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Clayton County Courthouse

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1867, 1877, 1896. Northwest corner of E. Bridge and S. High streets

The competition among communities to be awarded a county courthouse was often fierce. In the instance of Clayton County, the first courthouse was built at Guttenberg in 1839.

In 1844, the designation was moved to Garnavillo (originally named Jacksonville), and it came to Elkader for a single year in 1856, then returned to Guttenberg. In 1860, it was back again in Elkader where it has remained. The present building was started in 1867, constructed with a temporary flat wood roof. A decade later, the building was completed with a hipped roof and a flat crown designed to receive a low cupola. In 1896 the cupola was extended upward to include a clock (which is still running) with four faces. The square two-story building, set low to the ground, rests upon a stone base, with hollow brick walls above. The detailing of the building, with its arched front windows, arched windows of the cupola, and bracketed hipped roof, places it stylistically within the Italianate mode. The configuration of the building—consisting of a rectangular box with a tall cupola—is often referred to as the “coffee mill” type of midwestern courthouse. The interior has been somewhat remodeled, but the central hall with its double staircase is still present. The building's siting on an open block overlooking the Turkey River gives it an impressive civic presence.

Writing Credits

David Gebhard and Gerald Mansheim


What's Nearby


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

Print Source

Buildings of Iowa, David Gebhard and Gerald Mansheim. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993, 94-95.

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