Anoka County history: County courthouses over the years

by Leslie Plummer 

The winter of 1821 brought a group of soldiers from Mendota to find timber for buildings at Ft. Snelling.

Upstream from the Rum River, logs were floated downstream on the Mississippi to the site.

Located strategically on two rivers, the township of Anoka was established in the 1850s.

Anoka County was organized by an act of the Minnesota Territorial Legislature on May 23, 1857.

The name Anoka was derived from two Indian words, the Dakota word A-NO-KA-TAN-HAN meaning on both sides of the river, and the Ojibwa word ON-O-KAY, meaning working waters.

The first county courthouse was completed in July 1877 at a cost of only $20,000, including furniture, furnaces, the architect, and superintendent.

The brick that was used was Anoka brick and trimmed with bands of Red Wing pressed brick.

This beautiful building was used as the seat of Anoka County government until 1960.

I found a striking sketch in a book at the Anoka County Historical Society titled “Anoka in 1889.”

The cornerstone was laid at a new courthouse in 1960.

Inside the cornerstone are county commission papers, a history of Anoka County, letters and other documents.

The modern building was built for $850,000.

The new building was made of concrete, steel and glass.

It boasted a gas fired boiler for heating and an elevator to serve the five floors.

The new building had more than 132 rooms, including two district courtrooms and offices for the county attorneys and probation officers.

The jail facilities were considered escape-proof and were approved by the FBI for housing federal prisoners.

An independent study predicted a shortage of space by the year 2000.

By June of 1991 construction was under way on a 265,000 square-foot building at the current site of the Anoka County Government Center.

The cost was a bit more than in the past, $17.5 million.

The now seven-story building houses many of the county services, including human services, voter registration and property management along with the district courtrooms.

The Anoka County Historical Society inherited probate records from the county from 1853 to 1921 and probate court records and will receipts from 1904 to 1934.

These records show records and wills down to the minutest details.

Yes, you can see who inherited grandmother’s fine china.

Anoka has undergone many changes in its 160-plus year history.

Some were man made and some by Mother Nature.

Fires several times destroyed the downtown area and a tornado tore through causing massive devastation.

In the Anoka County Union an old photograph shows covered wagons slowly making their way down Main Street their wagon wheels deep in the mud.

Anoka is a small city, rich in history.

There is more than meets the eye and other history in addition to being the Halloween Capital of the World.

Editor’s note: Leslie Plummer is a volunteer with the Anoka County Historical Society. 

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