Winneshiek County Courthouse (Decorah)

Winneshiek County Courthouse

2020 Preservation at Its Best: Public Project

The 1904 Winneshiek County Courthouse is a Beax-Arts Classicism style building. The approximately 26,700 SF courthouse is a key contributing structure to the Broadway-Phelps Park Historic District listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The building remains relatively unaltered featuring ornate decorative plaster, art glass dome, terrazzo flooring with inlaid mosaic, carved wood reliefs, painted murals and marble wainscoting. 

The project was undertaken in two phases. The first phase involved important building envelope and safety repairs – roof replacement, lightning protection system replacement, new color changing LED rooftop lighting, attic access walkways for safe inspection/access of the attic, new attic insulation, and an attic hatch for safe access to the roof. The lightning protection system was original to the building but was damaged and could no longer sufficiently protect the structure from lightning strikes. A new system that closely matched the historic was installed following the newly released Preservation Brief 50. This replacement was used as the primary case study for an educational session at the 2019 Preserve Iowa Summit called Lightning Protection – Old Fable or True Story?

Winnesheik Court House new lightning rod and dome roof below

The second phase involved the creation of a Master Stabilization and Rehabilitation Plan to help identify, guide, and prioritize continued preservation, maintenance, and improvements to the building into the future. A primary outcome of the Plan is enabling proper stewardship by providing future County staff with the tools for proper maintenance and repair of the building.


Preservation Iowa’s two most visible programs are Iowa’s Most Endangered and Preservation at Its Best. These two programs work well together because being listed as Most Endangered often times leads to awareness, a preservation effort, and a high-quality, award winning project.

The full list of Preservation Iowa’s 2020 Preservation at its Best award winners includes:

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