For the first 15 years of its history, Chippewa County residents lived without a courthouse. A 1916 account said "there was so little official business that a courhouse was not a necessity." Eventually, the county seat was moved from Chippewa City to Montevideo, where settlement grew rapidly.
The first courthouse (pictured above in 1909) was designed by J. Haley, a Minneapolis architect, and built by A.A. Whittemore for $9,350 in 1883. It was a hip-roofed two-story brick building with granite trim and an unusual flat-topped, solidly shingled tower. The building was enlarged in 1901.
Thorshov and Cerny, Inc. of the Twin Cities designed the courthouse's replacement, which was completed by Dean Contracting Co. and Pedersen Bros., Inc. in 1957. Voters voted against bonding for the new building twice before approving bonds for the $900,000 building in a 1954 special election.
Built in the Corporate International style, the building is flat, blocky, and functional. A second floor projects out onto four heavy piers that give the effect of a classical portico. At the same time the windowless projection adds weight and dignity to the building. A one-story wing is also attached.
The long corridors of the interior have terrazzo floors, marble-faced walls, and stair-railings of polished aluminum. One of the courtrooms is finished in dark cherry wood and the other in light Philippine mahogany. The building sits on a 10-acre site on Montevideo's eastern edge to avoid the congestion of downtown.
Historical information adapted from "The First 100 Years... The Minnesota State Bar Association."
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