Shelby County

US States / H-L / Iowa / Shelby County

Shelby County is named for Isaac Shelby, who was a general in the American revolutionary War and the War of 1812, and who served as the first governor of Kentucky.


Surrounding County Courthouses: 

N – Crawford County

E – Audubon County

S – Cass County and Pottawattomie County

W – Harrison County


Created:  January 15, 1851                    Map of Iowa highlighting Shelby County

County Seat:

Shelbyville  1855 – 1859

Harlan         1859 – present


County Courthouse – Harlan


Location:  612 Court Street / 7th Street

Built:  1892 – 1893

Style:  Richardsonian Romanesque

Architect:  Charles E Bell of Minneapolis, Minnesota

Contractor:   W H Cockerell


Description: The building faces south and is a three story buff stone and concrete structure. The building is located on landscaped grounds of the Courthouse Square in the center of Harlan. Constructed of rusticated stone, the building sits on a high basement. Basement windows have flat heads, and broad stone lintels. Main entrances are on north and south ends, reached by stone steps entering at the second story. The doorways are recessed beneath large stone porches supported by pairs of very short, squat pillars. The former east and west entrances, which open directly from the basement level, have been filled in. Above each of these is a small blind arcade, formed by pilasters, with a single short pillar between them. The gable ends of the pavilions have small pediments and finials. Centered above the north and south entrances are small, pedimented roof dormers. Of interest is the wide cornice, which has a course of arcaded corbelling. The courthouse was originally designed and built with a tower common to expressions of this style. The east and west sections project from the building and have peaked roof lines. White colored stone trim runs below the central roof line with small dormer above. The roof is hipped. In the interior the hallway runs north-south. The County Magistrate Court courtroom is located on the west side of the third story and has an ornate carved wood judge’s bench. The County District Court courtroom is located on the east side of the third story and is circular with a large circular ceiling at the center and vertical wood strapping on the walls. The building houses the County District Court of the 4th Judicial District. The tower was removed in 1899. The contractor was Larsen Brothers. The building was renovated in 1978 when an elevator was installed.


See:  The architect Charles E Bell of Minneapolis, Minnesota designed many courthouses.


See:  National Register of Historic Places – Shelby County Courthouse


See:  The 4th Judicial District includes Audubon County, Cass CountyFremont CountyHarrison County, Mills CountyMontgomery CountyPage County and Pottawattamie County.


History:  The county was created in 1851 and Shelbyville was selected as the county seat in 1855 when the county was organized. In 1859 the county seat was moved to Harlan. The first courthouse was a two story frame structure built in 1860 and the second courthouse was built at a cost of $4,250.  The cost of construction of the present courthouse was $62,734. The cost of the 1978 renovation was $300,000.




 County Courthouse – Harlan
















County District Court courtroom
















Third story floor plan




County Magistrate Court courtroom










Photos taken 2008 and 2024