractors from Tower, MN, at a cost of $3,000. In 1890, a 20 by 32 foot one-story addition was added.
By 1910, the simple wooden buildings were deemed "obsolete, limited in space, and far too modest an expression of the county's future." Voters authorized the sale of bonds to build the present courthouse (pictured above), which opened in 1912. The Classic Revival brick and concrete building features Ionic columns supporting a cornice. Its central bays are recessed behind the columns in a sort of loggia above and covered porch below. Kelly and Lignell, a Duluth architectural firm, designed it and Bowe-Burke Co. of Duluth built it for a total cost of $60,000.
The courthouse stands on a hill overlooking Grand Marais and Lake Superior. The old courthouse buildings were removed from their place just behind the new building in 1912. The old courthouse was relocated to Wisconsin Street and served as a pool hall, ice cream parlor, movie theater, and bakery before it burned to the ground in 1921 because of an overheated wood stove.
The Cook County Courthouse, photographed in 1972.
Historical information adapted from "The First 100 Years... The Minnesota State Bar Association."
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