Bates County Courthouse

Points of

* Indicates
National Register

Bates County, Missouri
Butler, Missouri

Text from National Register of Historic Places application

The Bates County Courthouse, 1 North Delaware Street, is located on the courthouse square in downtown Butler, Missouri. It was designed by George E. McDonald of Lincoln, Nebraska, and was completed in 1902.  The 2 1/2-story, plus raised basement, Richardsonian Romanesque-style building is constructed of natural faced Carthage limestone.  It features a central tower and four corner pavilions, all with ogee-shaped roofs.  Both the north and south facades feature central pavilions with low pediments and elaborate recessed entrances.  The east and west facades have stepped gables with less elaborate entrances to the first floor and into the raised basement. A clock is in each side of the tower.



The plan is rectangular with slightly projecting corners and central salients. The building's exterior generally retains integrity although the tower was simplified below its ogee roof and sided with gold-colored material in 1974. For energy efficiency, the original wood sash windows have been replaced with metal frame windows in their original openings, and entrances have been similarly treated.

The square, a Shelbyville type, contains one contributing object - a Doughboy statue erected in 1927 in memory of the county's World War I veterans It is on the northwest corner of the courthouse lawn.

A central tower was a common feature of Missouri courthouses.  Originally, each side of the tower on the Bates County Courthouse had a pair of one-over-one windows accented with short metal columns and the upper portion featured decorative stone turrets.  The four corner towers or pavilions have octagonal ogee-shaped roofs and upper corners accented with stone bartizans.  Except for the removal of finials, these towers essentially reflect their historic appearance.  Tympanums above short attic level windows contain floral designs in bas relief.  Finials with squat bases emerge from the segmentally arched roofline.  Second story windows in the pavilions contain one-over-one sash accented by radiating stone voussoirs.  Slightly projecting stone sills are one course above the decorative banding that encircles the building.  On the first floor, flat-topped voussoirs accent round arch windows with one-over-one sash.  Ground floor windows are one-over-ones with flat stone arches

On the north elevation, a three-bay central pavilion accentuates the entrance.  The pavilion is topped with a low pediment containing three small attic windows.  Metal statues of Lady Justice originally stood atop the ridge here and on the south elevation.  They were removed during a restoration nearly 40 years ago and rescued and placed in storage.  New statues were cast for the originals and have recently been restored to their original locations.  A new statue of the goddess Columbia, with lighted torch, now sits atop the tower.  The original remains in storage.

At the second floor level of the central pavilion are three round arch windows.  The larger middle opening contains coupled one-over-one windows topped by a pair of windows within the arch which are divided by a broad muntin.  The flanking windows consist of single one-over-one sash.  The voussoirs outlining the arches meet at the haunch. The north entrance is recessed in the central pavilion. The round-arched doorway is flanked by round arch windows, one on each side as at the second floor level.  Stone archivolts outline the voussoirs.  The arches meet at imposts supported by six short, smooth columns resting on piers that extend to ground level.  Between the piers is a porch with floor tiles in shades of yellow ochre, terra cotta and burnt umber.  Five steps lead up from the sidewalk.  On the ground floor, coupled one-over-one windows are below the side windows and on either side of the doorway (figure 3).

Between the central pavilion and each corner pavilion is a recessed two-bay section of wall.  This area does not have attic windows.  Its openings are of simpler construction than those on the central and corner pavilions.  First floor windows have round arches with voussoirs that meet at the haunch.  Second story and ground floor window openings have flat arches and contain one-over-one sash.

As the exterior building suggests, the interior plan is a cruciform, central hall design on each floor with offices opening off the central hallways.  Originally, the ground floor contained a boiler room and fuel room, a storage room, an assembly room, and public rooms described by the architect as designed "for ladies with their children," and public restrooms.  The first floor housed county offices and the second floor contained courtrooms.  Today, the first floor houses offices of the county clerk, treasurer, recorder, assessor and surveyor.  On the second floor is a circuit courtroom, an associate and probate courtroom, a prosecutor's office and a sheriff's office.  The ground floor houses a license bureau, a University of Missouri extension office, a juvenile office and restrooms.

The floor of the central hallway is tiled in shades of yellow ochre, terra cotta, and burnt umber.  The floor is bordered by a pattern of tiles, and the center of the hallway features a large square tile medallion.  The field tile is six-inch, yellow ochre, cropped squares with two and one-quarter inch burnt umber dots.  The central hall is dominated by an oak stairway with an intricate balustrade and an ornate newel post, leading to the second floor.

Placed on the National Registor, it is significant in the area of architecture as an impressive example of the Richardsonian Romanesque style that dominated Missouri courthouse construction in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The Richardsonian Romanesque style was Boston architect Henry Hobson Richardson's eclectic interpretation of Romanesque Revival architecture.  Richardson borrowed elements from the Roman buildings which he observed in southern France

PoI_Courthouse_Photo_1872It is the last of four Missouri courthouses to be constructed from a design popularized by architect George E. McDonald.  The courthouse, Bates County's fourth and the third to be constructed in Butler, was built after a year-long controversy over a proposed relocation of the county seat from Butler to the rival community of Rich Hill.


3rd Courthouse built in 1872

County records were shuttled around the state during the Civil War, and ultimately many records were lost.  In 1862, Robert Duncan moved the records from Butler to Oliver Lutsenhizer's home in Deepwater Township.  Subsequently, the records were moved outside of Bates County to Clinton in Henry County.  Then they were taken to Jefferson City where they remained until 1864 when newly elected County Clerk John Myers moved them to Dresden in Pettis County.  PoI_Courthouse_MobCourts were held in various locations during the Civil War.  In 1864, the Johnston community served briefly as the county seat but lacked access to the county records.  In the fall of 1864, Pleasant Gap was an interim county seat and Myers took the records there.  But despite attempts by both Duncan and Myers to preserve the records, marriage records up to 1860 and court records from 1852 through 1859 were lost.  Probably Bates Countians understood the importance of fireproof vaults about as well as anyone could, and they were a major consideration when the present courthouse was commissioned in1901.



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Click here for the National Register application.


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