Grundy County, named for U.S. Senator and cabinet member Felix H. Grundy, was organized in 1853. Grundy Center became the county seat in 1856, when it was called Belpre. Belpre was taken from belle and prairie, signifying a beautiful prairie.
Grundy County developed rapidly from 1860 – 1890 as thousands of acres of native prairie sod were broken for cropland. The population grew rapidly during this period, reaching 13,215 by 1890. The 2000 census for Grundy was 12,369.
The first Courthouse, octagonal in shape, was nicknamed the “cheese box” because it resembled a giant cheese box. The Board of Supervisors held their first meeting in the building on January 7, 1861. The Courthouse was a two-story wooden building, and it stood in the center of the block, on the spot now occupied by the present building. The lower level was divided into two equal parts by a hallway running north and south, and each half was partitioned into two equal parts. The room in the northeast corner was used as an office for the County Treasurer and the County Recorder, and the other room was the Sheriff’s Office. On the west side of the hall, the south room was the office of the Clerk of Court, and the north room as the County Auditor’s Office. The upstairs was divided into a Courtroom and small Jury Room. The Courtroom was also used for church services in the 1860’s.
By 1890, the need for a new Courthouse, larger and more up to date, was evident.
On February 24, 1891, a special election was held on the question of building a new Courthouse. The vote carried more than two to one.
The cornerstone for this Grundy County landmark was laid November 11, 1891. The special ceremonies for the laying of the cornerstone was conducted by the Masonic Lodge, under the supervision of the County Board. School children were invited to join in the march around the Courthouse Square. Speakers at the ceremonies rejoiced with the rest of the crowd that a little of the great wealth of Grundy County was going into a fine Courthouse.
The architects for the Courthouse were W. L. Kramer and E. E. Zoll from Findley, Ohio. The building contractor was T. B. Seeley, Son & Company from Fremont, Nebraska.
The basement walls are made of stone from Stone City, Iowa. The upper walls are made from sandstone from Cleveland, Ohio, and the steps are made from a harder stone from Keosota, Minnesota.
It was reported that the contractor lost between $7,000 and $8,000 on the Courthouse project. That was largely due to a provision in the contract which required them to have all the stone cut on site, to guard against any of the stone being marred in shipment. The stone was shipped from Ohio in huge blocks. The contractor had no machinery for hauling such heavy loads, so it was necessary to cut these blocks into smaller pieces before they could be taken from the railroad yard to the Courthouse Square, where they could be cut into shape for use in the walls of the building. The wages paid to the stone cutters were the highest paid by any contractor in the state.
In 1895 the new Courthouse was finished and furnished, and there was money in the treasury to pay all the bills without a bond sale.
The clock was installed in the tower in 1900 to add the finishing touch on the new Courthouse.
Mary Schmidt, Grundy County Auditor, 2002