Judge Bruce M. Van Sickle Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse, Minot, ND
Location: 100 1st St SW, Minot, ND 58701
Conspicuous to the Minot, North Dakota central business district is the 95-year old Italian Renaissance Revival style Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse. Its historical landmark status is assumed by Minot citizens and it is one of few downtown buildings continuing in one of its original functions.
Contributory to the prime importance is the fact that the site derives from the original Minot Townsite patent #85, August 23, 1888, from President Grover Cleveland. The patent was granted to Solomon G. Comstock, President of the Northwest Land Company, who was also an agent for James J. Hill, the Northwest pioneer railroad builder. Common to the times was the practice of railroad and townsite companies aligning to attract immigrant settlers to sites compatible to the railroad development. Such was the case with the predominately Norwegian immigrants who chose to settle in Minot.
Between the time the townsite patent was granted and the Federal Building was completed in 1915, a Mr. T. P. Kulaas, pioneer lumber merchant, had acquired five of the six lots comprising the building site. Evidence suggests Mr. Kulaas did not want to sell the lots to the U.S. government and contributed to the 10 year delay after Senator J. C. Hansbrough had introduced a bill in Congress for construction of the building. However, upon the death of Mr. Kulaas in 1910, the Government brought forth a condemnation action, which was decreed on August 3, 1911 and provided $9,800 to the fee owners.
Designed by the U.S. Treasury Supervisory Architect, Oscar Wenderoth, the original drawings were completed November 8, 1913, and the contract was awarded on March 28, 1914, to John Lauritzen of Fergus Falls, Minnesota. Contract bid was $124,650. Superintendent of construction for the project was Joseph C. Johnson whose "firm hand and eagle eye" guided it to completion. Minot citizens were intensely proud of their new federal structure, which was considered to be one of the finest in the Northwest, and joyously participated in its midnight opening on June 12, 1915.
Main original occupants were the U. S. Post Office and the U.S. District Court. The latter continues to function as one of four federal courtrooms in North Dakota and is included in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Postmasters who served in the building include: E.H. Stenvick, Fred L. Anderson, Burt E. Stewart, Nellie Daugherty, Leo E. Tibbs, W.H. Dunnell and John P. Severson. In December 1961 the Post Office vacated the building and moved to a location on the fringe of the central business area.
The majority of the Federal District Judges have figured in North Dakota history. Judge Charles F. Amidon, who signed the condemnation action in acquiring the building site, was noted as one of the great civil libertarian judges of President Grover Cleveland in 1896 and served until his retirement and death in December of 1937. A strong supporter of citizenship, Judge Amidon allowed few exemptions from jury duty participation. His most famous cases included U.S. v. Allen (179 Fed. 13) in which Oklahoma Indians were able to retain their lands and cases involving violations of the Espionage Act in 1917. Although besieged by attacks of patriotism, Judge Amidon prevailed on the side of civil liberties to guarantee First Amendment rights.
Other judges who have served on the court include: Alfred D. Thomas, Ronald N. Davies, Paul Benson, Andrew Miller, Charles J. Vogel, George S. Register, and Bruce M. Van Sickle. Of Judge Register who was appointed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on July 27, 1955, a citation of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals (317 F. 2nd 264-265) praised his jurist abilities in regard to the handling of Butler v. U.S. (317 F. 2nd 249), a mail fraud case. The judge who the building was renamed in honor of, Bruce M. Van Sickle, born in Minot on February 13, 1917, was appointed by President Richard Nixon on January 18, 1972 and is the only judge who has had his chambers in Minot.
By the 1930s, it became obvious that additional space was needed and a major rear addition was completed in 1940. Specializing in government construction work, the MacDonald Construction Company of St. Louis, Missouri was awarded a $149,293 contract with Louis Boos serving as Construction Superintendent. The Construction Engineer for the U.S. Treasury Department was Walter J. Mark. The addition was designed by U.S. Treasury Supervisory Architect Louis A. Simon.
Minot federal court actions continue to contribute to area development as the scene of actions including tax and bankruptcy cases as well as hundreds of naturalization cases over the past decade. Many of the latter result from nearby Minot Air Force Base personnel who marry overseas and return with dependent foreign spouses.
Since its erection, the Minot Federal Building has unobtrusively provided a federal presence and is the only government-owned federal building in the Minot area. Taken for granted as a historical landmark, citizens fondly refer to it "being there" and recall its association in their daily lives. Its period of significance has been determined to be 1900-1924 with specific year of significance 1915.
- Architects: Wenderoth, Oscar
- Construction Date: 1915
- GSA Building Number: ND0014ZZ
- National Register of Historic Places Landmark Status: National Register Listed