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.



200 West Centennial Avenue, Boulder, Montana ~ Public