Woodbury County Courthouse exterior

The Woodbury County Courthouse, which opened in March 1918 at 620 Douglas St., houses courtrooms and most county departments.

Sioux City Journal file

SIOUX CITY | When a major public building with distinctive architectural features reaches an important birthday milestone, it is time to have festive activities for the public to celebrate the history and grandeur.

It appears May 1-5, 2018, will be the week for extensive tours, lectures and perhaps an evening supper with a string quartet in the Woodbury County Courthouse. The Woodbury County Historical Committee met on Tuesday and aired more ideas on how the 100th anniversary of the courthouse may play out.

The week won't line up directly with the 100th anniversary, since the courthouse opened in March 1918 at 620 Douglas St. But early May seems to be the best time for the centennial activities, in order to avoid late winter weather and possible conflicts with the annual lobbying trip of the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce, said Jeremy Taylor, chairman of the committee planning the celebration.

Taylor is also a member of the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors, who will ultimately set the week for the courthouse centennial activities. A budget of $40,000 to $50,000 is being estimated, using both private and public sources.

The courthouse succeeded the former county building, which had been used since 1875 at the southeast corner of Sixth and Pierce streets (now the location of the Orpheum Building). County government outgrew that facility by 1914, when the supervisors researched construction of a new courthouse.

The cornerstone for the new courthouse was laid in July 1916, and the building opened less than two years later.

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. It's considered the largest publicly owned Prairie School-design building in the world.

Taylor said the centennial activities will be broad, to appeal to a wide range of people. There could be some lunch-and-learn sessions, with visiting people who are versed on the architecture from universities nationally. Organizers will seek to bring in relatives of Steele and the county supervisors from the time the courthouse was built. Self-guided tours of the prettiest parts of the architecture will likely be available.

Additionally, a time capsule from July 1916 will be opened from a cornerstone of the building. The items within include foreign and U.S. coins, photos of President Woodrow Wilson and city street scenes, results from an October 1875 election, a souvenir from the 1916 Panama-California Exposition in San Diego and many articles from the Sioux City Journal in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

"Maybe we will replace those with some new items of our own," Woodbury County Building Services Director Kenny Schmitz said.

Taylor said he expects people will enjoy the week.

"I like the way that we are progressing," he said.

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County and education reporter

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