History Municipal Building (City Hall/Court House), Minneapolis Minnesota

The Board of Court House and County Commissioners created in 1887 faced a number of problems before finally achieving success, the foremost of which was to create the understanding among the citizenry that such a massive structure was necessary. The residents of that era could not fathom that the Commissioners were building for the future. There was so much space in early years that the building housed a chicken hatchery, a blacksmith shop and a stable. As we know today, the building constantly faced space problems as reflected in the minutes of the Municipal Building Commission. The space problems were solved by forcing departments to vacate the building, by adding the mezzanine floor, the four story interior court building and finally constructing the twin-towered 24 story Hennepin County Government Center across the street.

Another problem faced by the Board of Commissioners was that the labor faction of the Board demanded the building be constructed with day labor rather than contract labor. The deadlock lasted for months until 1889 when the legislature passed a law which increased membership on the Board from nine to twelve. Contract labor was ultimately selected.

In a subsequent court action of 1891 against the Board of Commissioners, Dorilus Morrison, first Mayor of Minneapolis; Isaac Atwater, a Judge; Joel B. Bassett and Daniel Bassett, lumbermen; and William E. Steele and A. B. Barten, pioneers alleged that the building as planned would exceed the spending limits imposed by the legislature. The court decided that there was no intent to limit the spending to a fixed dollar figure.

Also, during the construction phase, it was never anticipated that granite would form the superstructure. Although It was always considered the superior material, cost was the factor, and brick was deemed more appropriate. After the granite foundation was finished the general public appreciated the workmanship and then urged that the building be entirely of granite.

Upon completion of the building, the tasks assigned to the 12 member Board of Commissioners were finished and a 1903 state law created a Municipal Building Commission to operate, maintain and allocate space within the new building. The four member Municipal Building Commission which still exists was originally the Chairman of the Board of Hennepin County Commissioners, the Mayor of Minneapolis, the County Auditor and the City Treasurer. As amended by a 1977 state law the membership is now the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners, a person selected by that board (currently a county board member), the Mayor and a person appointed by the City Council (currently the President of the City Council). Probably the most notable Building Commissioner was Hubert H. Humphrey.

Originally, most city and county functions were performed in the building until it became necessary to rent outside space. The County moved to the Hennepin County Government Center in 1975 leaving only three functions in the building. Sheriff, Juvenile Court and the Adult Detention Center.