The county courthouse moved to a wood-frame structure in New Town’s public square north of the depot on Holden Street in 1875, however, a permanent courthouse was not constructed until 1896. Work on the courthouse square was already underway when construction bids were opened on May 15, 1896. Four contractors wanted the job but William Lowe of Warrensburg was the only local bidder. However, the construction contract was awarded to low bidder John M. Anderson of Emporia, KS, who proposed to build a sandstone courthouse for $49,885. The budget for this building was $50,585 (or over $1 million today), and it was designed by architect George E. McDonald. The Johnson County Courthouse hosted its first meeting in 1898. Since construction, the statue of Minerva that sits atop the courthouse has undergone renovations. Otherwise, this building remains accurate to its original late 19th century construction. This was the County’s third Courthouse. The courthouse was listed on the National Registry for Historic Places on 4/7/1994. The courthouse was renovated in the 1960’s and an elevator was added in 1985.
Significant as a seat of county government since its completion in 1898, the Johnson County Courthouse is an impressive local rendering of the Richardsonian Romanesque style which dominated courthouse architecture in Missouri in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The oldest of four Missouri courthouses designed by architect George E. McDonald, the Johnson County Courthouse. For 96 years, the richly-detailed building has served as the political and geographic focus of Johnson County, housing various governmental and other public functions at the county level within its massive sandstone walls. Erected on high ground and with virtually no competition above the trees, the building’s goddess-topped clock tower and elaborate roofline are visible for several miles.