Celebration honors 100 years of justice in Weld County Courthouse | MyWindsorNow.com
Tommy Simmons
tsimmons@greeleytribune.com

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Celebration honors 100 years of justice in Weld County Courthouse

The first time Nancy Rice stood in the Weld County Courthouse was 50 years ago, when she was about 16 or 17. At the time, she was on her Cheyenne high school's debate team, and the first debate meet of the year always took place in October in Greeley.

To this day, she doesn't remember how she did in the meet, but courthouses did become home for her. In 2014, after a career first as a lawyer, then as a judge, she was appointed chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court.

Her memories were some of untold thousands set in the immense granite and marble courthouse, which is 100 years old this year. On Friday evening, a host of Weld County officials, as well as about 100 other people, gathered on the courthouse steps for a ceremony honoring the building's centennial anniversary, where Rice shared that story.

"Walk through this building and think about the millions of people who have gone through (it) over time," Weld District Chief Judge James Hartmann told the crowd. "Look at the magnificence of what the (Weld County) commissioners … put in place."

He was referencing the three Weld County commissioners who, in the early part of the 20th century, took on the monumental task of funding and building the courthouse. Those three men — George Hodgson, W.C. Levis and T.E. Rowe — raised a two-year mill levy to build the courthouse debt free. They paid for the building in cash.

Board of Weld County Commissioners Chairwoman Julie Cozad drew parallels between those days and the 21st century, pointing out Weld's population was booming at the time.

Because of that, the commissioners wanted to send a message of wealth and power. That message is apparent — etched into the massive granite columns of the building's front and frozen in the quiet elegance of its enormous stained glass windows.

The building's calculated beauty never ceased to amaze Dale Peterson, an artist, who the Weld County commissioners asked to paint a portrait of the courthouse, which was unveiled during Friday's ceremony.

In preparation for the project, he made multiple trips from his home in Thornton to take a total of 37 pictures of the courthouse.

"It's amazing the amount of detail built into this thing," he said. "Every time I'd start (painting) a new part, there was a new discovery."

He said he spent one whole trip simply studying the great wrought-iron lamps flanking the building's front doors.

That was the sort of attention to detail the commissioners wanted to convey a century ago. Those values were literally built into the courthouse.

"If there's any building in northern Colorado that can stand 200 years," Hartmann said, "this is it."

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect a correction. Julie Cozad is the chairwoman of the Board of Weld County Commissioners. Her name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.

Planning for the celebration

The centennial celebration of the Weld County Courthouse was the culmination of more than a year’s worth of work by a team of people including Weld District Attorney Michael Rourke, Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams and Weld District Chief Judge James Hartmann. In her address to the crowd gathered on the courthouse steps Friday evening, Board of Weld County Commissioners Chairwoman Julie Cozad thanked the team for its planning and hard work.