Rock County was the only Wisconsin county with two courthouses....Not anymore.

The first Rock County Courthouse was built in Janesville in 1842 when Janesville had a population of 215. Described as of “wood construction, and…graced by great white pillars on the west entrance,” the building was destroyed by fire in 1858.
(Image above from Fiftieth Anniversary of the First Congregational Church, Janesvillle, Wisconsin, 1895, p. 39)

Between 1858 and 1871, county business was conducted from several small offices around Janesville’s Courthouse Square, with the courtroom located in the Myers Block.

By 1871 Janesville had toppled from its former position as the second largest city in Wisconsin. So when the second courthouse opened its elegant doors in February 1871, “the new…courthouse was a long-awaited declaration of Rock County’s intention to resume its proper place in the scheme of state politics and government.” Constructed of cream brick and cut stone, its west entrance and portico reminded some of the entrances to early southern mansions.

Courthouse terrain:

The second courthouse was constructed directly below a high embankment halfway up Courthouse Hill. Before the dedication, the Janesville Gazette told a story about a stranger who came to Janesville just to see the new building. “A stranger in the city spent nearly an hour yesterday in endeavors to find the new courthouse….He was finally assisted in his efforts by one who knew the exact spot where it was sunk; and he expressed the surprise which many others have felt, that so fine a structure should be partially hidden by surrounding hills."

Following the dedication of the 1871 courthouse, work began on grading the terrain and smoothing the "hills" around the building. The Janesville Gazette took the opportunity to reminisce about the first courthouse: "The remnant of the original ‘courthouse hill’ is fast disappearing under the plows and shovels of the workmen employed to grade the park. It seems but a short…time since its site was occupied by a grassy green knoll, steep and high and slightly bald on its crest, surmounted by an unpretentious white frame building….Our early settlers can say that when first they planted their cabin stakes in the garden of the west, that hole in the ground was a high hill.’”

Ground breaking for Janesville’s third courthouse began March 5, 1955. The second (1871) courthouse was demolished during March 1957, so the two courthouses must have been located in slightly different locations on Courthouse Hill.

By 1996, more room was needed, and ground-breaking for a new addition to the third courthouse began in March 1996 (see below). The addition opened in February 1999, and was followed by remodeling of the older parts of the building.

Beloit Courthouse (below):

The origins of the 1964 Beloit Courthouse, known officially as the “Rock County Administration Building,” lay in state legislation passed three years earlier.

In 1961, the state legislature voted to convert all municipal courts in Wisconsin into county courts effective July 2, 1962. At the time, Beloit had one municipal court, so—to comply with the legislation and to provide county offices that were scattered around Beloit in rented space, a new building—the Rock County Administration Building--was built.

Informally known as the “Beloit courthouse,” this building opened in the summer of 1964 and was home to County Court Branch 3 (formerly the Beloit municipal court), and to the newly created County Court Branch 4. (Janesville was the home of County Court Branches 1 and 2.)

By 2000, only one full-time judge worked in the building. So, in a cost-cutting move, the Rock County Board voted in September 2000 to shutter the building and move the courts to the Rock County Courthouse in Janesville. Rented by several other organizations for a time, the building was sold at auction in 2006.


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