Nobles County's first courthouse was a two-story frame building built in 1877 at a cost of $1,124. When the second courthouse was built in 1894, the wooden building was moved. It eventually became a store, and as late as the 1980s, it served as an apartment house.
The 1894, three-story building was built of brick and stone at a cost of $42,469. Albert Bryan designed the Romanesque style building, shown above in 1940. In 1954, lightning struck the courthouse tower, which was later shaved off by repair crews.
The Nobles County Government Center was built in three phases from 1974-1979 for nearly $3.6 million. The building's smooth gray granite face is cut in tall blocks and plays against the texture of small granite squares, which face the topless towers bulging from the building's sides. The main floors jut out above the foundation in and along the top edge.
The three buildings are spread along the slight slope of the square. An outdoor plaza is sheltered by their walls. Granite, oak paneling, and fabric finishes the inside of the building.
Phase one of the project built the law enforcement center and jail. The courts building and the county administration building followed on the site of the then-demolished 1894 courthouse. Alfred Berreau designed the complex and Robert Olesen, from Loeffel-Engstrand Company, built it.
The current Prairie Justice Center was completed in 2002. Courts, law enforcement, probation, and the county attorney's officed moved into the Justice Center on July 1, 2002. The county's other offices remain downtown at the Government Center.
The Nobles County Courthouse, built in 1894, was demolished in the 1970s to make way for a new Nobles County Government Center.
Historical information adapted from "The First 100 Years... The Minnesota State Bar Association."
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