Anoka County history: County courthouse moves to Heights

The name Kordiak is well known in the southern portion of Anoka County.

Parts of the old Manomin County (what is today Fridley, Hilltop, Spring Lake Park, and Columbia Heights) have been represented on the county board by a Kordiak since 1954 when 26-year-old Albert Kordiak was first elected.

Kordiak served on the board until his retirement in 1986. Jim Kordiak, his son, was elected after him and continues to serve to this day.

For many of his years on the county board Kordiak served as its chairperson.

In this position he witnessed and helped shape Anoka County during a time of unprecedented growth and suburban development.

When he was first elected, the county was a largely agricultural community and it had transformed into a suburban community by the time he retired.

It’s nearly impossible to boil down a 32-year public service career into a handful themes, but few would argue that Kordiak was well known for being an advocate for Columbia Heights and southern Anoka County and for his commitment to creating and maintaining a park system.

Today, in Columbia Heights’ Kordiak Park, there is a piece of history that brings both those passions together.

The park is east of Central Avenue, along 49th Avenue.

If you visit the park today you’ll see a large stone that reads “Anoka County Courthouse” in the park.

The story of how it got there is one that Kordiak loves to tell.

Before the explosive suburban growth that gave prominence to communities like Fridley, Blaine, Coon Rapids and Lino Lakes, Anoka and Columbia Heights were the two dominant rivals in Anoka County.

With Anoka having served as the county seat since the county’s 1857 founding, Columbia Heights and its residents sometimes felt that they did not get enough recognition from the county.

At different points over the years there were rumblings about moving the Anoka County Courthouse south to Columbia Heights.

To my knowledge, this never moved past the rumblings stage, but it demonstrates the rivalry between the two cities.

In fact, Kordiak made a campaign issue out of it when he ran his first campaign for county board. He stated he would bring Columbia Heights’s voice to the county board.

When he first joined the board in 1954, all of the county’s offices were housed in the 1877 courthouse that sat in a large green field at the corner of Third and Main in Anoka.

The administrative and court needs of the county were handled in the building, along with the sheriff’s office (located under the stairs).

It was already well known that new facilities were needed. The courthouse stayed in Anoka, with the new building’s cornerstone laid in 1960.

The construction was supervised by Everett Vevea, the county engineer.

Kordiak tells a story about Vevea trying to figure out what to do with a large piece of the building:

“They tore down the old building. [Vevea] came in to one of county commissioner meetings. He said, ‘Geeze,’ he says, ‘I’ve got this big – it’s not a cornerstone, but it’s a big stone that says “courthouse.” He says, ‘Geeze,’ he said, ‘I hate to throw this away!’

I said, ‘Absolutely no! Bring that down to Columbia Heights. If it says “courthouse” on it, I want to bring the courthouse to Columbia Heights.’”

And so a piece of the original county courthouse came to Columbia Heights and was placed in the county park that would later be named for Al Kordiak and he was able to fulfill his campaign promises to bring the courthouse to Columbia Heights. Sort of.

Editor’s note: Todd Mahon is the Executive Director of the Anoka County Historical Society.

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