“A Credit to the Area:” the 1966 Courthouse

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

“When the county builds a new courthouse, Harvey County will have a fine building that will be a credit to the area for a half a century.” (John Stauffer, Editorial, Newton Kansan, 25 June 1955, p. 4.) 

In June 1955, the County Commissioners adopted a resolution providing for a one-mill levy on all taxable property in the county.  The money collected would go into a fund for “building, equipping and furnishing a courthouse and jail.” (Newton Kansan, 24 June 1955, p.1.)  They Commissioners estimated that with the county’s valuation at approximately $49,000,000 the fund would build up to $490,000 in ten years. This money could only be used to build a new courthouse, it could not be used to make repairs on the 1906 structure.

The reporter for the Newton Kansan explained that citizens could,

overrule commission action by signing  petitions in opposition to the new fund. At least 10 per cent of the qualified electors of the county must sign such  petitions by Aug. 6 and the petitions must be in the hands of the county clerk to make such a protest valid.”

There seem to have been no protests to the County Commissioner’s plan.  In an editorial in the Newton Kansan on June 25, 1955, editor John Stauffer praised the County Commissioners noting that they “recognized the need for a new building and have provided the best way possible to build it.”

Plans for a new courthouse were underway. In August 1962, the Newton Kansan reported,

“The present building is deteriorating rapidly.  An overhaul job would probably cost in the neighborhood of $50,000. . . .At current costs, price estimates for a new building range all the way from $900,000 to $1,200,000.” (Newton Kansan, 17 August 1962.)

The old building was maintained, however, with repairs to the roof approved by the Commissioners in 1962 at a cost of $636.00. (Commission Proceedings, 20 February 1962).

“Not unpleasing to the eye.”

Early in March 1963, the County Commissioners chartered a plane “at their own expense,” to visit the Cherokee County Courthouse in Columbus.

“Their eyes were literally . . . knocked out by what they saw – a commodious two-story building, with a jail added on top, erected in 1957 for $600,000.

Commissioner Warren Long commented that the Cherokee County Courthouse was “unquestionably the finest example we’ve encountered.”  Commissioners Eldo Steele and Clarence J. Tangeman agreed, although they did not like the jail on the top floor of the building. They further noted that “by passing on frills and curlicues outside . . . [Cherokee County] concentrated on roominess and conveniences . . . coming up with a shapely rectangle that is not unpleasing to the eye.”  (Newton Kansan, 13 March 1963)

With this building as a model, the Commissioners began work with architect, Ken Miller with the Hutchinson firm of Miller, Hiett, Dronberger & Arbuckle. After several drafts, the design was approved. Law-Pollitt Construction, Wichita, was hired for the construction.

Clipping from the Wichita Eagle, January 1964.

Clipping from the Wichita Eagle, January 1964.

Although the Presbyterian Church site had been purchased several years earlier gaining possession of the rest of the block was desirable.

Layout of courthouse block, 1963.

Layout of courthouse block, 1963.

Agreements were reached with the homeowners in May 1963. The county obtained all of Block 22 for the courthouse. The county auctioned the buildings on six properties on October 12, 1963. The buildings were either demolished or moved.

A fine building:” the New Courthouse

Construction on the new courthouse was begun in May 1964.  The building was ready for occupancy at the end of December 1965.

Dedication for the new courthouse was held in April 1966.

courthouse commissioners

Harvey County Courthouse, 1966

Harvey County Courthouse, 1966

The 1906 Courthouse was torn down in the spring and summer of 1966.

The Harvey County Courthouse constructed in 1965-66 is turning 50 in 2015-16, the same age as the 1906 Courthouse when it was demolished.  While the staff worked on the exhibit, “50 Years of Service: the Harvey County Courthouse,” we found ourselves asking questions.

  • What makes one architectural style more important than another? Fifty years from now, will Harvey County residents look back at the 1966 structure and say, ‘we are glad they preserved the courthouse and it’s 60s architecture?’  Will some still mourn the loss of the 1906 structure?
  • When do the realities of caring for an aging structure with accessibility issues and the money it costs, become too much of a burden for a community and a new building is desirable? Who makes that decision?

All things to think about as we work to preserve the historic buildings that remain in our communities.


