Sunday, February 12, 2017

Dubuque County Courthouse

After visiting the Delaware County Courthouse this fall, I headed over to the Dubuque County Courthouse.  Its exterior one of the most impressive in the state, this building (built 1891-93) features Beaux Arts architecture, and was designed by Fridolin Heer and Son.  A 14-foot bronze statue of Justice adorns the pinnacle of the courthouse tower.  Originally, 12 statues were on the roof.  Today, there are six pewter statues.  Four of the statues--large winged angels with trumpets--are said to have been taken down during World War I, and melted for the war effort.
The courthouse is constructed of Indiana limestone, brick, and molded terracotta.  One man, a bricklayer named John Kuntz, died during the construction when a wall gave way and he fell.  Many renovations have been done over the years.  Notably, the dome was plated with gold leaf.  
Upon entering the building, we had to go through a scanner and have our belongings inspected.  The security guards were efficient, and seemed like very nice, friendly people.  On the first floor we noticed a pay phone (an anomaly these days)!  I liked the appearance of the hallways leading to the various county offices.  Originally, these walls were plastered, but the plaster was removed during one renovation to reveal the brick.
The guards at the entrance directed us to the auditor's office to take a look at the old maps of Iowa and Dubuque.  The "Map of the Great West" shown below right, was published by Thayer, Bridgman, and Fanning in 1853.
We took the glass elevator (also added during a renovation) to the next floors.  Looking down from the elevator, one can see the fountain below near the entrance.
Throughout the building, there are also some beautiful staircases.  Unfortunately, random bloggers are not allowed up into the tower.  The highest I could get was what appeared to be the employee lunchroom.  I was somewhat disappointed by how little of this seemingly very large building is actually accessible to the public.  I couldn't even visit the law library (a fact that slightly irked me, as it looked like a neat room).  Regardless, the courthouse windows have a nice view of town.
I did get to take a peak into the two small courtrooms,   One had woodwork behind the judge's desk, inscribed with Fiat Justitia (let justice be done).  This inscription also appears behind the desk in the main courtroom.  
In July 1920, a man named Everett Akins climbed the exterior of the Dubuque courthouse, up the dome to its apex.  This feat was highly publicized and watched by crowds.  Akins later joined an air circus and went on tour.  You can read more about him here.  

Court first was held in Dubuque in 1837 in a log structure originally built as a Methodist church in 1833 (this church was the precursor of St. Luke's, which I wrote about here).  The second courthouse was a large brick structure built 1839-1841. 

I'm glad I visited the Dubuque courthouse.  I find its exterior aesthetically pleasing.  It's interior focuses on utility, but pains have obviously been taken to  beautify it. 

24 comments:

  1. There is nothing like those old courthouses, is there? They were, most often, the most prestigious building in any city. Thanks for the 'tour'. xo Diana

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    1. In many of the county seats I visit here in Iowa, they still are the most prestigious buildings. I do love seeing them.

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  2. That is an impressive building!

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  3. Sorry he died doing that. Ack.

    Fountain looks funny from that shot. Almost like a weird water coffin.

    I'm sorry you could not visit the law library. That sucks wet monkey balls.

    Going back up to read more ....

    Okay, I'm back. I like those stairs. Neat on the wood work behind the desk, too.

    Thanks for the tour!

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    1. I got a few interesting shots of the fountain and elevator. Looking down does give a different vantage, though I'm afraid I'd never think of it in the light you do. I always enjoy neat old woodwork.

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  4. It's a beautiful building! I love the old maps and I haven't seen a pay telephone in years. Thanks for the tour!

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    1. There used to be a payphone in the park in downtown Ackley, but that has been gone for years. It's amazing how something that used to be so common has now become so rare.

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  5. Wow that is some courthouse and what a beautiful deep blue sky color.

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    1. We couldn't have picked a more beautiful autumn day for a road trip. I loved how we had such a warm fall last year. And it looks like we're headed for a warm spell this winter (could a warm spring be coming?). I'm pretty happy.

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  6. It is really a wonderful and beautiful building. Perhaps pay telephones will become less, because almost everybody have cell phones, but I think they will remain useful. The maps and old documents are good historic testimonials. You did very good pictures as a good article.

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    1. Thanks Enrique. History fascinates me. Pay phones are basically going extinct in these parts (they are "endangered species"). I wonder if they are more common in Peru.

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    2. Yes, Bethany, Pay phones are still common in our country. You can see them placed on the streets, grocery stores and public buildings. Many people have also conventional phones in their homes. However, more and more people have cell phones too. :)

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    3. Neat to hear. Thanks for telling me about the phone situation in Peru!

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  7. John's birth records are located in the Court House there.

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    1. Too bad I didn't know. I could have looked him up to see if he really was born as long ago as he has a habit of claiming. Dubuque is a beautiful town to select for one's nativity. I was just looking through birth records from the late 1800s at a local courthouse last week. People really used to have nice handwriting.

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  8. What an impressive building. Your courthouse tours have inspired me to pay closer attention to the local courthouses.

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    1. That's great! I hope you notice some neat ones in your area.

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  9. What an interesting, old building! Thank you ever so much for another wonderful tour, Bethany. God bless you, sweet friend. :)

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    1. You too, Cheryl. Thanks for stopping by.

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  10. Wow! What an extraordinary courthouse!

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