Waseca County's first courthouse was a store building 24 by 60 feet located in the village of Wilton, the county seat in 1857. The county bought it for less than $700, but it burned eight years later. Court was then held in a wagon shop. Meanwhile, the Winona & St. Peter Railroad had charted its course four miles north and platted the village of Waseca.
Anticipating that the county seat would be moved to Waseca, the village received legislative permission to issue $5,000 in bonds for a new courthouse that it would donate to the county. In 1870, voters approved the county seat change and the courthouse opened the following day, standing 40 by 50 feet and two stories high. The brick building had a plain, functional look with vertical windows and a neat parapet.
Minneapolis architects Orff and Joralemon designed a Richardsonian Romanesque Revival courthouse to replace it in 1897. T.D. Carrol of St. Paul Park supervised construction, which cost $55,833. Nearly 67 years later, a $60,000 remodeling project was completed on the courtroom and jury rooms. A two-story building was added in 1971, and in 1976, federal revenue sharing funds built an annex 85 by 60 feet at a cost of $408,767.
The original building has a large square bell tower with a flagpole. Its loggia and clock sit above a roof of peaks and gables. The 96 by 74 foot structure is built with buff-colored brick and Kasota limestone belt courses and trim. Visitors pass through a triple arcade at the entrance, which is reinforced by the original wainscoting, oak woodwork, tiled fireplaces, etched glass, paneled doors, and marble floors. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
Historical information adapted from "The First 100 Years... The Minnesota State Bar Association."
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