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SIOUX CITY -- A slew of activities will be held the first week in May to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the opening of the architecturally significant Woodbury County Courthouse.

"Our goal is bringing the past into the future," Woodbury County Historical Committee co-chairman Jim Jung said.

Committee members, for more than a year, have developed plans to ensure that a host of options will be available for the public. Some of the members on Tuesday shared the lineup of events set for May 1-5.

“The committee has worked hard to bring our citizens a fabulous week of events, so that this rare gem of a building and the remarkable history it contains can be appreciated even more deeply," said Jeremy Taylor, a member of the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors and a Historical Committee co-chairman. "We do anticipate that this will be of nationwide interest."

There will be some so-called lunch-and-learn sessions, led by people from national universities who are well versed on the building's architecture. There will be live tours hourly in the building on May 3. Plus, using smart phone technology, people outside the facility will be able to experience a virtual tour, with music and voices explaining key building facets.

Designed by famed architect William Steele, the courthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1996.  

Jung said descendants of Steele, who live in Colorado and Nebraska, will attend the May festivities.

The building is known for its Prairie School design, with intricate terra cotta, Alphonso Iannelli sculpted figures, and large murals constructed around themes of justice and agrarian life, said Jung, a former chairman of the Sioux City Historic Preservation Commission.

“The courthouse is the largest public Prairie Style structure in the world and attracts visitors from across the country and around the world. Both an architectural and artistic monument, it is composed of stone, brick, metals, glass, and terra cotta which make a statement of a bold spirit,"  Jung said.

The week won't line up directly with the 100th anniversary, since the courthouse at 620 Douglas St. opened in March 1918. The committee veered toward May as the best time for the centennial activities, in order to avoid late winter weather.

The Steele-designed courthouse succeeded the former county headquarters that had been used since 1875 at the southeast corner of Sixth and Pierce streets (now the location of the Orpheum Building). County government outgrew the old courthouse by 1914, when the supervisors researched construction of the current building.

The cornerstone for the courthouse was laid in July 1916, and the building opened less than two years later. The cornerstone was opened in November, and some of the contents will be shared during the festivities in May.

The items included a bunch of Sioux City newspapers, minutes from county board of supervisors meetings, foreign and domestic coins that dated from 1899 to 1915, and pamphlets from lots of men's lodge organizations, which are no longer functioning. Taylor said people will find those time capsule items interesting.

The building has had some problems associated with age. The county supervisors over the last 28 months have approved 15 courthouse renovation and upgrading projects costing $2.7 million.

Some activities will be shared online on the website.


County and education reporter

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