Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Ben Rueter

A look back at Dunn County’s government center building

On July 25, The Dunn County Board voted by a 26-1 margin to move its offices in the Dunn County Government Center, 800 Wilson Ave., into the Dunn County Community Services Building at 3001 U.S. 12 E.

Chairman David Bartlett said that he hates to see the county move locations.

His father was on the county board when Bartlett was growing up and he can remember visiting the Government Center, formerly the county courthouse.

“‘Wow this is a castle’ I can remember feeling that,” he said.

He said that he can sympathize with Supervisor Larry Bjork who was the sole opposing vote not to relocate the county office in July.

At the time Bjork told the board to stay put and that he believes the past supervisors that dedicated the current offices in the 1960s would want them to invest in the property.

The Dunn County Government Center was dedicated on Nov. 5, 1960. Originally called the Dunn County Courthouse. Today the county courthouse is located at 615 Stokke Parkway.

According to documents available at the dedication, the cost of the building per square foot was $18.24. The total cost was $903,624.

The building was designed to be functional yet aesthetically interesting.

This led to the “Y” shape of the building with the open end facing north. Due to the shape it creates three wings and it’s stated that the shape “emanates from the idea that all entry would be at the center of the building.”

According to an Eau Claire Leader article from Nov. 3, 1960, the “Y” shape caused some people to laugh at its design and questioned if it was worth almost $1 million.

The Government Center was glaringly different from the former courthouse in the adjacent block that featured 1870s architecture.

Leading up to the construction the project hit some road bumps. When work began the county was around $600,000 short.

The type of brick was another obstacle. Red brick was the preferred choice and the county could get it from a local contractor lowering the cost. However, the Building Committee went with a light brick that wasn’t available locally because it would separate the building better from a Catholic church and school nearby.

Its seems that once the project was finished all of this was forgotten. In a letter to the Building Committee, Edwin O. Eckert said that “this new county courthouse building, located in Menomonie, is one which will not be duplicated elsewhere and of which the people of Dunn County should be exceedingly proud.”


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