The Walt Disney movie, The Mighty Ducks, starring Emilio Estevez, was filmed in Minnesota and released in 1992. One Friday afternoon, when the film company was scouting locations, I received a telephone message: Could I open the Sibley County Courthouse for an advance person to scout it for the courtroom scene in the movie? So it was that I met the lady at the courthouse on Saturday morning and gave her the grand tour.
Built in 1916, the Sibley County Courthouse boasts Doric Columns facing to the south and a grand rotunda in the center of the building. I recall talking with an older Winthrop resident when I first started practicing law in 1974, who told me he was at the cornerstone laying of the courthouse in 1916, when speeches were made and an exhibition boxing match was given by famous St. Paul boxers, the Gibbons brothers, Tom and Mike.
Over the years, likely to attempt to save on heating costs, the skylights on either side of the rotunda were covered up, as was the rotunda. Water had infiltrated, causing paint to peel away in sections of the rotunda and the surrounding ceiling. The Courtroom itself had its high ceiling lowered and also had peeling paint and the ornate crown molding around the ceiling line was damaged in several spots.
In the 1990’s, the County Board embarked on a restoration project which opened up the skylights, repaired the rotunda and restored the crown molding around the ceiling of the courtroom. They did a wonderful job restoring the building’s former beauty and making it functional again.
The advance person from the film company spent a couple of hours in the courtroom, in the rotunda area, shooting about three rolls of film. I like to think we came in second to the Stearns County Courthouse, which had a larger courtroom, making it more suitable for the film equipment.
In more recent years, the courtroom has been modified to make it a modern technology space. A state of the art sound system has been installed as well as a system to assist hearing impaired persons. An interactive television system is built in, and monitors on the bench, counsel tables and for the audience are available, as well as a drop-down screen on which the ITV can be projected for jurors. There is a document camera, which permits exhibits to be shown on all the screens in the courtroom, as well as connections for computers to be plugged in for display. Most recently, wireless internet has been made available for use by attorneys and the public.
It is a pretty neat place to go to work!
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Next Week: Anniversary