Facts contained in the historical archives of Dubuque County are sparse when it comes to the earliest courthouses. Early records reveal that there were plans for a two-story log house, but the order was rescinded by the commissioners in 1836. Around 1843, County records and county offices were housed in a red brick building at the corner of Clay and Seventh Streets.
In 1869, the courthouse was considered old and inconvenient so there was talk of a new courthouse. Nothing became of the talk until 1890 when it was decided that a new courthouse would be located at the site of the old one. In 1891, $125,000 worth of bonds were sold and the cornerstone was laid.
The building was made of red brick and Bedford limestone. Its architectural style is early Victorian. At one time, 12 massive statues, in Classic Greek style, adorned the roof and upper part of the building. Six of them have mysteriously disappeared, however, atop a golden cupola, the statue of Justice still stands 213 feet above street level.
The structure had a $145,439.22 price tag when it was built at the end of the last century, but since then over $800,000 has been spend to renovate the building. In 1976 and again in 1994, the tower was repainted. The guilded dome and statues were also repaired. Most recently, a geothermal heating and cooling system replaced the old boiler.