Faribault County's first court cases were held in the parlor of a local residence and court business was conducted in various other locations until the Wakefield family of Blue Earth sold an entire city block to the county for $1.50 in the mid 1860s. The Wakefields stipulated that a courthouse was to be built on the property. A brick, two-story, 36 by 45 foot building opened in 1872 at a cost of $5,000.
Controversy about the location of the county seat continued for nearly 30 years and, in 1890, a petition for a new election signed by most of the county's northern citizens was presented to county commissioners. Editorials and letters in local newspapers demanded the seat be moved to Wells. Instead of an election, the commissioners announced plans for a new, grander, permanent courthouse in Blue Earth.
The 1872 building was razed and a new courthouse was built on the site. C.S. Dunham was selected as the architect and S.J. Hoban of St. Paul became contractor on his low bid of $42,120. However, by the time the building was finished in December, 1892, he had spent more than $70,000 -- well above the previous year's highest bid.
Stone was hauled from the Kasota quarry by horse, wagon, and rail to construct the building. Sand came from the Blue Earth River bottoms. Red brick is the dominant material above the high basement level of rusticated limestone. The roof is clay tile, decorations are terra cotta, and columns on the tower and the loggia above the double-arched front entrance are made of granite. The Syrian arches of the entrance rest on squat columns with foliated capitals, a Richardsonian signature. A gargoyle in the form of a satyr's head was placed above and between the arches.
Inside, the building features golden oak woodwork in the carved posts and panels, doors with office names etched in glass beneath stained-glass transoms, and a spiral stair in the rear tower.
The most prominent feature is the seven-story corner tower, which was repaired and restored through a 1976 Bicentennial Commission grant. Other towers, a cupola, chimneys, and fireplaces have disappeared over the years. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.
A $485,000 west wing was added in 1974.
Historical information adapted from "The First 100 Years... The Minnesota State Bar Association."
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