In 1880, the county's first courthouse, a one-story wooden building, was built on the lot 50 feet east of the corner of First Street Northwest and Ash Avenue, which was sold to the county for $20 by the Lake Superior and Puget Sound Co. Six years later, the town of Verndale built a courthouse and offered it to the county as a gift to secure the county seat. Wadena matched the offer and a battle between the cities began. Wadena won the election by 474 votes and retained the seat, though Verndale took the case to the Supreme Court.
The 1886 courthouse cost Wadena $8,000, including furnishings, and was a two-story brick building with a hip roof. Prominant roofline brackets and the square central cupola suggested an Italianate style. However, the concave curve of the cupola's roof suggested French Second Empire style. The building also had a front porch with a wooden spindled railing and latticed canopy.
A fireworks display, part of the celebration of Wadena's winning the county seat election, set the roof of the new courthouse on fire. However, the building survived until it was demolished in 1970. The cupola was removed and currently sits at the Wadena County Fairgrounds.
The current courthouse is a 26,600-square-foot rectangle of reinforced concrete. It was built by the Walter S. Butler Co. of St. Paul at a cost of $850,000 and dedicated in 1970. Its sheltered doorway in the center of the long facade is the only break in the repeating verticle, narrow, double windows with block spandrels between wide two-story slabs of concrete. An elevator was installed in 1979.