George Mifflin Dallas, mayor of Philadelphia and U. S. senator from Pennsylvania and Vice President under James K. Polk is the namesake of Dallas County. The city of Dallas, Texas is also named in his honor.
The first county elections were held in a schoolhouse on April 15, 1857 east of present-day Adel. The county seat was originally called Penoach or Panouch, an Indian word meaning “far away.” In 1849 the name was changed to Adel. The county seat has remained at Adel, but not without fights from Dallas Center, Perry and Waukee.
The first courthouse was a simple log cabin built by Buel Lathrop in 1848. It had two rooms connected under one roof with crude looking chimneys on each side for heating. This building was replaced in 1853 by a 20-foot x 40-foot, one-story frame building. It was “comfortably finished and furnished.” Although it was better than the previous courthouse, it was only used until 1858, when a third courthouse was constructed.
The third courthouse came about after an election authorized its construction by a vote of 401 to 240. This structure was two stories high and constructed of brick. The $20,000 building was located on the town square.
In 1902 the fourth and present courthouse was dedicated. The $109,243 building is impressive looking. The tower is 128-foot-tall with a clock that was donated by the people of Adel. It is decorated by statues and a stone engraving of the 1853 courthouse. This courthouse, like many others in Iowa, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1993, a restoration project was started which uncovered artwork and stenciling throughout the public hallways and court room areas of the courthouse. Restoration architect William Wagner of rural Dallas Center assisted by offering advice and his time while restoring hidden faux marbling on the wainscoting in the district court room. Mr. Wagner, at the age of 80, continued to consult with the county until he lost his life in an automobile accident in 2001. We are very proud of our district court room and the magnificent chandelier manufactured by St. Louis Antique Lighting.
Restoration is an ongoing project for the county, as we strive to keep our 100 year old courthouse in good condition. We are planning a birthday celebration and rededication during the week of September 16-20, 2002.
Stanek, Edward & Jacqueline, Iowa’s Magnificent County Courthouses, Wallace-Homestead, 1976.
Carole J. Bayeur-Dawson, Dallas County Auditor, 2002.