Hughes County Courthouse

104 W Capitol Ave

Hughes County Courthouse

The Hughes County Courthouse was designed in the Public Works Administration Moderne style with Art Deco features by the architects Hugill and Blatherwick and constructed by the Henry Carlson Company, all out of Sioux Falls. This governmental interpretation is a simplified version of the exuberant Art Deco style that appealed to a nation in the midst of the Great Depression. The uninterrupted square massing of the building and vertical bands of windows separated by decorative-patterned brick spandrels provide the only historical references to the style. The building’s utilization of Art Deco and Moderne design elements is typical of South Dakota’s county courthouses constructed during the period. While the building’s level of architectural detail is minimal by many standards, the courthouse remains a relatively large and visually striking example of architecture in Pierre and Hughes County and the seat of county government.

Work on the new courthouse began in early 1934. The previous autumn, the county received a citizens’ petition asking that the new courthouse include a facing of native stone. This was not only for aesthetic reasons, but because the use of the stone would result in greater employment of local labor and the expenditure of more of the money in the local community. The walls are cut South Dakota stone, while the trim is Hot Springs, South Dakota sandstone. The building replaced the original 1883 courthouse that was declared unsafe by the fire marshal because it had 16 heating stoves and faulty wiring. The new courthouse reused many bricks from the original building in its interior. Construction continued through 1934, and the county formally accepted the finished building in February 1935.

The old Hughes County Courthouse. South Dakota’s Temporary Capitol

The interior contains such details as brushed aluminum stair rails with floral motifs at the top. The rooms of the courthouse are accessed through T-shaped corridors. The fourth floor once held the jail, which is now abandoned. Although completely remodeled, the courtroom still contains the historic judge’s bench and courtroom benches.

The old Hughes County Courthouse shown at left was erected in 1883 and the served an important role in the formation of the new South Dakota government in 1889. It was replaced in 1934 with the present Courthouse on this location.

Large 1883 concrete name plate which was taken from the old courthouse and place on the wall as a remembrance.

In the October 1, 1889 election South Dakota approved the State Constitution and picked Pierre as the temporary Capitol. The old Courthouse served as the temporary Capitol until January 7, 1890 when the old wooden State Capitol was completed on the south west corner of the Capitol grounds.

The following historic events occurred in and around the Hughes County Courthouse:

  1. The first House of Representatives met in the court room during a three day legislative session October 15, 16, 17 1889. The first senate met in the Congregational Church which at the time was located across the street south of here on the corner of Pierre Street and Capitol Avenue.
  2. October 15, 1889 newly elected Governor Mellette, the state constitutional officers and the first judges of the Supreme Court and the circuit courts assembled on the south front veranda of the courthouse where territorial chief Justice Barlett Tripp administered the oath of office. The first House and Senate members and the public witnessed the ceremony.
  3. The first Governor A. C. Mellette and the constitutional officers had their offices in the old courthouse until the wooden State Capitol Building was completed.
  4. The first South Dakota Supreme Court had their offices here and held session in the courthouse for more than a year until they moved into the old State Capitol.