Court in Rice County was held in various locations until the first formal courthouse was built in 1874. The building, which had a mansard roof and tall central clock tower, was designed by C.N. Daniels. Work was divided among three contractors who divided work amongst the foundation, the brick work, and the building "aside from mason work." The building committee itself made up the 47 cents by which they had exceeded the $50,000 bond issue.
In 1924, two fire-proof wings were added. The building was lighted with gas, which may have caused it to burn to the ground in 1931, though the new wings saved the court records. The Brunswick Hotel served as courthouse until the current one was completed in 1934.
Maurice Schmacher of Minneapolis built the current courthouse from a design by Nairne W. Fisher of St. Cloud, who had designed the Pope County Courthouse four years earlier. The 134 by 98 foot building, shown above, included the Moderne style in its formal classical lines. Metal grillwork accentuates the three tall window openings of the central face. It also decorates the doorway and the spandrels of the windows recessed between heavy, pier-like features. Natural-face Faribault stone is horizontally banded at intervals with sawed-faced stone.
Inside, the central rotunda has a Moderne stair and fixtures of metal and glass in the Art Deco style. Walls, floors, and stairs use polished black and gray Tennessee marble, the black prominent in inlaid boarders around pastel-colored floors. Directly below the dome on the rotunda floor is a map of Rice County made of terrazzo. The courtroom on the top floor is finished with fine-grained walnut walls 16 feet high with matching custom-built furnishings. The three-story courthouse was built for $200,000.
The Rice County Courthouse, shown here in 1881, was the location of the most memorable trial in the county. The three Younger brothers were tried in 1876 following the Northfield Bank robbery by the Younger and James brothers.
Historical information adapted from "The First 100 Years... The Minnesota State Bar Association."
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