Stearns County's first courthouse was a two-story, 50-foot square, red brick building completed in 1864. Even with additions in 1874, 1884, and 1897, the courthouse was apparently unsatisfactory. According to a 1896 resolution, "[though] Stearns County was one of the most populous and wealthy, it had the most ill-constructed, ill-looking and inconvenient courthouse in the state."
Twenty-six years later, in 1922, a new courthouse replaced the old in a downtown square. The Beaux Arts style building has a granite-columned portico and a shallow dome of yellow tile set on a low, swag-decorated drum. Leo W. Schaefer of St. Cloud designed it for Toltz, King, and Day of St. Paul, and Charles Skooglun of St. Paul built it at a cost of $850,000.
The three-story building, pictured above, stands 109 feet above street level and measures 120 by 130 feet. It is made of red brick and granite block over reinforced concrete. Terra cotta panels decorate the parapet and upper stories, and the same material provides ornamental bands at the water table, frieze, belt course, and window surrounds. Above the six-columned portico is carved, "Stearns County Courthouse/A Landmark of Civic Progress/A Memorial to Sturdy Pioneers." Dates carved on each side mark the county and courthouse in time. On the east are the words, "The Pedestal of Liberty is Justice," and on the west side, "Where Law Ends Tyranny Begins."
Inside, marble is used in the floors, stairs, wainscoting, columns, and pilasters. A mural by Elsa Jemne depicts the Native American, the first inhabitant of the land.
The old courthouse, pictured here, served Stearns County for 58 years though it was criticized as being unsatisfactory.
Historical information adapted from "The First 100 Years... The Minnesota State Bar Association."
Return to Stearns County District Court