Courthouse to celebrate 101 years

Courtesy/Elaine Griffith

LUSK – The Niobrara County Elected Officials invite the public to join with them in celebrating the 101st birthday of the Niobrara County Courthouse and the dedication of the historical sign which was donated by the Niobrara Historical Society. The celebration will be at the Niobrara County Courthouse, 424 South Elm Street in Lusk on Friday, Oct. 15. The open house will be from 1-3 p.m. with the dedication ceremony at 2 p.m. on the south lawn of the courthouse.

Historical information

Niobrara County was created from the former territory of Converse County by an act of the Wyoming Legislature on Feb. 14, 1911 and was organized Jan. 6, 1913. Lusk was designated as the county seat. Both the creation of the county, and the choice of Lusk over Manville as the county seat were highly contentious and debated topics at the time.

Quarters for the county offices were established in the Fraternal Building, and the county paid a monthly rental of $125 to the Masonic Lodge. One of the first acts of the new Board of County Commissioners was to purchase land for the construction of the new jail, which was constructed in 1913. The present courthouse was later erected on this ground.

Funds for the construction of the courthouse were not approved until 1918. At the general election on Nov. 6, 1918, results of the bond election showed 422 favorable votes and 393 votes against the $60,000 courthouse bonds, which were also to cover necessary furnishings and equipment. Total cost of construction and furnishings was $82,405. The building officially opened Feb. 2, 1920.

The 19th century style of the courthouse was often used in the central states for such government buildings. The two-story building is constructed of deep red brick, with porticoes on the east and south entrances. The legend "A Public Office Is a Public Trust" is above the south entrance. White-colored trim decorates the roofline, and the base is a white-colored brick. A bronze statue of "Justice" with her scales originally topped a dome with four large clocks, the faces of which could be seen from every corner of the town. Four main offices were provided on the first floor, two offices on the second floor with courtroom, and also rooms in the basement.

"Justice" was removed in 1930 due to weight shifting and vibrations caused by high winds resulting in damage to the roof. She was eventually scrapped for the war effort in World War II. Along with "Justice" went the dome. There is now a small square white cupola on the center of the roof.

Over one hundred years later, the courthouse stands nearly unchanged from its original construction. In 1987, a detention center was added to the north side.

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