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The fascinating history of the Appanoose County Courthouse

Monday, October 12, 2015

 

The Appanoose County Courthouse has a long and fascinating history. The courthouse you see today in the Centerville Town Square is not the one that was original to the county. The Town Square site is original, with the intent of town founders to use the square for the courthouse and focal point of the city. And the Square has fulfilled that purpose through three separate courthouses.

 

The first courthouse on the site was completed in the spring of 1848. It was a log building constructed by James L. Jackson, with Jesse Wood laying in the floors and putting in the windows. The structure was built for a cost of approximately $338, which was not paid in cash. Instead, Jackson and Wood received town lots in payment for their work.

 

The second courthouse built on the Square was a 2-story brick structure designed by architect Charles A. Dunham. The decision to construct a new courthouse was made by the Board of Supervisors in 1860, but due to the Civil War, construction was not complete until 1864. The cost of the second courthouse was $23,000. It was demolished in 1903.

 

The third courthouse, the one that sits in the center of the Town Square to this day, was bonded for by voters in 1902 and dedicated on September 12, 1904. It was designed by Des Moines architects Smith and Gage and built by Centerville man William Peatman. Its exterior is Bedford limestone and features a Neo-classical style. The courthouse is oriented so that the four faces of its clock tower line up with the four main thoroughfares of the city. The clock was illuminated with electricity when it was built. The courthouse cost $90,600 to build. It and the entire Town Square, encompassing 119 buildings, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.


To read the National Register nomination application for the Town Square, go to http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NRHP/Text/64500148.pdf.

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