Stevens County's first courthouse was built in 1872 on the block currently occupied by the public library. It was a two-story wood building that was painted white and stood 20 by 26 feet. Offices were located on the first floor and a courtroom on the second. The building later became a farm house.
In early 1883, the state legislature authorized Stevens County to issue $20,000 in bonds to build a new courthouse. The county bought a 300-square-foot parcel of park land from the St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba Railroad Company for $25. A building committee appointed by the commissioners was disbanded for some unknown reason after it advertised for bids and a committee of the full board hired E.P. Bassford of St. Paul to design the courthouse and a three-cell jail. A.A. Whittemore of Montevideo won the construction contract for $17,500.
The building was built with locally manufactured cream-colored brick and Lake Superior brownstone for trim. Native boulders on footings five feet wide made up the foundation and the inside was finished in yellow pine. The building was completed in time for the spring 1884 term of court. It served, with some remodeling, until 1957 when the new courthouse was finished and the 1884 courthouse was demolished.
The current courthouse was designed by Foss and Company of Fargo and was built at a cost of $383,168. The low, horizontal appearance of the two-story, 225 by 65 foot building is emphasized by the wide blue-green metal panel separating the two floors and the line of ribbed canopy shadowing a row of upper windows. It is extended by a 40 by 60 foot wing at the north end.
The flat roof, the curtain wall of glass and metal, and the brick-faced concrete frame classify the building as the Corporate International style that was a popular public building style following World War II. The one-story wall of polished dark stone that extends from the main entry angles 90 degrees at the sidewalk to form a sign on which metal letters identify the courthouse.