There are many grand courthouses still in use in Kansas. Over the years I’ve traveled to most County seats across the state and apart from the Chase County Courthouse in Cottonwood Falls, I’d say that Clay County (Clay Center), Geary County (Junction City), Riley County (Manhattan) and Mitchell County (Beloit) have 4 of the greatest example of Romanesque Courthouses in the State. These inspiring structures help define the downtown and communities they reside in. The Mitchell and Clay courthouses sit in the middle of a prominent town square lined on all sides with business and community activities. Riley’s courthouse sits at the western edge of what is the remaining historic downtown of Manhattan right on Poyntz Avenue next to the Wareham Hotel and Harry’s Uptown Restaurant.
In some ways, Geary County’s courthouse is disconnected from downtown since it is neither in a town square nor on the main downtown thoroughfare, however, it is a prominent feature of the towns skyline from Interstate 70.
If you’ve visited more that one of these stone buildings, you may notice common architectural themes in the buildings symmetry around a central gothic tower. Indeed, these courthouses and several others in Kansas were designed by the same architect…. James Clinton Holland. YES, he is a relation of mine.
I have done a fair amount of genealogical research and several years ago found out that this prominent Topeka architect and one time State Architect was grandson of Thomas and Lorena Cahill Holland who are my GGGGGGrandparents. Here’s a biographical sketch I put together several years ago.
James Clinton(3) Holland (Barton Andrew2, Thomas1)
was born in a log cabin in Lima, Ohio on April 2, 1853. He attended public school in Lima, Ohio and as a young man enrolled in the Northern Ohio Normal School (Ohio Northern University) in Ada, Ohio to study architecture. After two years at the Normal School, James attended Cornell University in Ithaca, New York to study architecture for two years. Upon returning to Ohio from New York, James was offered and accepted a teaching position and the Chairmanship of the Architecture program at the Northern Ohio Normal School. Later he worked with his brother in-law James M. McKinney, who was a prominent building contractor in Lima. James worked for a year as an architect for the firm of Rumbaugh & Bacon in Toledo, Ohio and in 1877 started a construction firm in Ada.
It was at this time that he married Elizabeth Baker on September 14, 1882. Elizabeth was the daughter of Anthony and Julie Baker. Around 1883, James met with a severe accident, which kept him under a physicians care. The accident left the family nearly penniless. In 1885, the family borrowed $110 and set out for Topeka, Kansas with their first child, Barton, being an infant. James quickly became a partner of Hopkins & Holland an architect firm in Topeka. This partnership lasted until 1889, when James began his own firm. He was on his own until 1903 when he partnered with Frank Squires in the firm Holland & Squires. Later James partnered with son, Barton in the firm Holland & Son. He served as the State Architect of Kansas from 1895 to 1897, a time period during which the current State Capital Building was being built. He was also the special projects architect for the Santa Fe Railroad Company in 1897 and 1898.
James Clinton Holland’s work can be found throughout Kansas. Most of the public buildings built around 1900 were designed by James. Among these include: the old county jail, the Mills building, the Masonic Temple, Capper Publications building, the Warren M. Crosby building, the Berkson Brothers building, the Central National Bank building, Stormont Vail Hospital, the Throop Hotel, the First Methodist Church, the Central Congregational Church, The Topeka City Auditorium, the Y.M.C.A building, and most of the Topeka Public School buildings. He designed numerous Kansas county courthouses including: Clay, Geary, Marion, Mitchell, Ness, Osbourne, Rice, Riley, Shawnee, and Thomas. His greatest residential designs occurred on the “Governor’s Row”, on Buchanan Street in Topeka. These are the most distinguished homes in Topeka.
James and Lizzie had three children: Barton, Frank, and Lydia. James died on May 28, 1919 in Topeka, Kansas, at 66 years of age.
Most of us have to go to the courthouse at least once a year to renew our automobile tags or pay our property taxes. Courthouses typically include the following offices, which serve many legal functions such as: District Court, County Appraiser, Register of Deeds, County Clerk and Treasurer. In encourage you to become familiar with what these offices do and how they are involved in the legal facilitation of your ownership in real estate. Perhaps the next time you visit one of the courthouses, you’ll search for the memorial construction plaque or cornerstone and find the name J. C. Holland, Architect.