Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Bremer County Courthouse

On our way to visit the Little Brown Church, we stopped at the Bremer County Courthouse in Waverly, Iowa.  Built 1936-37, the building features Depression Modern architecture, and was funded in part by the Public Works Administration.  
Bremer County was established in 1853, and its first courthouse was a small frame building, which cost $147.50 to build.  This was replaced in 1858 by a two-story 43x63-foot brick building, which cost $23,000.  All of the material used in its construction--brick, stone, and lumber--was produced in the county.  The current structure cost $139,000; over $60,000 of this was supplied by the PWA grant.

Outside the courthouse is a small replica of the Statue of Liberty, very similar to the one in Grundy County.  Plaques on the base of the statue honor those who served in various wars.  One plaque explains the statue was dedicated in 1950 by the Boy Scouts of America as part of the "40th Anniversary Crusade to Strengthen the Arm of Liberty."

Upon entering the building, we noted a Roll of Honor, with names of veterans framed on the wall.  The first floor had the regular courthouse offices: auditor, motor vehicle department, etc.
Taking the elevator down to the basement, we found more offices: building and zoning sanitation, assessor, human resources, and more (below left).  So, we headed up.  Below right shows outside the clerk of court's office upstairs.
 We visited two small courtrooms (above), but were disappointed to see the main courtroom was in use.  The general rule is that no cameras or cell phones are allowed while court is in session.  There were only a few people in court, and everything was soon finished.

I asked if I could take pictures, and the judge, Pete Newell, agreed.  He also kindly filled me in on some of the history of Bremer County, and mentioned a few other courthouses in the state that he considered most interesting.
Bremer County was named by Governor Hempstead for Fredrika Bremer, a Swedish writer and reformer.  After reading Tocqueville's Democracy in America (1835), Bremer toured the United States for herself and her observations--written in letters to her sister--were published in 1853 as The Homes of the New World: Impressions of America.

Fredrika Bremer's most noted work, however, is New Sketches of Everyday Life: Hertha.  This novel the Swedish Parliament to grant unmarried women legal majority at the age of 25.  Formerly under Sweden's 1734 Civil Code, unmarried women had been wards of their closest male relative.

 In Miss Bremer's case, after her father's death, she had become a ward of her brother--who legally had control over her finances and had been very wasteful with the family fortune.  She, like many other businesswomen of the time, petitioned and received emancipation from the king.  Hertha is considered the first feminist novel in Swedish literature.
Near the auditor's office, there is a display featuring a photo of Miss Bremer, as well as other historical artifacts and photos.  Upstairs there is a library filled with law books.

The Bremer County Courthouse seems like a practical, modern building that suits the needs of the county well.  Although it was not nearly as ornate or neat-looking as some of the other courthouses, I still enjoyed my visit.

32 comments:

  1. BETHANY interesting architecture and well organised inside

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    1. It did seem well-organized. Thanks for stopping by, Gosia.

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  2. This is a style of architecture I'm not familiar with & I found it interesting to see inside that there are several courtrooms.
    What a character Miss Bremer must have been!

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    1. I'm sure she would be an interesting person to talk with and meet!

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  3. Hello Bethany!:) The simple clean lines of this type of architecture is most appealing to me. I have seen similar hotel buildings, built in the 1930s. Inside it is different than I had imagined, but I'm never the less of interest, and the history about Fredrika Bremmer was most informative.

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    1. I like the appearance of the exterior...though there are courthouse styles I like better. I'm glad the judge told me about Miss Bremer!

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  4. How kind of the Judge to allow you to take photos inside the courtroom. Very interesting info.

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    1. Usually its ok to take pictures of courtrooms as long as no one is there. It was very nice of him to let me take his picture in the courtroom!

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  5. That was really nice of the judge to allow you to take photos! I really enjoyed learning about Miss Bremer. She sounds like a fascinating character and her story is quite interesting. Thanks for sharing this tour and the photos with us!

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  6. Wow, interesting history. Any idea on why the flags were at half-mast the day you visited?

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    1. Just looked it up. That was July 19th, so it was at half-mast by the President's proclamations for the victims of the attack in Nice, France and the police officers attacked in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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  7. I so enjoyed the tour, dear Bethany, and I appreciate you sharing a little bit of history about the building.

    Enjoy this last day of August. Hugs!

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    1. Thanks Stephanie! Have a great September!

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  8. beautiful courthouse. You are lucky to be able to get inside and look around freely. Our local government offices and courthouse all have armed guards and metal detectors. I don't think we would be able to walk around and take pics here in Pa.

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    1. Oh wow, to me as an Iowan, that is surprising! The state capitol building and a few of the larger courthouses have guards and metal detectors at the door, but going inside, people are free to tour as they please.

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  9. Nice that you were able to take pictures and interesting to hear about the building.

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  10. I like the sleek and neat organized look here, Bethany! Thanks so much for sharing.

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    1. It's a good sign when local government offices look well-organized.

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  11. Glad you still enjoyed your visit and wow on the original cost. Amazing.

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    1. It is amazing how a small building could be built for the cost of a full cart of groceries now. I guess money was worth a lot more.

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  12. I'm so glad you had such a nice tour, and thank you so much for sharing it with us here! Your posts are always so interesting. :) God bless you!

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  13. Thanks for the tour, Bethany. You discovered some very interesting historical details, and reminded me that freedoms that I take for granted have often grown from reforms of injustices!

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    1. It's important to be thankful for every freedom we have.

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  14. Intriguing as always dear Gal. Thanks for the tour! ;)

    Blessings. xoxo

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  15. Very interesting information, thank you for the tour and some of the history. I enjoyed the visit.

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