In June of 1866, one year after Redwood County was organized, the first court was convened by Judge Horace Austin in a hall belonging to J. Schmall. The following, year, court was held over Louis Robert's store, and court business included a grand jury hearing on the New Ulm Christmas murders. The clerk of court used his home as his office during the hearings and for years unsuccessfully tried to collect rent for doing so.
In 1870, two citizens offered to build a courthouse if they could be guaranteed two years' rent at $5 per month. County commissioners agreed, but by 1872 the building was inadequate. At this time, Sam McPhail deeded the courthouse square to the county. A. Dolvin built a building for $2,150 on the southwest corner the next year. In 1878, a $500 vault was added.
In 1890, the county commissioners learned that they would be reimbursed $10,000 by the state for expenses of certain murder trials. The money would be added to $5,000 set aside by the county to built a replacement courthouse in 1892.
E.P. Bassford of St. Paul designed the building and William Lettau built it at a cost of $35,000. Granite came from a quarry in north Redwood and the bricks came from a New Ulm brickyard. The courtroom occupied the entire second floor of the Romanesque Revival style building. At that time, live trials and hearings were a major spectator sport.
The building has since been remodeled and expanded. An oil burner replaced the coal stoker furnace in 1962, which in turn was replaced by a hot water system in 1972. Windows have been filled in with glass block and aluminum frames, towers removed one-by one, entrances changed, a vault and a 19,500-square-foot south wing added, and wiring, telephones, and airconditioning modernized.
The building is pictured above in 1972.
This 1930 photograph shows the Redwood County Courthouse before its tower was removed.
Historical information adapted from "The First 100 Years... The Minnesota State Bar Association."
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