Washington County Courthouse & Jail

West Bend, Wisconsin | C.1886

Photo Credit: Alison Korth

The Washington County Courthouse and Jail in West Bend, Wisconsin is a 3.5-story courthouse with an 8-story central tower designed by Edward V. Koch in West Bend, Wisconsin. Built in the Richardsonian Romanesque style between 1889-1890, it served as courthouse until 1962.

The first buildings in West Bend were a wood frame courthouse and jailhouse, and a stone and brick county records building. By 1888, when the original courthouse had become too small, the county approved funds for a new one. After 10 months of construction, the new courthouse was finished and held its first court session in March 1890.

The building served as the Washington County Courthouse for many years. Circuit court was held twice a year in spring and fall sessions, and those awaiting trial were held in the jail next door. Then in 1962 a new courthouse was built and the building continued to be used by Social Services for another 30 years.

In 1992, the vacant courthouse was considered for both sale and demolition. The discovery of a clause in county records ensured that the Square would be owned and used by the county, and thus spared the sale. In time, the Historical Society was allowed to use the old courthouse in addition to the old jailhouse as a local history museum.

Between 1992 and 1997, volunteers and professionals stripped paint, removed walls, and cleaned rooms. Original woodwork, terra cotta tiles, and art glass were seen again and, because they had been concealed for 30 years, were in great condition. Finally, at the end of the renovation, the Society moved its operations and collections from the jailhouse to the courthouse where it continues to operate today.

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