LeMars, Courthouse history
LeMars Sentinel newspaper
Dated May 6, 1902
NEW COURT HOUSE
Contractor Ready to Turn it Over to Board of Supervisors
WILL SOON BE OCCUPIED
The Board of Supervisors to Meet Tomorrow to Pass on the Splendid
The completion of the Plymouth county's new court house is accomplished
as far as the work of the contractor, Elam Miller, is concerned and the
building is ready for acceptance by the members of the board of
supervisors who meet tomorrow for that purpose. Some decorative work is
in progress in the hands of the Adamson-Hagan company which will shortly
be finished and with the purchase and installation of the furniture for
the court room and other offices the new court house will be ready for
How well Mr. Miller has fulfilled his contract can be judged by everyone
who visits the new structure. Its external appearance bears out the
assertion that it is the finest building in the city and one of the best
court houses in the State of Iowa.
Its location in one of the high places of the city, in addition to its
own great height makes it a beacon tower which can be seen for miles
around and it will stand as a monument for generations, a work of
architectural integrity and a tribute to the thrift and prosperity of
one of the largest, richest and best counties in the banner agricultural
The building faces to the north and on approaching it from the main part
of the city the eye of the visitor is struck by the massive and stately
character of its external appearance. The style of architecture is
sufficiently ornamental without verging on the horrid and the façade
with its' colonnade supported by large Corinthian pillars, the dome
shaped roofs on the wings and the tower at the summit of the building
are all in keeping with the structure and in the best of taste along the
lines of the builders art.
The material of which the new court house is built is Red Portage Entry
stone. The stones are of a deep rich red hue and its durability is one
of its strong points in its choice for utility. It is impervious to
weather and the wear and tear of time apparently enhance rather than
deteriorate its lasting qualities. The building is 76 by 98 feet and its
greatest height is 108 from the grade to the tope of the tower and
surmounting the tower is the female figure of Justice thirteen feet
high. The roof is slate and copper cornices shine like burnished gold
in the glistening sunlight. Iron and stone pillars and iron girders
have been used in the construction solely and the building is as
absolutely fire proof as can be made by the ingenuity of modern science
and human skill. Tiled floors and marble wainscoting on all floors tend
to safety in this direction. The building is three stories high and
what particularly strikes the visitor is the size and convenience of all
the rooms and the splendid manner in which they are lighted and
ventilated. Spacious hallways, corridors, passages and staircases, airy
and well lighted are found on every floor and in every direction giving
liberty of ingress and egress.
The building is heated throughout with steam and lighted with gas and
electricity and is equipped with all modern improvements.
The basement or ground floor is entered from the outside by doors on the
east and west side underneath the long flight of steps which lead to the
first floor entrance. On this floor in the northwest corner of the
building is located the office of the county superintendent of schools
17x30 with an annex of 17x14, adjoining this is another spacious room in
which teacher's examinations will be held. On this floor are contained
the boiler room, janitor's office, toilette rooms, and others. At the
entrance to the basement there is a large corridor three quarters way
through the building 25 feet wide. Iron stairways lead to the floor
above and marble wainscotings adorn the wall.
The main entrance to the new court house is on the north and is
approached by a flight of marble stairs thirty-one feet in width. Four
large Corinthian pillars ornament the entrance. They are twenty-seven
feet high. Three large doors give access to the vestibule opening onto
the main corridor. The lobby is lighted from the dome, there being an
opening clear to the roof, built similar to that in the state capitol at
Des Moines. At the main entrance spacious staircases to the right and
left with marble steps and marble wainscoting lead to the upper story.
There is also another entrance to the main floor from the east and this
is decorated in marble precisely similar to the larger stairway. On the
first floor are located the offices of the treasurer, auditor, clerk of
the courts, and recorder. Each of the rooms are airy, spacious and well
lighted and are 30x17 with a space of 17x14 provided for the public.
All the floors in these rooms are tiled as are corridors and halls.
Wood floors are used in portions of the offices. They are of hard wood
polished. The doors and wood casings, where marble casing is not used
are of white quarter sawed oak. In the basement quarter sawed red oak
The offices all have vaults attached. They are double deckers being
built from the ground up, and a spiral iron stair is provided to reach
the lower vault. They are each 13x19 and afford ample and safe
protection for records, books and valuable papers. The clerk's office
is located in the northwest portion of the building. The treasurer's
office is in the southwest, the recorder's office in the northeast and
the auditor's office in the southeast corner. A large room for the
“use” of the supervisors is located between the offices of the treasurer
and the auditor. Its doors beside the main door communicate with
adjoining offices which is a source of convenience as a large portion of
their work brings them in close connection with the auditor and
treasurer. This room has dimensions of 26x20 and is roomy and well
lighted like all the rest of the offices. The main corridor is 20x43
and the side corridor 56x37.
The vaults in connection with the different offices are perfect strong
boxes of stone, iron and steel and although guarded with steel shutters
are well lighted as the shutters can be opened in the day time.
On the floor above is located the court room. It is on the east side of
the building and its dimensions are 36x76 feet with a ceiling
twenty-five feet high. It is a magnificent room lighted by ten windows,
each fifteen feet in length, four of these look to the north and six to
the west. The ceiling of the room is of metal and designed in panels,
with bracket corners. It is to be painted in white and gold and when
the decorative work on the walls is completed will present a handsome
Adjoining the court room is the judge's room, rooms for the attorneys,
stenographers, and on this floor are also the offices of the county
attorney and the sheriff. The county attorney is afforded a spacious
suite of rooms and the sheriff a large office with a roomy annex. There
are also three large jury rooms and toilette rooms. The east half of
the third story contains a number of jury rooms and rooms which may be
used in which to hold meetings of the commissioners of insanity and a
padded room for the detention of patients if necessary.
Surmounting the third story is the tower to which access is gained by a
winding staircase and where on gaining the summit a magnificent bird's
eye view of the surrounding country can be obtained.
A number of telephones will be placed in the building for the
convenience of the public and the county's officials.
An elegant marble drinking fountain is placed in the main corridor of
the first floor in juxtaposition to the marble buttresses.
More than two hundred tons of steel have been utilized in the
construction of the building and every piece of stone, iron, steel or
metal used in building was thoroughly tested. The work done on the
building has been the best obtainable in the market, and faithful
attention to every detail has resulted in the fine building which will
for years be the capitol of Plymouth county. On the base of two of the
pillars flanking the main portal are inscribed the names of the
architects, Detweiler and Kinney, with the date 1901 of construction
and on the other names of the members of the board of supervisors under
whose energetic supervision so much of the work has been done. They
First district, Thos. Adamson.
Second district, Henry Ahlers.
Third district, L. H. Schulte.
Fourth district, Wm. Pape.
Fifth district, Neil Robertson.
County Auditor, J. C. Kistle.
~Transcriber's note: There was a fabulous artist's sketch of the new
court house accompanying this article in this same 1902 newspaper.
~Names are linked to their obituaries when available.
**Index of the Memorial Day Avenue of Flags ceremony that is held at the Plymouth County Courthouse, LeMars, Iowa, every year. Note the picture at the top right taken on Memorial Day 2002, Avenue of Flags.
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