In 1870, voters of Kandiyohi and Monongalia counties voted to consolidate and the two counties became what is today Kandiyohi County. The courthouse became a weapon in the war between the villages of Kandiyohi and Willmar, both of which wanted to become the county seat. Kandiyohi claimed it had a building adequate to house county officials and public records. Not to be outdone, Willmar township voted to issue bonds to build a courthouse and did so that same year at a cost of $2,000. A decision to consolidate the two counties with Willmar as the county seat was later confirmed by court decree.
The first courthouse was a large white frame building, built on the same block as the current courthouse. Grand juries in the 1880s had examined the building and said it was unsafe. In 1890, the county commissioners built a new Victorian Romanesque building with a tower on the northeast corner, complete with a clock in its peaked gable. The courthouse, pictured above, cost about $30,000. At this time, the first frame building was sold to a private party and moved to a site in western Willmar, where it stood for many years. The building's key is kept by the Kandiyohi County Historical Society.
In the 1960s, it became apparent that the 1890 brick and stone building could not be remodeled to meet the needs of a growing county government. The county approved plans for a new complex of buildings, including a new courthouse. Nelson Construction Company of Willmar completed the courthouse in 1966 at a total cost of $1 million.
The building's projecting folded roofline supported by three-story pylons and its varied surface treatment reflect the style of many 1960s buildings. Gray, random-coursed ashlar covers the walls except for the front of the three-story section beneath the sawtooth roof, which is faced by smooth panels of tan stone. The pylons supporting the roof and the pagoda-like canopies over the doorways are made of polished pink granite. Terrazzo and metal decorate the interior public spaces, while the three courtrooms are finished in oak paneling.
Gauger and Associates of St. Paul designed the 174 by 68 foot building that was originally built with two stories. A third floor was added at a later date.
The Kandiyohi County Courthouse as it looked in 1908.
The current Kandiyohi County Courthouse.
Historical information adapted from "The First 100 Years... The Minnesota State Bar Association."
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