After Lincoln County was separated from Lyon County in 1873, county business was conducted in a store building in Marshfield. Less than 10 years later, the location of the railroad allowed Lake Benton to become the county seat. A building built on land donated there by a subsidiary of the Chicago Northwestern Railroad was rented and used as a courthouse.
In 1901, a new rail line led to a petition drive to move the county seat to Ivanhoe, where a courthouse site was donated by the proprietors of the town. The petition and vote succeeded, and the records were moved to a former bar in Ivanhoe, which served rent-free as a courthouse for one year. Later court sessions were held at the Wilson Opera House.
In 1903, the Minnesota Supreme Court returned the county seat to Lake Benton. Ivanhoe, in turn, appealed and won a new election in 1904. Records were moved to a newly-built jail and sheriff's residence there. The two-story brick building with crenellated tower served as the courthouse for 16 years.
Lincoln County's current courthouse, pictured above, was built in the Beaux Arts style in 1919. C. Howard Parson of Minneapolis designed the courthouse and Madsen & Peterson of Minneapolis built it at a cost of more than $200,000.
The courthouse is a three-story, 108 by 75 foot rectangle of smooth buff Kasota limestone and Kettle River sandstone. A projecting central pavilion on the east front is centered by a high portico with smooth Ionic columns that reach two stories to a pediment on which a stone eagle rests. The low first story's sandstone is coursed in horizontal bands to form a base for the levels above, which are divided into bays by shallow pilasters. A wide frieze is topped by a cornice and a stone parapet.
Inside, the central atrium has a low dome not visible from the outside. A number of the lighting fixtures are original as is the stenciling in the courtroom. The atrium ceiling curves down to a heavy molding and is centered by a large coffered skylight. The decoration was the work of the William C. Andrews Decorating Co. of Chicago. Yellow and pink interior marble was furnished and installed by Babcock & Wilson of Kasota. Various upgrades and remodeling projects have taken place over the years.
The current and former courthouse buildings were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
Historical information adapted from "The First 100 Years... The Minnesota State Bar Association."
Return to Lincoln County District Court