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