Northland Uncovered: Lake County Courthouse

TWO HARBORS, Minn. – County courthouses are visited for necessity and oftentimes the history represented within the walls is overlooked.

One courthouse in the Northland has been standing for over 100 years, but it wasn’t always that way.

Two Harbors resident Mitchel Costley knows all about the Lake County Courthouse, “I grew up here, so I’ve been in and out of that building my entire life.”

Not only did Costley visit the building for regular appointments, he also worked in the building for many years as the county attorney.

During that time, Costley says everyone seemed to know one another.

“When you walked in the building everybody that was a county official was like your neighbor or a cousin. It was people you knew,” Costley explained.

Costley explains Two Harbors as a tight-knit community, “we never left here. Our families came here in the late 1800s, early 1900s, worked for the railroad or worked for the government.”

This community made the structure more than just a county need.

“There was a feeling, not only about the building itself, but there’s a feeling about how the building functioned. That’s the neat part of that building,” said Costley.

The structure was built in 1906 and designed by architect James Allen Macleod.

However, this wasn’t the first Lake County Courthouse, “it was just a typical power grab. The people that had more people went and grabbed the building and brought it down here,” said Costley.

The first county courthouse was established in Beaver Bay in 1888, “the railroad literally went to Beaver Bay, along with locals, and brought the county seat to Two Harbors,” explained Costley.

The wooden frame courthouse burned down in 1904 and the building that stands today is the replacement.

When the courthouse was built, the dome, located in the courtroom, was open.

Because of acoustical problems, the dome was enclosed in 1945 and is no longer visible.

Lake County covers four state parks, a national forest, and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.


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