The first Grant County Courthouse opened in 1878. A.C. Earsley and H.H. Wilson of Alexandria built the two-story building at a cost of $1,225. Four rooms and a hall occupied the first floor and the second-floor courtroom was accessible by an outside stairway. A speaker at the dedication of its replacement in 1906, however, said that cases were taken to Douglas County for trial until 1883. In 1884, a remodeling project enlarged the building and the staircase was moved inside. The building stood on a lot just west of the present courthouse.
Before this, the town of Herman induced the Legislature in 1881 to award it the county seat, subject to approval in the fall election. Herman won with a majority of 70 votes. Private parties had already made plans for a courthouse and Herman citizens raided the Elbow Lake courthouse of its records. Elbow Lake eventually proved fraud, the election was declared void, and the records were returned. One of Elbow Lake's attorneys was Knute Nelson, who later became a congressman, governor, and U.S. Senator. Herman was represented by L.W. Collins, Grant County's first judge and eventually a Justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court.
The present-day courthouse was dedicated in 1906. The towering segmented dome looks over the town and the classic Beaux Arts style of its solid three stories is a dominating feature. It was designed by Bell & Detweiler of Minneapolis and built by the Prince Construction Company of Minneapolis for $60,202, including heating and plumbing. Oden J. Oyen of LaCrosse, WI, was paid $3,000 for decorating the inside of the building with murals and other artwork.
The building is 97 by 75 feet and rises 102.5 feet to the top of the tower. Its Portwing brownstone came from a quarry near Duluth. The roof is built of slate, the floors of terrazzo, the wainscoting of the main corridor of pink Tennessee marble, and the minor corridors are bordered by marble. The original fixtures, the fine oak, and the muralled dome are intact, but water leakage has forced the sealing off of the stained glass skylight.
Historical information adapted from "The First 100 Years... The Minnesota State Bar Association."
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