Butler County Courthouse
The Butler County Courthouse is a striking red brick building located in the heart of El Dorado, Kansas and is the center of judicial activity for all of Butler County. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on April 26, 2002 in an effort to preserve its early twentieth-century design style. In addition to the architecture of the Courthouse itself, the front lawn of the property is also home to two other patriotic monuments, the Celebration of Freedom Memorial, and the Miss Liberty Statue located on the East and West lawns, respectively. A great deal of funding for the creation and preservation of these projects has come from donations of Butler county residents.
Backstory and Context
The building itself was constructed in 1909 in order to serve as Butler County’s courthouse, as it still does today. George P. Washington and Sons designed and constructed the building, and it remains only 1 of 11 of their courthouses still standing today. The Romanesque revival style that Washington and Sons used gives the building the remarkable appearance, making the building the centerpiece of downtown El Dorado. The style peaked in popularity in the late 1800s, right before the construction of the courthouse. The style is most evident in the building’s clock tower and four octagonal corner towers that give it a grandiose nineteenth century, gilded age feel, making it stand out dramatically from its surroundings.
Out of the Courthouse’s two monuments, the one that garnered the most time and energy spent was the Celebration of Freedom Memorial located on the Courthouse’s East Lawn. The idea for the monument originated from Butler County Representative to the Kansas Legislature, Bill Mason. Mason’s goal was to find a way to publicly honor veterans in direct response to the politics of the time, as he felt too many people were taking freedom for granted. This lead to the implementation of the Celebration of Freedom Committee by the El Dorado Chamber of commerce in 1999, in order to accomplish this goal. After a sketch was drawn by El Dorado High School art teacher, Frank Wise, money had began to come in from interested citizens for a short time until the process slowed about a year later. It was not until 2002 that Mason approached Loy Clennan, notorious for his previous successes in commemorative work, that the project reached its funding goal and began to make physical progress. This was done through the sale of commemorative bricks and benches to line the walkway and walls surrounding the statue itself, both of which engraved in remembrance of donor’s loved ones who had served in the United States military. The statue itself is called “Sovereign Wings” and is made of a bronze eagle in flight in order to represent the freedom that service men and women fight for.
Sitting on the opposite side of the lawn of the Butler County Courthouse is the Miss Liberty Statue, which has its own unique history. The monument first appeared on the lawn of the courthouse in June of 1950 after the local Boy Scouts at the time donated the statue in alignment of the group’s 40th anniversary theme, “Strengthen the Arm of Liberty”. Over the years, the original white statue and base did not hold up very well and was replaced with a darker replica produced by Texaco refinery in 1988 and the original was placed in the Butler County Historical Museum. After the work done on the memorial on the opposite side of the lawn, it became evident that the Miss Liberty portion needed additional attention. This portion of the renovation was initiated by Howard and Barbara Redburn sometime during 2003 in order to expand the walkway to mirror that of the Celebration of Freedom Memorial. This project was funded by the sale of more commemorative bricks and benches and met an overwhelmingly positive public response. By June of 2004, the statue’s base was redone and the memorial was rededicated with the help of these public donations.