The first term of court convened on the upper floor of a store building that Polk County rented in 1879. In 1881, a formal courthouse was built. The two-story frame building had a high, pointed tower. When the 1900 courthouse was occupied, the older building was moved from the square and housed a variety of tenants until it burned in 1911.
The second courthouse, pictured above in 1914, was built in a classic Beaux Arts style at a price of $90,000. An unusual, large, square open tower, columned on all sides like a Greek temple and topped by a small drum and dome, rose from the center of the brick and stone building. On the front, four Ionic columns reached two stories to the entablature and pediment. Urns, anthemia, and corner domes decorated the roof line. The building was demolished in 1968 to provide parking space for the new courthouse.
The current courthouse was completed in 1968. Designed by Cecil Griffith of Ellerbe Architects of St. Paul, it was built by Dean L Witcher, Inc. of Minneapolis. District Judge J.H. Sylvestre was a big influence behind the construction and personally designed the top floor.
The three-level block building is set into a slope, so that the rough random-coursed Minnesota granite of the lower floor disappears at the rear elevation. The upper floors are smooth white concrete with a regular window pattern 18 bays across and 7 deep, set off by narrow fins that rise to a wide, vertically scored band.
Inside, a unique feature is the open spiral stairway in the center lobby, a mock rotunda beneath the bright skylight.
The current Polk County Courthouse.
This is the second of Polk County's three courthouses. It is shown here in 1905.
Historical information adapted from "The First 100 Years... The Minnesota State Bar Association."
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