Courthouse of the Month: Chase County

With 105 counties in the state of Kansas, it became an obvious challenge early on to photograph each and every county courthouse. I achieved this goal once on film, and I now at it again as I update all of those images in digital. It’s been interesting to see what has changed — and what hasn’t — as I revisit these old friends.

As the first in what I hope will be a regular, monthly feature of True Kansas, I want to share what is probably our most famous courthouse in Kansas: the Chase County Courthouse in Cottonwood Falls.

This courthouse is notable for several reasons. First, it’s a great example of Second Empire architecture. Add to that its setting at the end of a wide brick street in an almost perfect western town and things really start to come together. It also has a long and colorful history, as does the town of Cottonwood Falls, and Chase County — which was the subject of William Least Heat-Moon’s book PrairyErth (A Deep Map).


Of the three images above, the first two are scans from old transparencies. The first black and white image is an angle that I don’t think you can get anymore, due to the growth of the trees over the years. The interior of the Chase County Courthouse remains fairly unchanged and this image of the spiraling staircase is somewhat timeless. The exterior has been recently renovated, as can be seen in the 2013 digital image on the right.


Chase County Courthouse, Cottonwood Falls
Built: 1871-73
Architect: John Haskell
Contracter: James Bannon
Source — Legacies: Kansas’ Older County Courthouses, 1981, Kansas State Historical Society

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