Art Deco Gem: Sherman County Courthouse

Old Sherman County Courthouse Goodland

Old Sherman County Courthouse

An outgrown courthouse

By 1931, Sherman County had outgrown its 44-year-old courthouse and the voters agreed to pay for another one. Some called for a new courthouse to be built on Main Street, but courthouse had to be built on the same property or the county would forfeit the land. Sherman County Development Company had donated the land for a courthouse, but had stipulated that if the courthouse were ever moved the land would revert to the company or its heirs.

The eventual plan called for the new building to be built behind the old 1887 building. In order to make room for new construction, the back half of the building was torn off. County offices either piled into the remaining half or found offices elsewhere.Sherman County Courthouse

A new Art Deco gem

The architectural firm of Routledge & Hertz of Hutchinson designed an Art Deco structure with colored terra cotta tiles and three-dimensional facade.

In September 2000, Dixie Chatfield added stained glass to the windows above the front door in honor of L.A. Chatfield. Mr. Chatfield was elected as County Treasurer for two terms starting in 1917. After World War I, he served as custodian for the first courthouse. United States Coast and Geodetic Survey placed a benchmark in front of the courthouse flagpole. The Central School Bell stands near the entrance.
Homesteaders Union Association plaque

Homesteaders Union Association plaque

A remnant of Sherman County’s early days is in the County Commissioners’ Room, which is on the left of the front door entrance. Homesteaders Union Association (HUA) looked after the interests of homesteaders against free-range cattle, claim jumpers and claim contesters. HUA was also active in the County Seat Fight, working for Goodland. HUA member and carpenter Dick DeWitt built the plaque. It was placed into the first Sherman County Courthouse ceiling. Judge C.I. Sparks hung it in the current courthouse. Ask in the County Clerk’s office across from the front entrance to see the plaque whenever the County Commissioners are not in session.

A smaller replica of “They Came to Stay, the statue on the courthouse grounds, is to the right of the front door in a case on the floor. Above it is a 1907 panoramic view of Goodland.
Chatfield windows

L.A. Chatfield windows

If possible, take the stairs to the second floor to see the three Chatfield windows from inside. They are on the landing between first and second floors. Otherwise, an elevator is available next to the staircase. The courtroom is through the double doors opposite the staircase and elevator.

Some of the trees on the courthouse grounds are memorials. A George Washington Bicentennial Douglas fir tree stands at the northwest corner of the courthouse grounds. The group of evergreens at the southwest corner of the lawn are a memorial tree for each of the first three district judges.

Open Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mountain Time except on federal and state holidays. Some offices are closed over the noon hour. Handicapped accessible entrance is at the south door. Best time to visit is in the afternoon when the County Commissioners are least likely to be in session.

The mysterious Kansas Room painting and the rescued stained glass window are in the library across the street. The sculpture More Than Words stands outside the library’s front door. To see more Art Deco structures, visit Goodland High School and United Telephone Building.




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