  • Newton Kansan, 24 June 1955, p.1.
  • John Stauffer, Editorial, Newton Kansan, 25 June 1955, p. 4. 
  • Newton Kansan, 17 August 1962, 13 March 1963, 22 May 1963, 24 May 1963, .
  • Hollis, R. L. Architect, “Engineering Report on Existing Structural Condition of Building, Inspection Completed 15 March 1953.” Journal Commission Proceedings, copy, HCHM Archives.
  • Journal Commission Proceedings, 1953-1963, 1964-1971. copy HCHM Archives.
  • “Courthouse Scrapbook”  Newsclippings from the 1950s and 1960s during construction.  HC Local Gov’t Box 1B File 7, HC Courthouse, HCHM Archives.


Fifty Years of Service: the Harvey County Courthouse was made possible through a grant from the Kansas Humanities Council, a nonprofit cultural organization promoting understanding of the history, traditions, and ideas that shape our lives and build community.

Courthouse blog posts:

On-line exhibit

Demolition of the 1906 Courthouse

Forever Connected to the Old Courthouse: Delmar E. Brown

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Shortly after our exhibit, 50 Years of Service: the Harvey County Courthouse, opened in March, the museum received a letter from a long time HCHM supporter, John Wiebe.

He wrote:

“In the history of the old courthouse one person shouldn’t be overlooked, . . . Delmar Brown, the black longtime custodian of the old courthouse.” –John Wiebe letter, 3/18/2015.

Delmar E. Brown, Photo with Obituary in the Newton Kansan, 22 October 1966, p. 8.

Delmar E. Brown, Photo with Obituary in the Newton Kansan, 22 October 1966, p. 8.

According to Mr. Wiebe, Brown “was a very friendly person always smiling.” Wiebe recalled that often on his way to Newton High School, he “would cut thru the old courthouse.  Delmar would greet all the kids and let them warm up in the cold weather.”

Delmar E. Brown was born in Chase County, Kansas on June 1, 1898.  His parents, Jerry M. and Corean Brown, lived in Cottonwood Falls.  On November 17, 1920, he married Ethel M. Morris in Newton, Ks.  She had grown up in Strong City, also in Chase County.

In the 1938 Newton City Directories, the Brown family is living at 529 W. 6th, Newton in a house that they owned.  Delmar is listed as a janitor and Ethel as a maid. The couple had three daughters, Lois Irene (16), Wanda Marie (14) and Emma Jane (12).  Also during the late 1930s and early 1940s, Delmar worked at Regent Barber & Beauty Shop, which was located at 518 Main, as a “shine.” The Brown family were members of the 2nd Baptist Church in Newton.  Delmar was also a member of the Rising Sun Masonic Lodge of Newton. By 1948, Brown is listed as the courthouse custodian, a job he kept until he retired in 1965.  During his nearly 20 years as courthouse custodian, Mr. Brown no doubt learned to know every secret of the old building he faithfully cared for.

Sadly, on October 21, 1966, “Delmar E. Brown, retired courthouse custodian, was found dead about noon . . . at his  home 529 W 6th.” He was 68 years old and had lived in Newton for 46 years.  Ethel remained at the home they shared until her death on March 14, 1985.

To Wiebe, “Delmar Brown is forever connected to the old courthouse in Newton.”

Harvey County Courthouse, "back side" looking west toward Main..

Harvey County Courthouse, “back side” looking west toward Main..

Thank you to John Wiebe for taking the time to write down his memory of Delmar Brown and then to share it with us.


  • Wiebe, John to Curator, HCHM, Newton, Ks, March 18, 2015.
  • “Delmar E.Brown,” Newton Kansan 21 October 1966, p. 10
  • “Brown Funeral,” Newton Kansan 22 October 1966, p. 8.
  • “Mrs.Ethel M. Brown,” Newton Kansan 15 March 1985, p. 12.
  • Newton City Directories 1930 –  1972.  HCHM Archives.
  • U.S. Census, 1920, 1930.
  • U.S. World War 1 Draft Cards, 1917-1918.
  • U.S. Social Security Death Index.
  • Emogene Brown Moore Obituary, in Newton Kansan 16 March 1999 from the”U.S. Obituaries, American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, 1899-2012.”
Additional Notes:

The Regent Barber & Beauty Shop, 518 Main, Newton was owned by Lee Hendryx according to the 1940 City Directory.

