by Dennis Dalman
The Stearns County Courthouse in downtown St. Cloud will host a centenary celebration from 4:30-7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15, and the public is invited to enjoy fun activities.
The celebration will feature food trucks, live music, a courthouse trivia session, courthouse bingo for kids, a scavenger hunt for all ages, prizes, face-painting, sheriff’s office personal with K-9 dogs and a drone and sheriff’s give-aways for kids. Visitors will be able to see inside the courthouse dome and other parts of the building, including the tunnel underneath it. They will hear stories from judges, attorneys, staff and others who have worked for years in the courthouse.
Work on a new courthouse began in 1921 and was completed by Christmas 1922. The cost of the structure was $800,000, the equivalent of nearly $13 million in today’s dollars.
The large, square brown-brick building, with its canary-yellow terra-cotta tiled dome, was built on the same site of the former Stearns County courthouse. That structure had been built in 1865, the year the American Civil War ended, and Stearns County’s population grew so fast in the coming years that four additions to that courthouse were built throughout the last third of the 19th Century.
The new structure (the current one) features six solid-granite pillars at its southside entrance. The granite for the pillars was quarried from the Rockville area.
The interior of the courthouse has a grand stairway in its lobby that rises left and right to upstairs offices and courtrooms. On the wall space about the impressive stairway is a modernist art-deco-style mural of two Native Americans on horseback, painted in flowing shapes and bright pastel colors. It was painted by a St. Paul artist.
In the 100-year history of the courthouse, there have been numerous notable happenings. Among them are the following:
During a campaign stop in 1952, U.S. presidential contender President Dwight D. Eisenhower spoke from the steps of the courthouse to a huge gathering of well-wishers. During his appearance, he also crowned the homecoming queen of St. Cloud Teachers’ College (now St. Cloud State University). Eisenhower was elected as president that year and served two terms (1953-1961).
In 1967, the courthouse was the site of a much-publicized murder trial. At a home at Pearl Lake, near Kimball, a man named David Hoskins was the lone survivor of a fire that destroyed his family’s house. Found dead in the home was his wife, who had been shot, and four young children who had apparently died in the fire. Hoskins had gun wounds he later admitted were self-inflicted to cast blame on non-existent intruders with guns. He was convicted of wsecond-degree murder of his wife and four children and sentenced to 40 years in Stillwater prison.
On a brighter note, another notable event happened in 1992 when a courtroom in the courthouse was used to film some scenes for “The Mighty Ducks” movie. The Walt-Disney produced film starred Emilio Estevez as the coach of a fictional peewees’ hockey team, based in the Twin Cities. While filming in Minneapolis, the cast and crew scouted around for a courtroom location and decided upon one in St. Cloud.
In 1988, an underground gas explosion in downtown happened very near Courthouse Square. The massive explosion killed four people, injured 11 others and demolished six buildings. Debris damaged offices next to the courthouse..
Throughout the years, the courthouse plaza has been the site of many rallies, including demonstrations against the Vietnam War in the 1960s, peace rallies and more recently a gathering to oppose the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the Court’s 1973 ruling that allowed access to legal abortions.