There is little information regarding the histories of the early county buildings in Buchanan County. Evidently, a small wooden structure, built in 1847, was used for the first county courthouse. The first term of court was held in the log cabin of Rufus B. Clark and the second term was held in the schoolhouse storeroom. A formal courthouse was built in 1857 in Independence for about $10,000.
In an 1880 election, the citizens voted to spend $7,500 on a fireproof building. This building occupied the county officers until the present courthouse was constructed in 1939. This $254,000 building still stands in good condition, with a miniature Statue of Liberty on the front lawn.
The court proceedings of Buena Vista County lacked the formality of the present day courtrooms. In fact, court was held in houses and storerooms through 1869 and after trial, the judge, attorneys, jurors, and witnesses gathered around the big table at which the court was held and played poker.
In 1870, the first courthouse was erected in Sioux Rapids. This building was two stories high and cost the county $4,945. Just as the courthouse was finished, a series of battles began for the location of the county seat. Cities like Newell, Storm Lake, and Alta were growing rapidly, but their efforts to relocate the county seat were futile. In 1877, the Sioux Rapids courthouse burned down which gave the other cities an opportunity to take over. Storm Lake offered to lease their two-story city hall as the courthouse, provided that Storm Lake would be named as the county seat. The offer was accepted in 1878 and the county records were peacefully transferred to the new courthouse.
Another courthouse was constructed in 1888 for $25,000.
The present courthouse was completed in 1972 and was designed in the shape of an "L". The most significant feature of the building is the courtroom in the round, which measures 30 feet in diameter. The total cost is estimated at $1,200,000.