The Marshall County Courthouse, located on the town square at Center and Main Streets, was completed in 1886. The building was designed by John C. Cochrane, a Chicago architect who also designed the Iowa State Capitol. The structure is native limestone over brick. While this may seem like a structural design that would last for centuries, by the early 1970s the building was in need of serious repair. It failed to meet then-current building codes and posed a safety hazard to pedestrians in danger of being struck by fragments of trim falling from the building.
This sad state of affairs resulted from a combination of economic factors. The Courthouse had been well maintained until the market crash of 1929. During the Great Depression years, taxpayers could not afford the extra tax burden required for major repairs. The war years of the 1940s created a shortage of materials and labor, so repairs were again delayed and the deterioration continued.
By the early 1970s voters realized something had to be done. A proposal to replace the Courthouse with a city-county building was defeated. The Save the Courthouse Corporate was founded in 1974 and a campaign to renovate the facility was mounted, and eventually passed with over sixty percent of the voters casting ballots in favor of the project. Later that year, voters approved a $3.2 million bond issue to pay for the renovation.
The Courthouse Square on a sunny day.
The renovated Courthouse was rededicated on November 19, 1978 and now receives regular maintenance. County supervisors are particularly careful to maintain the exterior appearance of the landmark. Inside visitors will find beautifully restored oak floors and woodwork, and a spectacular rotunda. In the summer the well-kept square is used for community festivals and concerts. A recent annual event, the Christmas Walk - a kickoff for the holiday shopping season - also utilizes the square to kick off the evening's events.
The Courthouse Square after a winter snow.