In 1886 the lead architect by the name of Mr. Healy drew an accurate view of the soon-to-be new Blue Earth County Courthouse. The courthouse would measure 92 feet by 108 feet – girt measuring 423 feet.
The dimensions inside Courthouse include: first story clearance at 16 feet, second-story clearance at 16 feet, the Courtroom was 51 feet by 71 feet, and First and Second floors each have 9152 feet
Mr. Healy and his team of architects were all men with over 20 years of experience, they have contributed to over 300 public buildings. The style of architecture for the courthouse is Romanesque, having a tower stand 148 feet tall and a figure of lady Justice standing 16 feet high atop the tower. The inside finish was originally Oak, the whole building was built of slow-burning construction, meaning heavy timber is used and is designed to be fire-retardant. Mr. Healy originally predicted the whole structure could be built within the limit of $60,000 – $65,000, due to the advantages in excellence and cheapness of material in southwestern Minnesota, the same building duplicated at Minneapolis would fetch more than $125,000. By its completion in 1889, the building actually cost $123,000.
In 1938 the second floor was remodeled to shrink the courtroom, allowing for extra space to create a new Jury Room. 1965, there was very extensive remodeling performed throughout the building, in which the courthouse was gutted and renovated, and a third floor was added. In 1987, an arsonist ignited 10 gallons of gasoline in the courthouse. The fire was put out rather quickly and caused limited damage. The majority of the damage occurred from the sprinkler system. In 1991, many public buildings in Blue Earth needed the removal of asbestos, costing upwards of $15,000 and additional fees from independent firms.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce created a state energy tracking system and has determined the Blue Earth County Courthouse uses one-third less energy than if it were a new building built to current energy codes. This is due to the geothermal heating and cooling system used in the courthouse. In 2010, motion detector lights replaced traditional switch lights, costing $38,000, which cut the number of light hours from 12 to 10. This saves more than $5,000 a year and the payback will be reached sometime in 2017.
Though a newer courthouse has been constructed, the old courthouse of 1889 remains the housing of several departments including; Administration, taxpayer services, finance, physical plant, and university of Minnesota extension. The National register of historic places added the Blue Earth County Courthouse to the register in 1980, making it one of few courthouses in Minnesota to be added.
By Michael Lund
For more information about the Historic Courthouse, see the Historic Courthouse video on our Videos on Demand Page.
For more of the buildings along South Fifth Street, purchase this video.
Watch this History In a Minute for a quick overview!
Learn more about Garden City almost becoming the county seat.
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