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