Otter Tail County Courthouse History

Otter Tail County had no choice but to build a new courthouse to replace its first formal courthouse, a towered, brick building built in 1880.  A tornado in June, 1919 removed the two top floors of the 40-year-old county headquarters.  After a temporary roof was built and space rented elsewhere for several offices, voters defeated an August bond issue because of confusion over whether the county should build a new courthouse, repair the existing building, or wait for building costs to decrease.  The next spring, county commissioners decided to "let the matter rest and await developments."

A short time later, another windstorm blew off part of the temporary roof and yet no agreement could be reached about what to do.  Finally, in November 1920, Judge William L. Parsons ruled that Otter Tail County no longer had a courthouse, enabling county commissioners to issue bonds and levy a 1 percent property tax to build a new one.  Buechener and Orth of St. Paul designed the building and L.P. Jorgenson built it for $322,000.

The dome from the original plan was eliminated to save money, but the interior includes a mural-decorated rotunda.  The classic revival style building is three stories and built with creamy brick on a base of Bedford stone.  It is anchored by an entrance under a segmentally curved pediment.  Its two-story Ionic columns and flat pilasters rise to a cornice and parapet.  The courthouse, pictured above, was completed in time for the December term of court in 1922.

In 1962, an office annex was added on the west end of the nearby jail.  In 1972, the driveway between them was eliminated and the two buildings were joined together with an addition.

The old Otter Tail County Courthouse, shown here in 1910, was damaged by a tornado in 1919 and a second windstorm less than a year later.  It was replaced in 1922.

Historical information adapted from "The First 100 Years... The Minnesota State Bar Association."

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