While Becker County was established at the time of Minnesota statehood in 1858, the Sioux uprising and other events prevented the county from organizing itself for judicial purposes until 1871. At the time, Becker County needed a jail, but the 1872 county board resolution to build one in then Detroit sparked a 12-year battle.
Detroit settlers fought off elections until 1877. Still, county residents were dissatisfied with rental arrangements for the county offices and Detroit needed a courthouse to clinch its claim to the county seat. However, a proposal to build the courthouse lost decisively during a special county election in 1883.
E.G. Holmes, the next county board chairman, donated land for a courthouse square and found a state statute that allowed the county board to build a courthouse and jail without voter approval.
The first courthouse was completed in May, 1885 at a cost of $28,000. A.A. Whittemore was responsible for construction above a foundation prepared by T.J. Martin and Marcus Shaw. The red brick building was built in the Romanesque style.
In 1941, the courthouse was described as "a very serious fire hazard and menace to public safety." The entire building sagged and the large watchtower on the northwest corner was judged a particular danger.
The current courthouse was built in 1942. Becker County voters approved a bond issue of $150,000 to supplement $100,000 provided by the federal government's Works Progress Administration. The walls of the three-story Bedford stone building are banded with black granite that frames the windows and main entrance. A 2.5 ton black stone eagle perches on a ledge as a reminder of the federal presence and as a symbol of authority. Foss and Company of Fargo, N.D. designed the building in association with Willard E. Randolph of Detroit Lakes.
After completion of the new courthouse, the old structure was sold to a St. Cloud firm for $531 for removal from the site.
The current Becker County Courthouse, as photographed in 1952.
A 1950 photograph of the Becker County Courthouse.
Historical information adapted from "The First 100 Years... The Minnesota State Bar Association."
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