History of the Bureau County Courthouse
By an act of Congress on February 3, 1809, Illinois Territory was created and set apart from Indiana. By 1818, when Illinois Territory was admitted to the Union of States, it had been divided into fifteen counties. One of he fifteen was huge Putnam County that extended to, and encompassed, Chicago.
On February 28, 1837, the General Assembly at Vandalia acted to form Bureau County from Putnam County. Bureau County's name comes from Pierre Buero, a French trader with the Indians. In May of 1837, Princeton was declared the county seat of the new Bureau County. The first meeting of the County Commissioners Court convened in Princeton on June 7, 1837. As a result of their actions, early courts were held in Hampshire Colony Church, near the southeast corner of the courthouse square, until a suitable public building was provided. When summer temperatures were more comfortable outside the building, jurors sat on a log in the open air to consider the verdicts.
The first courthouse was a wooden frame building erected on the west division of the present Courthouse Square. This original building was also used as a meeting place.
By 1845, concern for the security of county records brought about a replacement of the original building and erection of a brick courthouse on the west part of the courthouse square at a cost of $9000.00. In 1860, a wing was added to the east side of the courthouse at a cost of $18,688.00
In December 1935, bonds were issued by the county to assist in adding to and remodeling the existing courthouse. It was built during the Depression as a Public Works Administration (PWA) project. The federal government provided money and materials, and the towns in the county provided the labor. To qualify for federal aid, the courthouse had to be remodeled, not rebuilt. To get around the rules, a new courthouse was built around the existing vault. Everything was torn down except the vault, which enable the county officials to claim they were not rebuilding, but remodeling at the cost of $225,000.00. The present courthouse was completed in 1937, the 100th anniversary of Bureau County's existence.
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