Grant County Courthouse

In 2023, Grant County is celebrating the 150th anniversary of their official beginning.
The Courthouse, situated in Elbow Lake at the junction of Highways 79 and 59 symbolizes the peoples of the county. In 1985, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. But before this courthouse was built, there was an earlier courthouse, situated just west of the present courthouse. Constant Larson in the History of Douglas and Grant Counties, [1] describes the building as a
“two-story structure, with four rooms and a hall on the first floor and one room on the second floor used as a court room. An outside stairway gave access to the upper story. This building served for the needs of the county offices until 1884, when it was remodeled and enlarged, the stairway was placed inside, and a small additional tract of ground purchased…”
It was decided that Grant County needed a better and bigger courthouse and the process of building one began. Finally, in 1906, the present courthouse was dedicated and has been used ever since.
Grant County Courthouse
This is a postcard available at the Museum. 
The Grant County Herald printed a Court House Edition in 1906 “to signalize the completion of the new court house and give expression to the feeling of rejoicing and pride in a work well done.” In 2005, the Courthouse Centennial Committee replicated the 1906 publication in booklet format.[2] The booklet is replete with many, many ads for local businesses along with photos of the county commissioners, the progress of the building and other county scenes.
Minnesota is described by its geography relating to the rest of the United States. At the time, the area of Minnesota made it the tenth largest state of the Union. The numerous lakes and rivers are described along with the elevation and climate of the state, including the title of “Bread and Butter” state.
Grant County is depicted as “No other section of the world approaches nearer Paradise than Grant County” with different sections describing various attributes.
Character of Soil adds: “’the surface soils, from one to three feet in depth, are usually well supplied with nitrogen and phosphates, the two more important elements necessary for plant growth.”
Character of Crops names the various crops grown here: Wheat, oats, rye, barley, flax, buckwheat, corn, millet, vegetables of all kinds and small fruits are successfully grown, and yield abundantly. Adding that stock raising and dairying have made rapid strides during recent years along with hogs, sheep and poultry. “There are no droughts or periods of excessive rainfall; all conditions are conducive to successful agriculture.”
Water Supply names the lakes, touting the many species of game fish “affording excellent entertainment for sportsmen.” Further, the nesting places and rendezvous of millions of game fowl, which, with numerous chickens on the prairies, attract many hunters here in the open season.”
Railroads and Wagon Road names the railroads and gives their routes. The Great Northern had the Breckenridge division along with the Evansville and Tintah branch. There was also the Soo-Pacific.
Census of 1905 lists the statistics for each village and townships. Grant county had 9,652, a gain of 717 from the US Federal Census of 1900.
Mr. Hodgson’s Historical Sketch was included here and was also deposited in the corner-stone of the courthouse. The Sketch includes the history of the early schools and churches. He also comments on census statistics, population numbers and ethnicities, and value of property. The Indian War of 1862 is referenced.
The Organization of County relates how Grant County was first detached from Stevens County and named Grant County. The beginning officers and the offices they held are named, as are later offices.The dispute between Herman and Elbow Lake as to where the Court House should be built is told.
The Public Schools is another topic, regarding the importance of the schools , and that there are sixty-four school districts with sixty-seven school houses.
Building Preliminaries relates the need for offices for county officials, and to provide  fire-proof storage space for public records. A mass meeting was called by the Commissioners for January 25, 1904,where the consensus was against bonding and instead to increase the tax levy. Plans from architects were asked for and the plans of Messrs. Bell & Detweiler of Minneapolis were chosen.
Procuring the Site was a rather complicated matter but was resolved by organizing the “Elbow Lake Improvement Company” which bought the land. The Company then worked with the commissioners to obtain the “present beautiful site of five acres in a natural grove on an eminence at the head of Central avenue, with a gentle slope in all directions, fronting extensively on Court House street, and extending back to the shore of Worm Lake.”
Letting the Bids. The bids were for six different forms of construction with separate bids for the heating plant and plumbing. After reviewing the bids, the Prince Construction Company of Minneapolis was the lowest at $60,202 using Portwing brown stone, or using brick at $54,997. Their bid included the plumbing and heating. A chart lists the eleven companies and the amount of their bids. Also listed are the amounts for Interior Decorations, Electric Fixtures and Lamps, Metal Furniture and Fixtures, Court Room Furniture, Office Desks and Chairs, Cement Walks, Window Screens and Shades, Grading the Ground, Water Connection, The Sewer, and Alterations.
