Though Red Lake Falls was the natural choice for the county seat in the 1890s, the 1905 Soo Line railroad that was built through Thief River Falls and the discussion of building a permanent courthouse led to a long a bitter fight for county headquarters. Finally, suspected arson brought the issue to a head. In April 1909, the original wooden courthouse burned to the ground as the fire brigade arrived suspiciously late. A vote on the new building was taken before an election could change the Red Lake majority on the board of commissioners. The final vote occurred in February 1910. The courthouse was completed on donated land in 1911 at a cost of $37,070.
The Beaux Arts style building was designed by Fremont D. Orff. Each of the four corner pavilions of the brick structure has its own small drum and dome. A large central dome, seen in the photo above, was removed in the 1940s leaving the square balustered platform. The only other major change since the Building's construction was the removal of the attached jail. Tri-County Community Corrections at Crookston currently serves Red Lake County.
The main entrance of the courthouse is topped by a classic pediment and entablature. Inside, a two-story central rotunda has arched openings onto the second level's circling hallway. Scenic murals once decorated the triangular spaces forming the base of the closed-off dome.
The large central dome of the courthouse, shown above in the 1920s, was removed in the 1940s leaving the square balustered platform.
Historical information adapted from "The First 100 Years... The Minnesota State Bar Association."
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