Restoration & Renovation

Condemned Courthouse

In 1985 the Lawrence County Courthouse was condemned, being declared structurally unsound, due to support problems in the flooring. The building was vacated in December 1985, and the county officers were moved to various locations throughout Deadwood. The Lawrence County Commissioners began the difficult task of consulting experts in the field of architecture and engineering in an attempt to find a resolution to the situation.


Controversy erupted over the fate of the courthouse, and in January 1986, a group called "Save the Courthouse" organized. In its grassroots efforts to save the building, they contacted the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the South Dakota Historical Preservation Center and discovered that the destruction of the historic 1908 building could mean the loss of the Historic Landmark designation for all Deadwood. The group began fund-raising in February, and by April had reached its goal - to hire a restoration specialist recommended by the National Trust. When it appeared that the Ceiling Muralcourthouse might be demolished and a new structure built, the group obtained sufficient signatures on petitions to bring the issue to a vote of the citizens of Lawrence County.

Special Project Restoration

On November 4, 1986, the majority vote was to save the 1908 Lawrence County Courthouse. Passage of the initiative required the county to restore or renovate the building. Again, laborious time was spent and various needs studies evaluated. In May , 1990, Lawrence County entered into bonded indebtedness for $5.8 million to fund restoration and renovation of the courthouse, to build a new administrative building and central plaza area, and remodel the existing Public Safety Center. Numerous contributions by local entities made the special project restoration possible.

Contractors & Restorers

Contractors for the project included

  • Brad Clark Electric, Ft. Pierre electrical contractor
  • MAC Construction
  • Rapid City engineers Dunham and Associates
  • Rapid City general contractor
  • Spearfish Plumbing and heating contractor
  • Wolff's Plumbing and Heating
  • Sioux City Iowa architects Neumann, Monson, and Wictor
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Conrad Schmitt Studios, New Berlin, Wisconsin, was contracted to restore the murals, using buttermilk to clean off years of accumulated smoke (cigar) and dust. The four paintings originally in the Commissioner's room were cleaned, framed and placed in the public area on the second floor. The ornate moldings and borders were gilded with 24 karat gold leaf paint.

The stained glass at the top of the cupola was restored by the Minneapolis Art and Stained Glass Company. There were a few panels missing, however, enough were still intact so the company could restore it to its original look and color.

Further Restoration

Restoration in the courthouse used original woodwork, doors, hardware, wainscoting and wood furniture whenever possible. Painstaking efforts were made to replicate anything that could not be restored. Particular attention to detail was made in the public places, cupola and third floor courtroom to restore these back to their original splendor.

The chandeliers in the third floor courtroom were purchased from Illuminating Systems of Omaha, Nebraska. The seating in the jury box is original along with the box itself, the judge's bench and the attorney tables. One hundred seventeen pieces of original furniture were restored and are in use throughout the courthouse, which is now used entirely to house the court system. There is a courtroom on each floor.