Public meetings outgrew a small log schoolhouse on the banks of the Zumbro River at 106 Fifth Street S.E. in the 1850s. So Olmsted County commissioners were happy to accept the offer of Charles Lindsley to build a two-story hall with its own money and rent the lower floor for county offices. Situated at 301 North Broadway, the building's second floor was not only the courtroom but a meeting hall and church. The basement served as a school. After court was moved to a new facility, the old courthouse was destroyed by fire.
In 1867, Olmsted County built its new courthouse on a three-acre Zumbro Street lot that was sold for $800 by William McCullough, a wealthy drygoods merchant. A.F. Knight of St. Paul designed the building from original designs by W.D. Hurlbut, chairman of the board of commissioners. J.H. Grindall of St. Paul supervised construction of the $32,000, 68-foot brick and stone building. The dome of the building stood 104 feet high.
In 1883, a cyclone lifted the dome of the courthouse and crashed it through the roof. Other rebuilding took precedence, and while the roof was covered, a new dome was not attached until 1892. The new dome was topped by a metal statue of Justice. The building was remodeled in 1902, an addition was built in 1929, and further renovations were completed over the years with help from the federal government.
It was replaced in 1958 by a low, two-story International Corporate style building made of stone, aluminum, and glass. The stone panel-window wall construction was said to be the first of its type in the Upper Midwest. Office work counters opened directly into the hallways, a relatively new concept at that time. Corners were added on the north side for additional space in 1976-1977 for $500,000.
The current Olmsted County Government Center is shown above in 1993. Courtrooms and court administration offices are located on the fifth and sixth floors. The building also houses law enforcement agencies, the jail, and county and city offices.
The old courthouse in Stillwater, also designed by A.F. Knight, is a slightly larger replica of the Rochester courthouse, shown above and built the year before.
Historical information adapted from "The First 100 Years... The Minnesota State Bar Association."
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