When Duluth became the St. Louis County seat in 1862, rented space was used as a courthouse. A formal courthouse was completed in 1884.
The current courthouse was built in 1909 and is the central presence in a civic center where it is surrounded by the federal building and the city hall. The design for the square and the courthouse itself came from the office of internationally famous architect Daniel H. Burnham, who had been the moving force of the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. That "White City" was largely responsible for the revival of the classic style in architecture for the next 30 years.
The ground floor of the Duluth courthouse is built of strongly coursed stone, with a mezzanine above and Ionic columns rising three floors to a heavy entablature. Inscribed on it is, "The Peoples Laws Define Usages, Ordain Rights and Duties, Secure Public Safety, Defend Liberty, Teach Reverence and Obedience, and Establish Justice."
The building cost $992,500 and was built by Lanquist and Illsley Co. of Chicago. J.J. Wangenstein was the local associate architect and P.A. Karns was the superintendent of construction.
Facing the courthouse is the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, designed by Cass Gilbert in about 1921, with sculptures by Paul Bartless. A fountain and mall completed the square in the 1960s.
St. Louis County has two other courthouses within its limits because of its size. Courthouses are also located in Hibbing and Virginia.
Historical information adapted from "The First 100 Years... The Minnesota State Bar Association."
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