The Construction. A committee of Commissioners Zieberth, Fuglie and Fagerberg were appointed to supervise and inspect the work. When finished, County Attorney Scofield was the first county official to occupy an office on May 21st, followed by the other county officers in the next few days.
Laying the Corner Stone on Saturday, June 24, 1905 became a celebration with businesses “profusely decorated” and many people gathered for the program. The Elbow Lake band began the program. After, K.T. Dahlen, secretary of the Old Settlers’ Association was master of ceremony and Knud O. Laastuen, gave the opening address. The mayor of Elbow Lake, F. A. Johnson, spoke followed by a chorus singing “O Stern Old Land.” Thomas C. Hodgson read the historical sketch, followed by another musical number. County Attorney E. J. Scofield related the historical process they had come through and the costs involved. Another musical number and then Moses E. Clapp, junior United States senator spoke. After all the speakers and music, the corner stone was laid in the southeast corner foundation. “In a tin box were placed Mr. Hodgson’s history of the county, a copy of every newspaper published in the county, and a copy of the souvenir historical booklet published by the Grant County Herald some years ago.” The corner stone was then placed over the tin box. Reverend Jas. Godward offered a prayer, the song “America” was sung by all ending the ceremonies. That afternoon, there was a parade that “eclipsed anything of the kind ever seen in Elbow Lake.” There were sports events and an evening baseball game between Elbow Lake and Glenwood. Unfortunately, rain ended the game after the fourth inning.
The Dedication section describes the day’s events from having the Luther College Band giving a morning concert and an evening concert to the speakers of Senators Nelson and Clapp, Judges Brown and Flaherty, county commissioners, court house officials, old settlers and other county dignitaries. The weather was perfect and more than 2,500 were present. Again, a baseball game was held, this time between Lidgerwood, N.D. and Elbow Lake with Lidgerwood winning by 3 to 2 in ten innings.
Descriptive gives more details of the structure. Portwing brown stone, quarried near Duluth, comprises the structure, with both a smooth and a rough finish. The roof is slate; the steps are brown sandstone, with columns at the front entrance of dark granite. Other materials used throughout the building are Tennessee marble, scagliola or imitation marble, stucco work, steel, and wrought iron. Each of the floors is described along with The Tower and the Boiler Room.
The Cost details “every item of expense attached to the construction of the building, even per diem and mileage paid to the county commissioners.” The total was $80,472.67 and lists payments to companies and individuals. The Special Levy as assessed is tallied in charts by years assessed , and a chart showing  tax levied in every school district. Comparison with other Taxes is the last section.
The very last sections of the booklet are the Miscellaneous and Acknowledgment of those who helped with the book.
Updates and Historic Finds. In 1994, an elevator was added at the rear of the building. About 70 tons of stone veneer were used and care was taken to have the stones match the original courthouse. The stone, Utah Red Sandstone, was quarried near Salt Lake City, Utah, and was the closest match to the original Port Wing brownstone. During construction, an old cistern was discovered and had to be completely drained and filled with concrete.
An energy upgrade was begun in 2011 and included energy efficient doors and windows, stabilizing the concrete floors, electrical upgrades, roof repairs, energy efficient lighting with a fire prevention and warning system throughout the building. Choosing colors for doors and window frames was based on restoring the courthouse to its original look.
No project continues without a glitch and asbestos was found in ceiling panels in the courtroom. But removing the panels revealed a huge mural on the ceiling of the courtroom. Throughout the Courthouse, other designs were uncovered, from scrolling or border stencils on walls and doors to the Grant  County Coat of Arms. Money was obtained  for restoration of the Grant County Courthouse Decorative Elements from Legacy Funds and the Jeffris Family Foundation. Work was begun in 2015.
The courthouse is an impressive building, with the surrounding grounds kept meticulously groomed. When you are next in the courthouse, take a few moments to observe the structure and the designs of the interior.
[1] Larson, Constant. History of Douglas and Grant Counties, Minnesota. B.F. Bowen & Company, Inc. Indianapolis, Indiana. Volume I. 1916. p392. This history has two volumes and both are at the Grant County Museum.
[2] The 2005 48 page booklet is available at the Grant County Museum.