A Modest Beginning
Grant County was formed on February 24, 1909, when Douglas County was formally split in half to create a smaller Douglas County and the new Grant County. Within weeks, the original Grant County Board of Commissioners convened to begin establishing a new government -- with a top priority being the erection of a courthouse in Ephrata, the county seat.
This building contract was awarded in May 1909 to J. O. Cunningham of Wilson Creek, who came in with a winning bid of $4,975. As the amount indicates, this first courthouse was of modest construction and quickly became outdated with the growth of the county. Grant County’s original courthouse was later converted into the Community Methodist Church.
Big Project, Big Trouble?
The courthouse measure, as passed on April 12, 1917, authorized the purchase of two city blocks in downtown Ephrata for the development and construction of the new building. The resolution was prompted by number of factors -- the growth of Grant County government, inadequate space for county personnel, the lack of archival storage, and safety concerns. The measure even went as far as to describe the county’s original courtroom as “filthy and inadequate” (Jenkins).
Yet although the Commissioners seem to have had Grant County’s best interests at hand when the resolution passed, a few citizens in the town of Adrian didn’t see it that way. In 1910 citizens of Adrian had supported a ballot measure to move the county seat from Ephrata to their town, a measure that was defeated at the polls. Seven years later Adrian was apparently still licking those wounds, for locals filed a pair of lawsuits against County Commissioners White and Theimans alleging that both stood to gain financially from the courthouse resolution. The effort was chalked up to long-held grudges, and a judge dismissed the lawsuits less than three weeks after they were filed. (An accompanying recall effort continued through the summer, but gained minimal support.)
Onward and Upward
Members of the Ephrata Masonic Lodge laid the cornerstone for the new Grant County Courthouse in late July 1917; formal construction began shortly thereafter. With plans drawn up by architect George Keith, the new courthouse was designed in a classical revival style, with a concrete, brick, and terra-cotta exterior, complete with columns and ornate cornices. Described as an “imposing structure” as it was being erected, the building was slated to cost Grant County a total of $63,263.
Finally, on January 25, 1918, the Grant County Commissioners accepted the new courthouse from the building’s contractor and local government moved into the new space. County Clerk J. D. Steele was the first government official to occupy the new building.
Today the Grant County Courthouse stands on C Street NW and continues to serve as the center of local government. The building was upgraded in 1957, with interior remodeling and an annex constructed at that time. In 1977 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places, in 2006 one of eight such places in Grant County.