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Courthouse History

by Jonathan Bailey last modified 2013-03-07 09:03 PM

A Brief History of the Marshall County Courthouse

Marshall County is named in honor of John Marshall, the fourth Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

In 1851 Marietta was selected as Marshall County's first county seat. A small building, funded through the sale of town lots, was built and used as the first courthouse on September 27, 1853. The total cost of the building was $508.75.

There were many clashes involving the Browden Guards and citizens of Marietta when there was an attempt to move the county seat to Marshall (Marshalltown). Eggs, vegetables and water were once even thrown in one of these clashes. It was not until the Iowa Supreme Court decided in favor of Marshall in 1859 that the clashes stopped.

Following this decision the county seat was moved to Marshall, where a courthouse was already waiting. This courthouse was built by the Marshall Town Hall Company and the citizens of Marshall, at no cost to the county.

In May 1863 the town of Marshall changed its named to Marshalltown. This was done to avoid confusion with another Marshall in Henry County.

By the middle of the 1870s the second courthouse was badly in need of repair. In 1883 a new courthouse was approved in a special election.

The third courthouse was dedicated on November 18, 1886. It was constructed of limestone from Marshall County at a cost of $150,000. There were several attempts to replace this building with a county-city building; all of them failed. The State Fire Marshall ordered the building repaired or removed in 1973. At this time the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Friends of the Courthouse Committee, a newly-formed organization, decided to save the building. A referendum was held and by a vote of 5,399 to 3,550, it was decided to restore the 1886 courthouse.

A $2,695,692 contract was awarded to Metal Structures in the fall of 1975. An additional $290,000 was spent on architecture fees, moving and rental space for the temporarily relocated offices.

Some of the restoration included the removal of the 16-foot cap of the cupola, installation of elevators, construction of a floor between old main floor and the courtroom floor and new roof was also added. These restorations were paid through a matching grant-in-aid program from the Department of the Interior, under the provisions of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.

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