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Lafayette County Courthouse

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1905, Kinney and Detweiler. 626 Main St.

Set atop a hill, this imposing limestone courthouse and its magnificent cupola command the skyline. Minneapolis architects Kinney and Detweiler designed the courthouse when Beaux-Arts classicism was all the rage for public buildings. Symmetry, classical detail, opulence, and monumentality distinguish the courthouse. It is rectangular in plan and two stories in height on a raised basement, with projecting corner pavilions. Deeply rusticated quoins define the pavilions, and the second-story windows bear stone garlands and winged cartouches. Colossal Ionic columns define the central portico, which supports an entablature underneath a pediment carved in relief with the head of Matthew Murphy, whose estate paid for the building’s construction. A classical balustrade wraps around the base of the courthouse’s low-hipped roof. The cupola rises from a square base, with paired Ionic columns framing a window on each side, to clock faces set in curvilinear parapets and an octagonal drum. The crowning touch is a copper-clad, octagonal dome, pierced by bull’s-eye windows and topped with a lantern and finial.

The interior is equally opulent. In the central rotunda, marble pedestals support arches adorned with rosettes, and murals of Justice, Equality, Courage, and Liberty by Norwegian immigrant Odin J. Oyen of La Crosse embellish the spandrels above the arches. Most impressive is the magnificent stained glass skylight. Its ochre panels are colored by blue and green oval motifs, and the whole ringed by a brown and amber meander pattern. A circular lightwell in the terrazzo floor and a glass grid on the main floor allow light from the skylight to reach the basement. The courtroom features an elaborate stenciled ceiling, ornate moldings, and a large mural depicting a winged Justice.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Marsha Weisiger et al.
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Citation

Marsha Weisiger et al., "Lafayette County Courthouse", [Darlington, Wisconsin], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/WI-01-LT2.

Print Source

Buildings of Wisconsin

Buildings of Wisconsin, Marsha Weisiger and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2017, 340-340.

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