Minneapolis and Hennepin County founders had a grand vision for their city when construction of the City Hall and Courthouse began in 1887. Just a decade before it had become readily apparent that the existing — and geographically separate — city hall and county courthouse buildings had increasingly inadequate space for serving the needs of a rapidly growing frontier town. Finally, with much deliberation, a decision was made to join the two entities under one roof with the guidance of a committee comprised of both City Council members and County Commissioners.
The City Hall and Courthouse was built between 1887 and 1906 on the site of the first public schoolhouse west of the Mississippi River. Designed by Long and Keys Architects in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, the building boasts a five-story Rotunda, stained glass windows designed and created by Ford Brothers Glass Company, a clock tower that rivals Big Ben, and the Father of Waters statue carved of marble from the Carrara quarries used by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.
The County ceremoniously moved in November 11, 1895, and the City followed on December 15, 1902. A 1904 Minnesota Statute decreed that both parties were to share in the care and regulation of the building under the direction of the independent Municipal Building Commission, which continues to care, operate and preserve the building to this day.
When completed, the City Hall and Courthouse had more than enough room for government functions – a blacksmith shop, a horse stable, a wool brokerage, and a chicken hatchery rented the building’s excess space. After 1940, things started getting crowded and, despite major modifications, the only solution was a new building. Hennepin County moved most operations across the street into its new Government Center in 1975. Today, City departments occupy 60 percent of the building and the County and District Court occupy 40 percent.