The photo above shows the current Government Center in Freeborn County, which houses three courtrooms, the Sheriff's Department, the Police Department, the County Attorney's Office, the County Jail, and other government offices.
Freeborn County's first courthouse was built in 1866. The two-story building was built of brick and was a simple single-gable rectangle with its narrow side at the front. The main doorway on the second level was reached by a straight, central, banistered stair and a balcony, which provided both a vantage point to view and address the public and a shaded porch for quiet lounging beneath. The recorded cost is $3,300, plus another $1,000 contributed by Albert Lea citizens for the second floor courtroom.
Twenty-two years later in 1888, the upper-story brick had begun to crumble and the courthouse currently in use was built to replace it. The Richardsonian Romanesque building was designed by C.A. Dunham from Burlington, Iowa, and built by Alexander McNeill of Albert Lea at a cost of $75,000. The building is an adaptation of the popular monumental style with a great tower and sculptured "dogs" that seem to leap from the building.
The 74- by 104-foot red brick, red sandstone, and Kasota limestone building features elaborately carved quarter-sawed oak woodwork. Fireplaces dominated the larger rooms. An electric water pump for limited indoor plumbing was a very modern addition at the time.
In 1953, five chimneys and four steeples were eliminated. In 1955, local architect Bernard Hein and contractor John F. Hanson built a $358,260 addition. The bell tower and its 1,600-pound bell were also removed from the main courthouse. The bell was sold to the Grace Lutheran Church congregation for $100.
A second addition was designed by Foss, Englestad and Foss of Fargo and built in 1975 by Adolphson & Peterson, Inc. of Minneapolis. The utilitarian three-story addition cost $2 million. In 1979, the exterior of the courthouse was renovated.
The photograph below shows the courthouse in the 1940s.
The Freeborn County Courthouse as it looked in the 1920s is shown below.
The photo above shows the courthouse as it looked in 1915.
Historical information adapted from "The First 100 Years... The Minnesota State Bar Association."
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