Since 1876 the Madison County Courthouse has fulfilled its purpose as a beautiful public space dedicated to serving the common good through the court system, county government, and as a public meeting space.  As an architectural metaphor, the Courthouse is unparalleled.  The local limestone from which it was hewn speaks of the strength and endurance of our community.  The four classical porticos, which face north, south, east, and west, remind us of the courage, integrity, perseverance, and justice on which pioneers built their dream of a just society.

To preserve this historic jewel in the center of the Winterset, a multi-phase project is underway known as Legacy in Stone. Leading this effort, is a citizen volunteer group known as Friends of the Madison County Courthouse.

A Phased Approach

Click here for color brochure of planned improvements.

In 2017, an Historic Structures Report was completed by OPN Architects of Des Moines for the Madison County Courthouse.    The 440-page report  included a full history of the Courthouse, an analysis of structural needs, and a “playbook” for a phased approach for repairs and ongoing maintenance.  It is time to begin Phase One, which plans to:

  • Make repairs to the four porticos including: maintenance and repair of columns; preserve wooden entry doors and modify to swing in direction of travel; and repair porch floor and steps.
  • Replace and repair soffit, cornice, brackets, and downspouts.
  • Repair and patch exterior limestone.
  • Replace the 1960s aluminum windows with energy-efficient and historically-accurate wooden replacements. 
  • Construct an entrance on the south side that would comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

OPN has been chosen to create the preliminary design and specification documents for Phase One with a construction bid date projected for mid-February, 2021.


Funds will be gathered through a partnership of state, county, and local governments, private foundations, plus public organizations and individuals.  The Friends of the Madison County Courthouse group was awarded a $50,000 Historic Resource Development Program (HRDP) grant from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs in July, 2020.  The group also received $10,000 in 2020 from the Greater Madison County Community Foundation.

Help Meet the Challenge

In addition, the Jeffries Family Foundation ( has provided the community with a challenge: JFF pledges $330,000 if $660,000 is raised from donations by July, 2022.  Your help is needed to make sure that the challenge is met.

To contribute, click Challenge Grant Pledge to print your form

To submit your pledge, complete the form and mail it to: Friends of the Madison County Courthouse, Box 152, Winterset, Iowa, 50273. If you include a check, please make it payable to Friends of the Madison County Courthouse and write Jeffris Challenge Grant in the memo line. Friends of the Madison County Courthouse is a tax exempt organization as described in Section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code. As payments are made, donors will receive a letter for tax purposes.

We Protect What We Prize

The Importance of Restoration

Madison County is a place with a story to tell; part of that story is in our buildings.  When we preserve those buildings, the stories come alive by connecting us to the past.  We are emotionally attracted to places that offer us a sense of connection. People stay longer, come back more often, spend more money, and are more emotionally invested in places that attract their affection. 

Guests come to Madison County to experience our history, attractions, and picturesque courthouse square.  In 2018, over $15,000,000 of tourism expenditures here equated to $1,190,000 in state and local taxes. Traveler spending reduces the tax burden on Madison County residents and subsidized important public programs.

In addition to anchoring Winterset’s Courthouse Historic District (National Register of Historic Places, 2015), the Madison County Courthouse is central to many community gatherings, including the annual Covered Bridge Festival and summer-time Community Band Lawn Chair nights. In 2020, when the traditional Winterset High School graduation ceremonies were not possible, the Courthouse was chosen as the backdrop of a very meaningful new tradition.

The Benefits of Restoration

Restoring the beauty of our Courthouse will gain people’s respect for its contributions to the common good and to the position it retains as a beacon of justice. It will encourage a sense of pride by raising public awareness of the legacy contained within its limestone walls. In addition, it will stand as a shared community achievement because the restoration will be accomplished through public/private partnerships.

Preliminary design of ADA accessible entrance by OPN Architects