Prior to the building of the formal courthouse, shown above in 1920, Pipestone County business was conducted in various locations in the city of Pipestone, including an 1895 stone sheriff's residence and county jail.
George Pass of Pass & Schippel of Mankato designed the 1901 courthouse and C.H. Peltier of Faribault bid $45,175 to build it. County commissioners had planned to use taxes to pay for the building, but were told a few months before it was completed that doing so was illegal. They were forced to stop construction and seek approval of $20,000 in bonds. Even so, the December 1901 term of court convened in the completed 42 by 68 foot courtroom with a 24-foot-high ceiling.
The courthouse has two noteworthy features in addition to its Sioux quartzite material. One is the bronze figure of Justice standing on the towering dome. The other is the limestone statue of a Civil War foot soldier atop a courthouse lawn monument. The statute honors 201 named veterans of the Civil and Spanish American Wars. He was carved by local sculptor L.H. Moore and was dedicated on July 4, 1901.
The courthouse itself is an academic 100 by 75 foot rectangle with a Renaissance dome, though its heavily rusticated masonry suggests a Richardsonian style. The raised basement and high attic with dormers give the two-story building the appearance of having four levels.
Inside, the building is finished with elaborate hard oak woodwork. A 1975 single-story addition is painted cinder block, though its exterior of red brick and concrete joined by a glass walkway blend with the original building. A mantle in the foyer patterned in varicolored pipestone in an Indian motif was commissioned by the Woman's World's Fair Auxiliary Committee to be part of the Minnesota exhibition at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. It received a "medal of special merit" there, and also won honors in the Minnesota display at the 1901 Pan-American exhibition and the 1903 St. Louis Fair. A large bronze plaque honors Daniel Sweet for donating the courthouse square when he platted his land to Pipestone. He had promised to do so at the first official meeting of settlers in 1876.
In 1980, the county adopted a phased renovation plan for the building to modernize and repair it. The project restored the commissioners' room to its early appearance with original stencils and fixtures. The false ceiling in the courtroom was also removed, revealing its embossed tin and fixtures.
The Pipestone County Courthouse, pictured here in 1908, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
Historical information adapted from "The First 100 Years... The Minnesota State Bar Association."
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