Building History, Facts & Photos

Minneapolis and Hennepin County founders had a grand vision for their city when construction of the City Hall and Courthouse began in the 1887. Just a decade before it had become readily apparent that the existing -- and geographically separate -- city hall and county courthouse buildings had increasingly inadequate space for serving the needs of a rapidly growing frontier town. Finally, with much deliberation, a decision was made to join the two entities under one roof with the guidance of a committee comprised of both City Council members and County Commissioners.

The City Hall and Courthouse was built between 1887 and 1906 on the site of the first public schoolhouse west of the Mississippi River. Designed by Long and Keys Architects in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, the building boasts a five-story Rotunda, stained glass windows designed and created by Ford Brothers Glass Company, a clock tower that rivals Big Ben, and the Father of Waters statue carved of marble from the Carrara quarries used by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.

The County ceremoniously moved in November 11, 1895 and the City followed on December 15, 1902. A 1904 Minnesota Statute decreed that both parties were to share in the care and regulation of the building under the direction of the independent Municipal Building Commission, which continues to care, operate and preserve the building to this day.

When completed, the City Hall and Courthouse had more than enough room for government functions - a blacksmith shop, a horse stable, a wool brokerage, and a chicken hatchery rented the building’s excess space. After 1940, things started getting crowded and, despite major modifications, the only solution was a new building. Hennepin County moved most operations across the street into its new Government Center in 1975. Today, City departments occupy 60 percent of the building and the County and District Court occupy 40 percent.

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Fun Facts

The building occupies an entire city block and has almost 900,000 gross square feet.

The outside dimensions are 305 feet, 9 inches on each side.

The center court is 129 feet, 6 inches on each side.

The center of the clock dial is 231 feet above the sidewalk.

The base of the tower’s flagstaff is 345 feet from the sidewalk.

The diameter of the clock dial measures 23 feet, 6 inches. The length of the minute hand is 14 feet.

Both towers extend to the limestone bedrock, 46 feet below the surface.

The building is constructed out of granite blocks, some weighing as much as 23-tons. The granite blocks were transported from Ortonville, Minnesota, which is about 160 miles away.

Limestone blocks were used as a foundation for the building and weigh up to 26 tons each.

The building was the first government building in America with floors supported independently of partitions.

The courtyard’s external and internal walls provide primary support and interior walls can be added or removed without affecting the building’s stability.

Twelve leading citizens and the Minneapolis Journal presented “The Father of Waters” statue to the City of Minneapolis in 1904. The cost of the statute was an estimated $40,000.

The Father of Waters would be more than 15 feet tall if standing. The statute and base together weigh over 14,000 pounds. Some people believe that rubbing his toe is good luck.

The building’s 15-bell chime is the only American made set that can play the “Star Spangled Banner” in the original key. Every hour, quarter, and half-hour you will hear the bells. The New York manufactured bells weigh from 300 to 7,300 pounds each -- over 14 tons total.