St. Louis Trip, Day 8, Friday, July 31, 2015
Another stop on our trip home from St. Louis was the Monroe County Courthouse in Albia, Iowa.
The first session of the court in Madison County was held in a log house without a floor. During the session, Judge Charles Mason, the lawyers, and the clerks slept on the ground. Since there was no barn, their horses were tied to trees outside One night there was a severe storm, so they brought the horses in and stabled them in the courtroom where they slept until morning.
The first real courthouse was built in 1846 for a sum of $75. It was built of logs in a 20x20 foot square with a 14-foot ceiling. By 1858 the budget for a courthouse had increased considerably. A brick building was constructed at the present site for $11,350.
The cornerstone of the courthouse currently standing was laid in 1902. In 1910, voters approved a $75,000 bond issue (later raised to $100,000) for the construction of the courthouse. It was built using Cleveland Stone known as "Grey Canyon." Tennessee Marble was used for the interior. The clock tower was purchased and installed for $740.
Outside, surrounded by a flower garden, a soldier stands, erected to the memory of fallen Civil War heroes. The 1000-pound bell was removed from the courthouse in 1970 to be displayed on the lawn. It was, like the clock tower, purchased from Seth Thomas at a cost of $300. The bell is a mixture of New Lake Superior Copper and East India Black Tin.
The centerpiece of the foyer is the original 1902 water fountain. A sign designated the fountain "for display purposes only." The storage vault reminded me of old bank vaults in Western movies.
County employees were drinking their morning coffee, and residents were starting to show up to get their business done at the courthouse.
The courtroom has a beautiful elevated ceiling, unlike many other courthouses where the ceilings have been lowered for heating efficiency. I also loved the woodwork!
Due to insurance policies, visitors aren't allowed up to the clock tower...which was disappointing, but expected. I've only visited two courthouses (one is my own courthouse in Grundy County) where I was allowed into the clocktower. Every other courthouse (so far) has told the same story about restrictive insurance policies.
It was neat to see a centennial time vault outside the courthouse. Doesn't 2059 sound in the distant future? I should be 65 when this vault is opened. Come to think of it, it's kind of scary that is only 43 years away...
Monroe County was originally a coal-mining community. The Albia downtown area is remarkably well-preserved--and bustling with activity. As of 2014, the town had 3,782 residents. The peak population was reached in 1950 with 5, 157, but it does not appear the population is decreasing at present. Since 2000, there has actually been a 2% increase.
The building on the upper left is dated 1875. Many others had dates in the 1870s-90s. The oldest building I noticed was dated 1855. The Albia Historic Preservation Board has had a project ongoing since 1987 to install Victorian era street lamps like the one seen above right.
I'm glad we stopped in the lovely town of Albia. We're not often in southern Iowa, so it was a treat to be able to check a few courthouses in that area off our list of sites to see.
Due to technical issues, I have fallen behind on replying to comments.
I plan to return to the blogging world on Saturday, June 25th.
Thank you for stopping by!