In 1871, a $10,000 bond issue to build the Jackson County Courthouse failed, but a $6,000 issue succeeded the following year. T.L. Twilford of Spirit Lake, IA, received a contract to build the two-story brick and stone, Italianate style courthouse. The building, which had a central pedimented pavilion and square cupola, was completed in 1873. It was demolished 34 years later to make way for the current courthouse.
Over the years, Lakefield wanted to become the county seat. However, Lakefield's later attempts in 1900 and 1906 did not come to a vote. Instead, county commissioners passed a resolution in 1906 saying that a courthouse should be built in Jackson.
In 1909, Buechner and Orth Architects of Minneapolis and contractor Charles Skooglun of St. Paul built the Bedford limestone Beaux Arts building. It measured 80 by 120 feet and cost $117,435. The high, segmented dome topped by a cast-metal statue of Justice, the monumental columns, the pediment, and the symmetrical pavilions reflect the classicism of civic buildings at that time.
A central octagonal atrium provides the main circulation space inside. The two stories of the dome and the second floor courtroom are decorated with murals that depict toga-clad figures engaged in construction and engineering, a railroad, and a sod buster's cabin. Liberty, Equality, and Justice in the form of three women guard the judges' bench and 14 other figures appear in a band around the top of the courtroom. Many of the murals' artists were recent immigrants who painted free-hand using camel hair brushes. The murals were cleaned and restored in 1975. Other decorations include stained glass at the top of the dome, marbleized plaster walls, and terrazzo floors.
The Jackson County Courthouse's 1908 dedication cermony.
Historical information adapted from "The First 100 Years... The Minnesota State Bar Association."
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