Jefferson County Courthouse, Fairfield, Iowa

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There are surely only a few courthouses in Iowa that are not spectacular, and the Jefferson County Courthouse shows the much more common finding when one heads to the county seat of any county in the state.  The robust, hulking and immensely beautiful courthouse shows the optimism of the 1890’s in southeastern Iowa, when this Richardsonian Romanesque edifice designed by H.C. Koch rose on a block just north of downtown Fairfield.

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As is common in the Romanesque Revival style, the first floor, usually referred to the basement in Medieval castles, is constructed of rusticated sandstone, with a large Romanesque arch entryway.

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Intricate detailing borrowed from Romanesque motifs decorate the archway.

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The tower, restored in 2004, dominates the southwest corner of the building, and alludes to the fortress-like composition.

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The western facade, facing a major street, sports a beautiful terracotta relief sculpture.

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Blind Justice administers as Harmony and Strife seek to influence her.

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Picturesque details, such as this little projecting turret that may contain a staircase, make this building truly unique.

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I found conflicting dates on the construction of the building, but they all date between 1891-3.  The main courtroom was just renovated in 2010.  Look at the progression of the renovation here.

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At some point, it seems the smokestack was replaced.

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One Response

  1. samizdat

    10/22/2013, 09:42 am

    That is a fine pile, right there. That sandstone is in mighty fine condition, a marked contrast to most sandstone structure and detailing in St. Louis. Hell, the cut marks from the mason’s chisels are still there. Must be because Iowa didn’t have the acidic atmosphere that St. Louis and other heavily industrialized cities had across most of the late 19th and early/mid 20th centuries.

    *A note to architects who work on restoring/updating historic buildings: Dropping the ceilings will not make the building more efficient. Heat rises, remember? Good circulation and a low emissivity film on the original windows with good storms will. Oh, right, and keep the original windows.

    Reply

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