Constructed in 1857 and greatly enlarged in 1910, the Box Elder County Courthouse is historically significant as the center of government in Box Elder County for over 130 years. The building has housed virtually all departments of the county government, including the court and judge’s chambers, commission chambers, offices of the cleric, recorder, assessor, and so forth. No other courthouse has ever been built in the county, therefore, this is the only building associated with the administration of Box Elder County governmental affairs. The building is also architecturally significant as the best example of the Neo-Classical Revival style in both Brigham City and Box Elder County. The significant stylistic features are confined only to the 1910 section of the building; the 1857 section is now the
non-descript rear wing. The Neo-Classical Revival style was used in Utah primarily just for public and institutional buildings, such as schools, civic buildings, and churches. No other examples of the style have been identified in the Brigham City area.
Located at 1 North Main Street in Brigham City, Utah
The county courthouse was begun in 1855 or 1856 as the first public building in the area. Vaughn Nielson in The History of Box Elder Stake stated that the rock walls for the basement story were all laid by the fall of 1856. After these
basement walls were laid up and windows and doors installed, the structure was covered with a temporary roof, and the building was utilized for meetings and drama during the winter of 1856.
In 1857, two stories of adobe brick were built upon this foundation, but before the walls were finished, a strong wind partially blew them down. These walls were then rebuilt and the building was completed before the end of 1857. Lorenzo Snow, the leader of the community, stated that “by the fall of 1857 they had built the second and much better court house, the upper story of which was 45 x 65, while the original basement room was 22 x 45.” He says the roofing of the new structure was fastened with wooden pins.
The cost to construct this building came from donations or labor tithing provided by the townspeople, the vast majority of whom were members of the LDS or Mormon church. The men of the area were asked to spend one tenth of their time working, or were required to supply materials for the workers. Among those who labored on the building were George F. Hamson Sr. who donated ten thousand adobes, William Wrighton, D.M. Burbanks and Peter Baird did carpentry work, Lars Stranquist did rock masonry work, and Joshua Holland did plastering work.
As the only public building for a time, it had many uses: a church, a school, a dance hall, and a theater. 6 Before the community was divided into wards (ecclesiastical boundaries) and separate churches were built, the people of the
entire community met in the large upstairs room of the building for church services. It was the largest hall in town and had a gallery built into the entire west end of it with a choir loft under the gallery. A stage was located at the east end of the room and a table was placed on this stage which served as a pulpit during church meetings, When stage entertainment was held, public and church officials sat with their wives in the choir loft. After the town’s division into
wards, the Fourth Ward continued to hold church services in the courthouse. They met in the down-stairs east room until 1880.
School was taught in the downstairs east room of the building as late as 1880 and theatrical productions were staged first in the basement, where the scenery was painted directly onto the walls, and later in the large hall upstairs where
religious and social functions took place.
County and city government meetings were also held in the early courthouse. Brigham City was incorporated in 1867, and meetings with the mayor and city council at first took place quarterly, then by 1894 bi-monthly sessions were held.
By the early 1870’s there was a large bell which hung in the tower (on the roof) of the courthouse which signaled work time, lunch time, and quitting time with the Brigham City Co-operative enterprises. It also was a fire bell. Late in
1892, the old bell cracked and was replaced by a borrowed one. This one also cracked when it was rung too long celebrating Utah’s Statehood day on January 4, 1896. A town clock was procured in April 1887 for $433.15,13 and during this year the building was remodeled with a clock tower added plus Italianate detailing on the building. Around the turn of the century, the top floor of the courthouse was being used for the district courtroom, assessor’s office, commissioner’s chambers, sheriff’s office and judge’s chamber
In January 1910 a major addition to the front (west end) of the original adobe structure was planned by the county commissioners. Local architects Funk and Wells designed this Neo-Classical style addition, which included four large pillars and a larger clock tower in which the 1887 clock would be placed. S.A. Sackett was accepted to do the construction with the low bid of $67,521.00.
By the spring of 1910, the new addition was well underway. it took a year and one-half to complete, and on November 14, 1911, county and district officials moved into the new wing. The Box Elder News of Thursday, November 9, 1911 gives a detailed description of the building and its interior arrangement.
Few changes have been made to the building since its completion. A new clock was purchased for the clock tower in 1950 and in 1960 a small addition was constructed on the northeast part of the building, which was the original adobe part. The architect was Don Frandsen and the contractor was Wayne A. Jensen. This new addition provided more office space for the assessor and treasurer plus additional office space in the basement. The board of education quarters on the top floor was also remodeled at that time – a section of the corridor was partitioned off for office spaces. the Daughters of Utah Pioneer’s relic hall that had been located in the several rooms at the top floor from 1928 until the 1940’s became more visible when it was put behind a glass partition in the hallway of the basement in 1948.24 Those exhibits were moved to the city museum-gallery in 1978 when the hallway was narrowed to accommodate an elevator for handicapped access. the board of education also moved out of the courthouse in March of 1977 when it acquired an old church building for its offices at 230 West 200 South.