Upon its founding in 1856, Lamar was already chosen to serve as county seat of Barton County. Its downtown area was laid out in a 400-foot square, and its first courthouse was built there. Although records of the first courthouse were destroyed in a fire from a Civil War skirmish, locals who remembered the building said it had been located on the north side of the downtown square.
A wooden, temporary courthouse was set up while plans for a new building were devised. This building was two stories tall and 60 x 30 feet. By 1860, the new courthouse was built in the center of the downtown square. It was also two stories and was constructed of brick, not wood.
Unfortunately, the county was only able to use this courthouse for two years. In 1862, William Quantrill and his band of bushwhackers conducted a raid on the city. After exchanging gunfire with Union troops stationed in the town, Quantrill and his men left, but the damage was already done. The courthouse was damaaged beyond repair.
A second temporary building was erected in August 1866. While city officials did not plan for this courthouse to be used for long, the locals did not vote to raise enough money for a new building until 1887. The new, permanent courthouse was built a year later, in 1888. This time it was 80 x 120 feet, and crafted out of St. Louis red brick and Barton County stone for the trim, which gave it a unique red and white look.
This version of the courthouse is the building that stands to this day and is still used as the county seat. Although, it has been through repairs and renovations, including the removal of its clock tower. The picturesque courthouse was also the scene of exciting events in the town, such as being the site of Harry S. Truman’s vice presidential nomination acceptance speech in August 1944.