Revamp Continues on Iowa Courthouse Following Tornado

By Lisa Kopochinski

MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa—Construction continues on the Marshall County Courthouse after a tornado ripped through the town in July 2018 and damaged the courthouse, which was built in 1886. The tornado toppled the spire of the courthouse.

“This is a multi-million dollar renovation made possible by the fact we had it well-insured for replacement costs,” Marshalltown Mayor Joel Greer told 

“The county had no debt. So, they had some money available to not just repair it, but [to] fix it up really nice. It will be the best courthouse in the state.”

Once the $27 million project is completed, the courthouse will be a modern structure with more office space.

“We’ve increased courtroom sizes public queuing spaces,” said Buildings and Grounds Director Lucas Baedke. “We’ve made wayfinding through the building a little more easy. It’s not as fragmented as it used to be. We put a lot of work into planning.” 

In late September, construction crews received the second half of the iconic courthouse dome that is made of steel, courtesy of the dome’s builders, Johnson Machine Works, Inc. of Chariton, Iowa.

Baedke told local media that the brand new dome skeleton will hold up a lot better than the previous wooden dome that was put on the courthouse in the 1970s, when the last renovation was done.

“It was too large to ship as one piece. So, they built it, cut it in half, [then] they’ll put it back together, square everything up on the lawn. They will skin it basically to make it watertight [then] fit all the panels on it to actually take that back apart. They’ll send all the exterior panels out to be wrapped in copper.”

After that, the construction crew will lift the dome skeleton onto the top of the courthouse and put the panels in place.

Baedke said following this renovation, the courthouse will be stronger than ever and hopes it will last for decades to come.

“We’re really trying to expand on how things were built previously [and] increase our structural integrity of the building. We’re looking for 100-year fixes for stuff. We’d like to have this building standing for as long as it has been here, which is 132 years.” 

County officials said they don’t have a scheduled completion date yet, but hope the dome will go up some time in October.