Carlton County Courthouse celebrates its centennial anniversary

The Carlton County Historical Society created an exhibit during Carlton Daze as a celebration for the County Courthouse reaching its centennial year.

Carlton County Courthosue
The Carlton County Historical Society put together an exhibit for the Carlton County Courthouse to celebrate its centennial anniversary on Saturday July 30, 2022.
Dylan Sherman / Cloquet Pine Journal
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CARLTON — A steady flow of people walked through the Carlton County Courthouse on Saturday as the building reached a new milestone this year — it turned 100 years old.

Or it turned 98.

Sue Zmyslony, president of the Carlton County Historical Society, said there was some debate over when the building turns 100, as a plaque in the entrance shows that it was erected in 1922-1923 and it was dedicated in 1924.

1922 is engraved in stone above the southern entrance to the Carlton County Courthouse.
Dylan Sherman / Cloquet Pine Journal

However, above the main entrance on the south side of the building there "1922" etched in stone.

The historical society put together a small collection of exhibits and provided tours to those interested in seeing more of the courthouse during Carlton Daze on Saturday, July 30.


Zmyslony said she hopes the county still has a use for the building when the court system moves to the new justice center in 2024.

"Once you start changing it to other things you lose that historical piece of it," she said. "We need to keep this building going."

Zmyslony said her favorite part of the building is the stone and wooden staircase you can see if you enter from the south entrance of the building, and the building itself has been kept in great shape over the years.

"You walk in here and it is historical and important, and there is a sense of business," she said.

Information about the courthouse was displayed on exhibits and detailed how Carlton got the county seat by men stealing documents from Cloquet, which had been approved as the county seat over Thomson, and kept them for 18 months until the legislature made their seizure legal.

According to information provided by the historical society, the local sheriff at the time was "conveniently" absent when the records were stolen.

"If it's true I think it's fascinating," Zmyslony said. "It is a flavor that a lot of small towns tend to experience ... it is something that shows the test of time."

Zmyslony added she thinks the historical society should see what it can dedicate for the courthouse and there are many people who have historical items they could bring in.


Alan Finifrock, who lives in Cloquet and is a member of the historical society, said the courthouse shows that the builders had a futuristic view as it is still standing 100 years later.

"It is a well-built building that has (stood) the test of time," he said.

Finifrock also hopes the building will continue to be of use to the county, which he said he believes it will be.

Kevin DeVriendt, the Carlton County auditor and treasurer, also helped with the planning of the exhibit.

"I love history and I love this building," he said. "Just seeing the 1922 above the door (growing up) was mesmerizing."

DeVriendt added that he always loved driving by it as a child and it is cool to be able to work in the building now, where his office is on the second floor.

Monty Lundberg, a caretaker for the building, will have worked in the building for 43 years in December.

Lundberg said the record for working at the courthouse is 47 years, but joked that he doesn't plan on breaking it.


He said a lot has changed in the 100-year-old building since he started working there in the late 1970s, from updating the electrical and internet wiring to replacing the coal boilers with natural gas ones.

"There was a guy who was a coal tender, who used to shovel coal in there every four hours," he said. "Can you imagine what a mess it would have been bringing in coal and having to clean that up?"

Lundberg shared some quirks about the courthouse that not all who enter might know.

One being the painted white canvases in the third-floor courtroom have "unusual" cracks in them.

Lundberg said years ago they had someone look at the cracks and determine that there could be paintings that have been painted over.

"I don't know if it is true or not, I assumed they were put in for sound dampening," he said. "There is that 1% chance that there could be something underneath it."

Monty Lundberg
Monty Lundberg, caretaker at the Carlton County Courthouse, points out the "unusual" cracks in the paint in the courtroom, Saturday, July 30, 2022.
Dylan Sherman / Cloquet Pine Journal

Another thing Lundberg has found out was the old judge's desk in the courtroom was built out of steel inside of the wooden desk.

"So if someone came in here with a gun in the old days, he could go underneath his bench and not get shot," he said.

Lundberg said he found that out when he was trying to install a cable through the desk and wondered why it was so hard to get through and why it weighed thousands of pounds.

Since the building was dedicated in 1924, DeVriendt said it allows for the chance to hold another and possibly larger exhibit in 2024, which would also coincide with the completion of the new justice center.

Zach Stirewalt had to look for a new apartment after two floors in Cloquet's Victory Apartments building were deemed unfit for habitation. Facing a critical shortage of housing, county officials say they are working with developers and scouting areas to build new housing.

Dylan covers the local governments of Cloquet and Carlton County, as well as the Esko and Wrenshall school boards for the Cloquet Pine Journal.
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As reported by Carlton County District Court.