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Fayette County Courthouse

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1923–1924, John G. Ralston. Courthouse Square, bound by Vine, Main, Walnut, and Elm streets

The first courthouse (Italianate in design), its wonderful tall, square cupola surmounted by a segmented dome, was built in 1856–1857 and was destroyed by fire in 1872. The second courthouse, Italian Renaissance in style, followed in 1874. This burned in 1922. The Waterloo architect John G. Ralston in 1923–1924 provided the city and county with a traditional well-detailed Beaux-Arts building in gray Bedford limestone and granite. At its dedication, it was described as rising “majestically from a base of granite, the whole scheme of architecture being classical and grand.” 24

Its two-story composition includes engaged piers and columns on a raised base; on the roof parapets there are four clock faces, one to a side. Though the building itself is low in profile, it does effectively dominate the downtown due to its hilltop location and the large size (400 feet by 400 feet) of its open site. Within, the building has a central rotunda surmounted by a colorful stained glass dome.


Herman J. Doscher, et al., eds., History of West Union, Iowa (West Union: Private printing, 1974), 40.

Writing Credits

David Gebhard and Gerald Mansheim


What's Nearby


David Gebhard and Gerald Mansheim, "Fayette County Courthouse", [West Union, 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, 452-453.

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