This former courthouse, now a museum, presides serenely over a quiet town square. But in the nineteenth century, controversy raged around Durand’s status as county seat. There was nothing unusual about towns battling for a county seat, but in S-shaped Pepin County, where no community could claim a central location, the fight was especially bitter. In 1861, amid charges of election fraud, Durand seized the honor from the village of Pepin and, to cement its claim, built this courthouse in 1874. The civic leaders’ ploy initially failed, however, for in 1881 another election moved the seat to nearby Arkansaw. But Durand still had this building, a proper courthouse, while Arkansaw had only temporary office facilities. In 1886, voters decided to save the expense of a new courthouse, and Durand has been the county seat ever since.
The building is a charming structure, one of only two Greek Revival courthouses left in the state. Its temple front of four Doric columns rises two stories to support a colossal pediment. A blind lunette pierces the pediment, echoing the fanlight over the double-door entrance below. Atop the roof, a square belfry with louvered openings makes the building look a bit front-heavy. Unfortunately, aluminum siding has replaced the original clapboard, and segmental-arched window hoods have given way to simple wooden frames.