Although the seat of Page County
government was established in 1851 in Clarinda, the house for this government
was not as easily built. After several attempts to build the Courthouse, it was
finally begun with the laying of the cornerstone on July 4, 1885.
The bid was $71,000 and the total cost of this Courthouse was $86,500—which
included the building and clock tower, heating, fixtures and furnishings and
artwork (I assume this means the extensive stenciling that was done throughout
the building which came to light after the fire).
The stained glass window in the courtroom was not mentioned in the minutes, but
it was a double-hung window, possibly taken from a church and put in the
The supervisor’s minutes were not really very detailed over the years about the
actual building or building upkeep. The local Herald Journal was the source for
most of the information.
We know that in 1931, Lady Justice was deposed from the throne on south side of
the Courthouse—because she was seen to be weaving back and forth during a
windstorm. According to the paper, 2 8-foot statues were placed on the
building—the statue holding the sword on the north and lady justice on the
south. Although nothing is mentioned in the Board minutes, these statues are
said to have been placed soon after the roofing was completed in 1885. Like so
many things, we don’t know where the statues were taken or what happened to
Around 1948 there was a fire in the Courthouse attic.
In 1949, major remodeling was done to the interior of the Courthouse. Metal
stairs were built and were placed in the rotunda. One section of railing was
taken out—it, too, disappeared. In 1989, that ugly metal stair was removed to
restore the rotunda to its original beauty.
On June 26, 1950, the state fire marshal ordered the brick clock tower to be
taken down within 60 days—because of falling bricks. It wasn’t until over a year
later--1951 that it came down. From the articles written at the time, this was a
very sad day for the people of Page County. The Courthouse then became a “flat
top” with a wrought iron railing and flag pole.
In 1965, a 2-story building addition was put in the NE corner—this housed the
judge on 2nd floor and the sheriff’s office on 1st. This addition was removed
after the fire, during the courthouse restoration to bring the building back to
its original architecture.
In 1986-87, the elevator was put in. (During the restoration, the elevator was
extended to the new third floor.)
Then on December 11, 1991, the tragic courthouse fire. The cause of the fire was
left “undetermined”. Many speculated that the Christmas lights caused the fire,
but that was not true. On that terrible December night, as the fire raged on,
the American and Iowa flags continued to fly on top of the courthouse. It was
only when the rotunda roof burned that the flagpole fell to the west, remaining
on the burned-out shell of the courthouse until the flags could be retrieved a
few days later. Offices were moved to temporary quarters in a former department
store building purchased by the County.
Out of the ashes came a stronger seat of Page County government. The people of
Page County united in supporting the rebuilding of this historic building by an
overwhelming 85% favorable vote on an $875,000 bond issue during an August, 1992
election. Those ten-year bonds were paid off
June 30, 2003. Another $175,000 was raised in private donations to replace the
The reconstruction began in January of 1993 and the offices were moved back into
the Courthouse on March 23 and 24, 1994.
On June 5, 1994, a rededication ceremony was held, with a huge crowd in
attendance and a flyover by the Iowa Air National Guard.
In 2000, Page County was awarded the “David Archie Award for Historical
Preservation”. What an honor!
The Page County Courthouse stands as the center of Page County Government,
standing straight and tall and proud, with a new clock tower that can be seen
“Our beautifully restored Courthouse stands as a testament to the fortitude,
conviction and belief in Page County by its citizens. Long may she stand to
serve future generations.”