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Washington County Courthouse

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1885–1887, William Foster and Henry F. Liebbe. Northwest corner of W. Main St. and Ave. B

The county's first permanent courthouse was built in 1845–1847 and was designed by its builder, Alex Lee. It was a two-story Greek Revival building with a low central tower and an open lantern. It was torn down in 1869 because it was viewed as unsafe. A new courthouse was designed by the Des Moines firm of Foster and Liebbe; construction commenced in 1885 and it was completed in 1887. Its design is certainly one of the most exuberant and successful Richardsonian Romanesque courthouses within the state. A wonderful tiered corner tower dominates the design. This brick-and-stone tower, which is 181 feet high, contains four clock faces, each 8 feet in diameter, with a spire above. The architects dramatically contrasted the light-colored stone trim against the dark red Muscatine brick, creating a visual battle between the suggested solidity of masonry and the linear quality of the stone. Above the two principal entrances are two 8-foot-high castmetal sculptures: over the south entrance is Justice, over the west entrance, the Goddess of Liberty. (Regrettably, neither of these principal entries at the base of the tower now functions as an entrance into the building.)

Writing Credits

David Gebhard and Gerald Mansheim


What's Nearby


David Gebhard and Gerald Mansheim, "Washington County Courthouse", [Washington, Iowa], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

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