ST. CLOUD - This week in our "Behind The Scenes" series on WJON we take you to the top of the Stearns County Courthouse inside the dome, and down below inside the tunnels.

The old building that stands in the center of Courthouse Square isn't the original courthouse for Stearns County, but it has been there for over 90 years.  It opened on September 1st, 1922.

Building Facilities Director Pete Reuter says the original plans show the building was much more than just a courthouse.  It included a community room, a kitchen, and on the fourth floor men's and women's dormitories - for people who traveled to St. Cloud from the far reaches of western Stearns County.

Today it's still a bustling hub of official county business.  Most of the rooms have been transformed for modern day uses.

However, the central dome area remains true to the original design, including it's signature dome.  It features the original stained glass, as well as a series of screens.  Back in the days before air conditioning, the screens could be opened creating a natural air flow through the building. The dome has an outer diameter of 46 feet, and peaks at 109 feet tall.

Get up inside the dome and you realize it's actually two domes.  The four clocks at the top of the courthouse were a big part of the original design, but the way they operate has been updated to an electronic system.

Most of the exterior of the building is granite from Rockville Granite Company in Cold Spring.  The six granite pillars in front of the main entrance are 16 feet high and weight 50 tons.

Stearns County Courthouse, Photo by WJON.com's Jim Maurice

One other little known fact is that there's a tunnel that runs under the street, that connects the old courthouse to the new Administration Center.  That's where the old jail used to sit, and it was how prisoners were brought to court.  Now it's only used for judges and other county officials.

In 1982 the Stearns County Courthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The courthouse also has it's place in Hollywood history, the staircase and one of the courtrooms made cameo appearances in the movie "The Mighty Ducks".

 

Stearns County Courthouse, Photo by WJON.com's Jim Maurice