“Now is the Time to Build: Court House Needed”

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Following the Bretch Building, the courthouse was once again housed in the Masonic Building at the corner of Broadway and Main, Newton.

Masonic Building, 700 N. Main, Newton, c. 1897.  Postcard, with large flags added.  This building housed the Harvey County Counthouse in 1880-1888 and again in 1896-1906.

Masonic Building, 700 N. Main, Newton, c. 1897. Postcard, with large flags added. This building housed the Harvey County Counthouse in 1880-1888 and again in 1896-1906.

According to several in the community, this building was less than ideal for a courthouse. The Evening Kansan Republican published a letter on June 9, 1904, written by Newton lawyer, J.S. Henderson in which he “calls attention to a few facts” regarding the need for a courthouse building.

Main Street, Newton, looking north.  Presbyterian Church and St. Mary's Church on the right, Methodist Church on the left. ca. 1905.

Main Street, Newton, looking north. Presbyterian Church and St. Mary’s Church on the right, Methodist Church on the left. ca. 1905.

The present building at Broadway and  Main had several drawbacks according to Henderson.  It was “undesirable, inconvenient, insecure, small and does not furnish the conveniences or the proper accommodations for . . . the business of the county.”  He gave the example of the jury rooms where the conditions ranged from “a sweat-box in summer to a refrigerator in winter.” The vaults that store the important documents of the county were small, dark and gloomy. He noted that the “present vaults would not withstand a fire.”

By this time, both McPherson and Reno counties had beautiful new courthouses “built by the people there-of without any oppressive or noticeable burden on them.”  According to Henderson, the cost would be minimal  and would come to roughly $3 a year for five years for Harvey County residents. He also noted that the annual rent the county was paying for the current location was $1250. If they acted soon, “the railroad, telegraph and telephone companies would pay one fourth of the cost of the building.”

Finally, he appealed to a sense of pride in the county.  He compared the county to a family and noted that the county family “should own and maintain a home . . . a building to which each and every individual of the county could point with pride and say ‘our court house’.”

It would be two more years before Harvey County had its own courthouse.  Architect,  James C. Holland was hired.  Holland was a well known architect in Kansas, working on many public buildings including schools, churches and the Marion County Courthouse.


Blueprint, Harvey County Courthouse, 1906, James C. Holland. HCHM Archives, Newton, Ks


A common feature of courthouses designed by Holland was the symmetry of the building around a central Gothic tower.


Building the courthouse, ca. 1905. Harvey County Jail is the limestone building in the background.



Postcard of Catholic Church, Court House and Presbyterian Church, shortly after the courthouse was completed. Note the hole for the clock. ca. 1907.


The stately new courthouse building was indeed  “a building to which each and every individual of the county could point with pride and say ‘our court house’.”

Parade in front of Harvey County Courthouse, 1917.  Lucile Mitchell Miller Collection HCHM Photos.

Parade in front of Harvey County Courthouse, 1917. Lucile Mitchell Miller Collection HCHM Photos.

Other blog posts related to the Harvey County Courthouse:


  • Henderson, J.S. “Court House Needed,” letter to the editor.  Evening Kansan Republican, 9 June 1904, p. 1.
  • “J.S. Henderson Called By Death,” Evening Kansan Republican 15 April 1947, p. 1.
  • Blueprints for the Harvey County Courthouse by J.C. Holland, 1905-06, HCHM Archives.
  • “James C. Holland” at http://www.kshs.org/kansapedia/james-c-holland/16802.
  • “National and State Register of Historic Places – Kansas Historical Society” at http://www.kshs.org/natreg/natreg_listings/search/prop:/city:/county:/arch:holland.
  • “Courthouses Designed by J.C. Holland” at http://jameshollandrealestate.wordpress.com/2011/07/11


Our new exhibit, 50 years of Service: the Harvey County Courthouse is open during museum hours.  Admission is free. Coming soon to our web site, an on-line exhibit featuring the courthouse.