County histories are full of tales of the kidnapping of county records to influence the locations of county seats, but only in Lac qui Parle County did citizens kidnap the entire courthouse.
When the county was organized in 1871, the county seat was located in the village of Lac qui Parle, where a frame courthouse was built the previous year. In addition to court and county offices, the building also housed the post office and a hotel. In 1884, a battle between Madison and Dawson began over the location of the county seat on the new Minneapolis & St. Louis Railroad line. Two years later, 150 men and 40 wagon teams from Madison moved the entire courthouse from the village of Lac Qui Parle to Madison, 15 miles away. The building was placed on the current courthouse site.
Madison's efforts apparently succeeded. It was named the county seat in 1889.
Ten years later, a Richardsonian Romanesque style courthouse was built at a cost of $30,689 to replace the old frame building. Buechner and Jacobson architects designed it and Olaf Swenson of St. Paul built it. The walls are built of red brick trimmed with sandstone above a high basement of river boulders. The building is 59 by 134 feet wide and is centered by a high central tower with an open arcade.
Inside, original oak can be found in counters, cabinets, stairs, banisters, wainscoting, doors, and elsewhere. Stairs have marble treads and there is quarry tile in the hallways and tongue-and-groove hardwood on other floors. New heating and air conditioning systems were added in 1966.
Historical information adapted from "The First 100 Years... The Minnesota State Bar Association."
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