Beaux-Arts classical buildings can sometimes look lavish, laden with festoons and flourishes. Here, though, Bell, from Minneapolis, created a study in symmetry and balance. The courthouse’s rough granite ground floor gives way to two stories of smooth Bedford limestone, then a balustraded attic. A copper-clad, clock-faced dome boasts Ionic columns, knob finials, and a crowning lantern. The plan is cross-axial, with a pedimented central pavilion dominating each facade. Bell saved the most monumental elements for the main facade. Paired Ionic columns soar two stories to support a projecting cornice and a pediment with an oculus. An addition of 1992 echoes the basic form of Bell’s original building.
At the northeast corner of the courthouse lawn the Spirit of the Northwest (1931), sculpted by local artist Sidney Bedore, portrays three key figures in Green Bay’s history: French explorer-trader Nicolas Perrot, Jesuit missionary Claude Allouez, and an unnamed Indian. Inside the courthouse, murals painted by Franz Rohrbeck and Franz Bieberstein of Milwaukee depict Jean Nicolet’s 1634 landing on the Green Bay shore, battles between Europeans and Native peoples, the arrival of Father Allouez, and a scene of old Fort Howard. In the dome, local history gives way to allegorical images of Justice, Agriculture, Commerce, and Industry. The wall design employs a Roman-inspired sequence of forms often adopted in American civic buildings: the first-story columns use the simple Doric order, the second-story columns boast more ornate Ionic volutes, and the third story showcases the exuberant Corinthian order. The third-floor courtrooms feature stenciled ceilings, marble wainscoting, and quarter-sawn oak furnishings.