Filed Under Boulder

Jefferson County Courthouse

In 1888, Jefferson County voters passed a $40,000 bond issue to build a permanent courthouse. Flourishing gold and silver mines and the advent of the railroad meant the county would see its population quadruple between 1870 and 1890, and there looked to be no end to the boom. Seeking a building that mirrored their confidence in the future, county commissioners hired Montana Territory’s most noted architect, the German-born and trained John Paulsen, to draw up plans. Paulsen reflected the young settlement’s ambitions with this Richardsonian Romanesque style building. Inspired by the enduring structures of the Middle Ages, the style particularly appealed to frontier communities that wanted to assert their staying power. The massive courthouse features a tall square tower capped by an octagonal spire and two turrets. It also boasts the semi-circular arches, rough-cut stone accents, and asymmetrical roofline that typify Richardsonian Romanesque. Gargoyles at the building’s corners, perched just below the eaveline, add a touch of whimsy. Contractor J. S. McKenzie built the two-story monument from locally quarried granite and bricks burned within a mile of the construction site. The interior features elaborate woodwork, including decorative door and window trim and an ornately carved staircase. In the courtroom itself, walls rise twenty feet to a ceiling of stained beams and planking. Completed the year Montana achieved statehood, the building ultimately cost the county approximately $50,000 (an estimated $1.1 million in today’s dollars). Built for the ages, it is one of the oldest courthouses in Montana still used for its original purpose.

Images

Jefferson County Courthouse, Boulder, MT
Jefferson County Courthouse, Boulder, MT View facing northwest at building facade. Source: Montana History Portal Creator: Unidentified photographer Date: Between 1890 and 1920
Jefferson County Courthouse, Boulder, MT
Jefferson County Courthouse, Boulder, MT View from a nearby street, showing a masonry structure with turrets and a tower and landscaping around the building. Source: Montana History Portal Creator: Peter G. Meloy, photographer Date: Nov. 1970
Jefferson County Courthouse, Boulder, MT
Jefferson County Courthouse, Boulder, MT View of the Jefferson County Courthouse from across the street, showing masonry structure with turrets and a tower, landscaping around the building, and forested mountains in the distance. Source: Montana History Portal Creator: Unidentified photographer Date: Between 1960 and 1975
Jefferson County Courthouse, Boulder, MT
Jefferson County Courthouse, Boulder, MT Front to side view of the building, facing north on West 3rd Avenue. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Urbaniak Date: 2014
Jefferson County Courthouse, Boulder, MT
Jefferson County Courthouse, Boulder, MT View of facade. Source: Montana Historical Society Creator: Joe Furshong, photographer Date: May 2019
Jefferson County Courthouse, Boulder, MT
Jefferson County Courthouse, Boulder, MT Detail view of masonry entrance surround and tower. Digital photograph. Source: Montana Historical Society Creator: Joe Furshong, photographer Date: May 2019
Jefferson County Courthouse, Boulder, MT
Jefferson County Courthouse, Boulder, MT Interior view looking up wood staircase. Digital photograph. Source: Montana Historical Society Creator: Joe Furshong, photographer Date: May 2019

Location

200 West Centennial Avenue, Boulder, Montana | Public

Metadata

The Montana National Register Sign Program, “Jefferson County Courthouse,” Historic Montana, accessed March 5, 2024, https://historicmt.org/items/show/662.