Ramsey County Courthouse History

St. Paul's first courthouse was a small, two-story, brick, Greek Revival style building with a classic portico and Tuscan columns.  Dr. David Gray, a physician serving as county clerk, designed the building in 1851.  The total cost of construction was $9,000.

The second courthouse was built in 1885 and, like the old one, was combined with the city hall.  Local architect Edward P. Bassford designed the Romanesque Revival style building built of Kasota stone at a cost of $600,000.  It resembled the Hennepin County Courthouse and the old federal courthouse, now the Landmark Center, in downtown St. Paul.

The exterior of the current Ramsey County Courthouse, which opened in 1932, is pictured above and its interior is pictured below.  The projected $4 million cost of the building had been secured through a bond issue approved in 1928.  However, by the time construction began, prices of materials had dropped significantly.  The contract required that the Foley Brothers of St. Paul pay 12.5 percent above the prevailing wage to secure the most skilled workmen, which meant 45 cents an hour.  As a result, "the commission was able to afford construction materials and decorative details of unparalleled opulence."

The 18-story Perpendicular Moderne style building was designed by Thomas Ellerbe & Co. of St. Paul and Holabird & Root of Chicago.  It is built of smooth Indiana limestone and was dedicated in December 1932 by William D. Mitchell, U.S. Attorney General and son of Minnesota Supreme Court Justice William Mitchell.

Inside, the building is finished in the Art Deco style.  Twenty-three different kinds of wood are used in the woodwork, furniture, and paneling.  Five kinds of imported marble walls and floors were cut and dressed by local artisans.  The entrance relief sculpture was carved by Lee Lawrie, whose larger figures can be found at Rockefeller Center in New York City.  Four vertical murals in the council chamber were done by John Norton of Chicago, an associate of Frank Lloyd Wright.  The six bronze elevator doors were made by Albert Stewart of New York.

Dominating the dark marble, three-story, memorial concourse along the Fourth Street entrance is Carl Milles' creamy white onyx Indian God of Peace.  The statute stands 38 feet tall and is placed on a base that turns the figure 132 degrees every 2.5 hours.  The 60-ton Native American and his peace pipe are a memorial to the war dead.

The second of Ramsey County's courthouses was built in 1885 at Fourth and Wabasha Streets in St. Paul.

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

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