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Monuments and Milestones
Douglas County Courthouse
In early territorial days, permanent county government offices did not exist in Douglas County; instead, office space was rented. In 1899, a tax was levied to create a permanent courthouse to accomodate the Douglas County government. The initial cost of the courthouse was $80,000 with additional legislation allowing $20,000 for furnishings.
In 1902, J.B. Watkins of the Watkins National Bank (now Watkins Community Museum of History) donated four lots at the southeast corner of 11th and Massachusetts Streets to the county. After the deed to the land was accepted in March of the same year, the county commissioners began accepting proposals from architects. The applications were narrowed to two men: John G. Haskell of Lawrence and Frederick C. Gunn of Kansas City, MO. Haskell was a widely known architect who designed many homes and buildings in Lawrence as well as part of the Kansas State Capital building. Gunn was an up-and-coming architect who became widely recognized after designing the Missouri State Building in Kansas City. Haskell and Gunn compromised, agreeing to work together to prepare the plans allowing the commissioners to begin taking bids for construction, plumbing, and heating.
On July 4, 1903, a grand ceremony, including a procession down Massachusetts Street to the construction site, was planned to coincide with the laying of the courthouse cornerstone. Construction was completed on time and on budget for $88,856.95. While no dedication is recorded, the county courthouse employees moved into their new offices in early 1905.
In 1978, the courthouse underwent a remodeling project costing $1,206,395.57. Today, the Douglas County Courthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.