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Business leaders get sneak preview of 1883 Courthouse

Jamestown's 1883 Stutsman County Courthouse is waking up this spring to a second chance at life. It will open its doors on May 27 as the State Historical Society of North Dakota's newest historic site, ready for public viewing. Beginning the Satu...

Jamestown’s 1883 Stutsman County Courthouse is waking up this spring to a second chance at life. It will open its doors on May 27 as the State Historical Society of North Dakota’s newest historic site, ready for public viewing. Beginning the Saturday before Memorial Day it will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday of each week during the summer, and by appointment  after Labor Day. Mondays and Tuesdays it will be closed except by appointment.

Site Supervisor Steven Reidburn will be interpreting the 134-year-old building for visitors. He was assigned the courthouse position after nearly seven years as site supervisor at the SHSND’s Fort Buford Historic Site, located 23 miles west of Williston. During his tenure there, he brought in monthly events and added a number of attractions to the 151-year-old fort where Sitting Bull (who surrendered there in 1891), Lewis & Clark (1804 and 1806), Karl Bodmer and the nation’s Buffalo Soldiers called home during the years leading up to its decommissioning in 1895. Reidburn researched the history of  the Masons that had a lodge on the property and a Black Masonic Lodge that was there as well. He contributed interpretative information for visitors from around the world, and plans to do the same in Jamestown.

Some of his initial plans for the 1883 Stutsman County Courthouse include tours, providing a meeting site, working with young people to build an interest in local history and to book entertainment for the community.

“We have a sneak preview coming up in May for Chamber of Commerce  dignitaries,” he said, “and we plan some events around the White Cloud birthday celebrations and AAUW’s garden tour this July.”

The 1883 courthouse has been under the oversight of SHSND’s Northern Region Director Guinn Hinman. As its overseer, she hired renovation specialists to handle the delicate (and often labor-intensive) job of bringing the building back to its initial beauty and integrity, as well as bring it up to current safety-codes. The 1883 Courthouse Committee, headed by Mike Williams of Jamestown, has been working on funding.

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The 1883 committee in 2015 was required to match (by $75,000) a $350,000 grant from the North Dakota State Legislature, designated for preservation/renovations/updating the building. During the 2016 funding campaign, Bart and Cathy Holaday were very generous in kicking off that year’s fundraising, and this year Clarice and Reuben Liechty took the lead for donations. More is needed to complete the $75,000, but Lang said she feels it will be met very soon.

“We are just short of reaching our $75,000 goal,” she said. “But Jamestown always comes through. We know the community will continue to step up, especially during the next couple of years when no legislative funding will be coming our way.

“We have families still living here who remember opening those large doors, walking down that hall,  and standing at those high wooden counters where business was conducted every day,” Lang added. “They will always have ties to the 1883 courthouse.”

Once the Jamestown Chamber of Commerce event takes place next month, more information will be forthcoming about the grand opening (scheduled for June) and events already being scheduled. This is an exciting time for Jamestown and the state of North Dakota in general. Tourism numbers have been up across the state, and with this new site being opened to the public, Jamestown will have one more reason for visitors to make our town a destination this summer.

In the meantime, The SHSND will recognize Reidburn at 2 p.m Friday at the Heritage Center in Bismarck with a retirement party and kick off his new part-time position as site supervisor at the 1883 Stutsman County Courthouse.

If anyone has an item for this column, please send to Sharon Cox, PO Box 1559, Jamestown, ND 58402-1559.

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