The first courthouse at St. Peter in Nicollet County was built by the St. Peter Company as a temporary building, to be replaced by what citizens believed would be the state capitol building of Minnesota. When this "sure thing" didn't happen, the Company initiated in 1859 the election that moved the county seat from Traverse des Sioux to St. Peter. The $5,000, two-story, frame building at Minnesota and Broad became the county courthouse. The old frame courthouse was St. Peter's city hall until 1886, when it burned to the ground.
The current courthouse was designed by Edward P. Bassford and E.W. Stebbins of St. Paul. It cost $26,638 and was completed in 1881 by Bohn & Wilce of Winona on three lots donated by St. Peter citizens. The building has a strong Italianate style, as well as elements of the Romanesque Revival style. Decoration in the light stone trim includes the Latin word for "law" -- LEX -- over the doorway.
The courthouse was extended in 1917. A pagoda-like, mansard-roofed addition was built to protect the front entrance in 1967. A three-story addition built across the back of the block in 1978 blends the old with the new. It was designed by Wick-Kagermeier-Skaar of Mankato and is made of brick and limestone with two-story arched window openings. The building cost $913,512. As space became available in the new building, $200,000 was spent to renovate and refurbish the original building.
On March 28, 1998, a tornado damaged the 1880s building, destroyed the steeple, and lifted the John A. Johnson statue from its base. A new steeple was built in November of that year.
The Minnesota Historical Society contributed $288,148 toward restoration of the building's window woodwork, front steps, and front entry and the building reopened in June 2000. In March 2001, a three-year construction project began that remodeled the building and added 35,000 square feet to it at a cost of $10.5 million. The project was funded through insurance, state and federal funding, and new bonding. In may of that year, the courthouse was officially renamed the Nicollet County Government Center.
Construction crews work on the Nicollet County Courthouse in the early 1880s.
Historical information adapted from "The First 100 Years... The Minnesota State Bar Association."
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