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Clay County


Clay County is named for Henry Clay Jr., who was a Colonel who died in action in the Mexican-American War and who was the son of Henry Clay, a famous American.


Surrounding County Courthouses: 

N – Dickinson County

E – Palo Alto County

S – Buena Vista County

W – O’Brien County


Created:  January 18, 1851                    Map of Iowa highlighting Clay County

County Seat:

Peterson  1851 – 1871

Spencer   1871 – present


County Courthouse – Spencer


Location:  215 West 4th Street / 2nd Avenue West

Built:  1900 – 1901

Style:  Classical Revival

Architect:  Kinney & Detweiler of Minneapolis, Minnesota

Contractor:  E Miller


Description: The building faces south and is a two story Portage Entry Red Stone and concrete structure. The building is located on landscaped grounds in the center of the city. The front has a large portico supported by four large Corinthian columns rising to a pediment at the roof with an American Eagle with outstretched wings surrounded by a laurel wreath. A dark red colored stone forms the base of the building. On the center of the roof is a large bronze dome. The clock tower was added in 1910. In the interior the lobby has a tiled floor and pilasters. The County District Court courtroom is located on the west side of the second story and the smaller Magistrate Count courtroom is located at the northeast corner of the first story. The building houses the County District Court of the 3A Judicial District. The building was remodeled and renovated in 1981 to 1982. The architect was Fritzel-Kroeger-Griffin & Berg and the contractor was Spencer Construction Company Inc.


See:  The architect, Kinney & Detweiler of Minneapolis, Minnesota designed many courthouses.


See:  National Register of Historic Places – Clay County Courthouse


See:  The 3A Judicial District includes Buena Vista CountyCherokee CountyDickinson County, Emmet CountyKossuth County, Lyon CountyO’Brien CountyOsceola CountyPalo Alto County.


History:  The county was created in 1851 and Peterson was selected as the county seat. The first courthouse was a wood structure built in Peterson at a cost of $6,000 in 1860 by C H Brockshink. The county seat was moved to Spencer in 1871. The second courthouse was a wood structure built in Spencer in 1871 by a group a of citizens and then sold to the county at a cost of $1,330. The third courthouse was a brick structure built by H H Wade at a cost of $4,435. The fourth and present courthouse was constructed in 1900 to 1901 at a cost of $60,000.


County Administration Building – Spencer



Location:  300 West 4th Street / 3rd Avenue West

Built:  1980 – 1901

Style:  Modern

Architect:  Fritzel-Kroeger-Griffin & Berg

Contractor:  Sioux Contractors Inc.


Description: The building faces north and is a one story gray-red colored brick structure. The rectangular shaped building is located on landscaped grounds in the center of Spencer to the southwest of the courthouse. There are large rectangular openings with recessed glass panels.  The roof line is flat. 



County Courthouse – Spencer

























County District Court courtroom













County Magistrate Court courtroom







First County Courthouse



Second County Courthouse



Third County Courthouse









County Administration Building – Spencer







Photos taken 2008, 2010 and 2024