“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Waukesha in Waukesha County, Wisconsin — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)

Courthouse Square

Courthouse Square Marker image. Click for full size.
By Paul F, October 5, 2010
1. Courthouse Square Marker
Inscription. This site has been used for County purposes since Waukesha county was created (1846). Site of first courthouse (built 1846-1849), jail (1847) & office building (1860). New limestone Richardsonian Romanesque courthouse built on same site (1893). New jail (1885). Addition (1938) joined courthouse and jail. Complex used as courthouse (1893-1959). Home of Waukesha County Museum since 1914.
Also was site of earthen mounds of a Native American people, Effigy Mounds Tradition, late Woodland period (ca. 600-1200 A.D.)
The mounds were on what became Main Street, on eastern part of this site; and the turtle and 2 others on St. Joseph’s property in back of this building. Most of the 7 mounds were in geometric shapes, but one was a giant “turtle”, whose body was 56’ & tail was 250’. It stood 6’ tall. Because of development in the 1840’s 50’s, nothing remains of this mound group.
Erected 1999 by Waukesha Count Historical Society. (Marker Number 34-03.)
Location. 43° 0.752′ N, 88° 13.637′ W. Marker is in Waukesha, Wisconsin, in Waukesha County. Marker is at the intersection of Main Street and West Main Street and North East Avenue, on the right when traveling east on Main Street. Click for map.
Courthouse Square Marker image. Click for full size.
By William H. Roth, August 3, 2013
2. Courthouse Square Marker
Marker is at or near this postal address: 101 W Main St, Waukesha WI 53186, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Waukesha Freeman (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); Waukesha Civic Theatre (WCT) (approx. 0.2 miles away); Rotunda (approx. 0.2 miles away); American Legion Home (approx. ¼ mile away); New Tribes Bible Institute (approx. 0.3 miles away); Silurian Spring (approx. 0.3 miles away); Cohn's Shoe Store (approx. 0.3 miles away); Waukesha City - Cutler Park (approx. 0.4 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Waukesha.
Additional comments.
1. Waukesha County Courthouses
On July 4, 1846, the towns west of Milwaukee were separated from Milwaukee County and became Waukesha County. A new governing body was chosen for this new county in the territory of Wisconsin. There were 25 formal ballots taken before Prairieville was chosen to be the county seat. Once that was determined, lots 1, 2, and 3 of Block F on the Prairieville plat map became the site for the county buildings.

The jail was completed on that site in 1847. The courthouse was completed in 1849, even though the cornerstone was inscribed as erected in 1846. The style of the courthouse
Courthouse Square Marker image. Click for full size.
By Paul F, October 5, 2010
3. Courthouse Square Marker
was Greek Revival. It became apparent that more space was needed to conduct the county's business, so a one-story building was erected in 1860 between the courthouse and the jail for that purpose.

In 1885 a new jail was built which added steam heat, iron bunks instead of hammocks, and plumbing connected to the city sewer system. In 1892 an annual inventory taken showed that more space was needed as the county continued to grow. A new and modern courthouse was designed in a Richardson Romanesque style with a Lannon stone exterior.

Some of the unique features of this new building were the Goddess Of Justice statue constructed of iron and gold leaf overlay on the tower, a clock face 7 feet in diameter, and a three-paneled stained glass window with the center panel depicting a blindfolded justice holding scales. Many vaults were independently built of fireproof brick throughout the building to contain the court's documents and other important papers. In March 1893 the old courthouse was razed to make room for the new one. On January 1, 1894, the fist circuit court was held in the new building.

Again in 1938 more office space was needed. It was during the Great Depression, so it was taken on as a WPA project. There were no frills, only clean lines. Later this style was known as Art Deco or Art Moderne.

After World War II and into the 1950s, things
Courthouse Square image. Click for full size.
By Paul F, October 5, 2010
4. Courthouse Square
Looking southwest from corner of Main Street and East Avenue
were changing and growing again. Parking became a big issue with only street parking available in front of the courthouse. The people of the county wanted to find a piece of land west of the city on which to expand. So a site was purchased on West Moreland Boulevard. The new courthouse and jail was dedicated on October 11, 1959.

The old 1893 courthouse, 1938 addition, and 1895 jail were kept for other government agencies and the Waukesha County Historical Society and Museum to reside. The original 1846 wood-carved coat of arms of the State of Wisconsin was saved and brought to the 1959 courthouse. Also the Goddess of Justice was brought from the 1893 building tower and resides inside the main doors of the new courthouse.
    — Submitted April 27, 2011, by Linda Hansen of Waukesha, Wisconsin.

Categories. Native AmericansNotable BuildingsSettlements & Settlers
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Paul Fehrenbach of Germantown, Wisconsin. This page has been viewed 893 times since then and 79 times this year. Photos:   1. submitted on , by Paul Fehrenbach of Germantown, Wisconsin.   2. submitted on , by William H. Roth of Deltona, Florida.   3, 4. submitted on , by Paul Fehrenbach of Germantown, Wisconsin. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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