A Beacon on the Hill
The Romanesque Revival-style Todd County Courthouse is one of a dozen historic courthouses in Minnesota constructed before 1890. The building sits atop a hill partially surrounded by a stone retaining wall with a street-level entrance, which is also of architectural significance as a Works Progress Administration project completed in 1938. In 1994, the building was deemed unsuitable and the courtroom inadequate, in part due to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility issues. Most of the county offices were relocated, and the building was completely vacated in 2006. The county administration and elected leaders faced a dilemma – find funding to completely rehabilitate the landmark structure and reuse it, or tear it down.
Citizens Support Rehabilitation
After a building conditions assessment and cost estimates showed that rehabilitation was feasible, a bond issue was presented to county voters in November 2010 and narrowly passed. The county Board of Commissioners decided to proceed with rehabilitation, and work began in late summer of 2011. Windows were replaced in the historic style, masonry was cleaned and repointed, a steel shingle roof was installed to deal with the wind loads at the elevated site, and exterior lights now highlight the architectural details. A geothermal heating and cooling system was installed, as well as modern electrical and communications equipment. The interior was reconfigured for functionality and flexibility. New office spaces were created for the county administrator, assessor’s office, and watershed district, and a new county commissioners chamber on the second floor can be easily adapted for other civic purposes.
Historic features, including the terrazzo floors and vault doors, were cleaned and retained. Accessibility upgrades included a new exterior ramp, elevator, and restrooms. Since its reopening in June of 2012, several government departments have moved into the building, consolidating services and allowing for increased operational efficiency.
Although some county officials and local residents were initially opposed to saving the building, its restoration and reuse—as well as the visible end-product—has been very positively received.
For more information:
The Minnesota Preservationist, Issue 3, 2012