Iowa Courthouse Power Rankings

I stated last week that I would give some details about the book this week. Truth is I don’t have a lot of details worked out. In fact, I have virtually no details worked out.

For example I don’t know:
+ The dimensions of the book.
+ How much information will accompany the sign pictures.
+ What information will accompany the sign pictures.
+ I know virtually nothing about self-publishing, but I have a resource.
+ Will there be a forward?
+ Who would write it?
+ The name of the book.
+ I don’t know what I don’t know.

So here is what I do know. This will probably be the part that disappoints many people and drop my pre-orders from 12 to zero. I am going to pick out the 100 (number not set in stone). It is not going to include every town. It isn’t going to include every town sign. If you were to go to the THE TOWN SIGN PROJECT album by clicking on the link below:

The Town Sign Project

You would see that there currently are 1390 town sign pictures in there. 1390 pictures are not going into the book. For a wide variety of reasons.

In a way, the inspiration is “Twentysix Gasoline Stations” by Ed Ruscha. Which probably isn’t a great photo book judged against modern standards, but was heavily influential. It is simply a book of twenty-six pictures of gas station Ed Ruscha photographed between Los Angeles and Oklahoma City.

If you ever see a copy of it in the wild for the cheap, pick it up. I’ve seen it for sale online for anywhere between $1,250 to $36,000 depending on the edition of the book. There are only 3 editions of the book and there are less than 4,000 total.

Don’t be tricked into buying “Twenty-Six Abandoned Gasoline Stations”. Different book. Different photographer.

But that is neither here, nor there. The point is I’m not sure what the book will be, outside of it being only 100 towns signs or so.

As one of the cappers to THE TOWN SIGN PROJECT, I wanted to rank the 10 best courthouse in Iowa, by looks. There are 100 courthouses in 99 Iowa counties.


Polk County Courthouse
#10. Polk County Courthouse in Des Moines

Johnson County Courthouse
#9. Johnson County Courthouse in Iowa City

Montgomery County Courthouse
#8. Montgomery County Courthouse in Red Oak

Mahaska County Courthouse
#7. Mahaska County Courthouse in Oskaloosa

Dubuque County Courthouse
#6. Dubuque County Courthouse in Dubuque

Benton County Courthouse
#5. Benton County Courthouse in Vinton

Davis County Courthouse
#4. Davis County Courthouse in Bloomfield

Hardin County Courthouse
#3. Hardin County Courthouse in Eldora

Taylor County Courthouse
#2. Taylor County Courthouse in Bedford

Delaware County Courthouse
#1. Delaware County Courthouse in Manchester

Next week, I’m going to rank the 10 worst courthouses in Iowa.

4 thoughts on “Iowa Courthouse Power Rankings”

  1. I think the Davis courthouse arguably is #1, but this is a great list.

    So, I don’t know if it would be helpful, but I created a couple of coloring books and got them printed for Christmas presents this year. I created the pages in MS Publisher, then printed them to a PDF. I then sent it out.

    I tried both Copyworks and Alpha Copies here in Ames. Copyworks was just terrible, but Alpha Copies turned out great. If you want to see how the booklets look, I can show you (I made a copy to keep of both of them). I’m sure there are tons of other resources, but this worked really well for a limited run. I researched book printing online, and holy expensive.

  2. Yeah, I could go back and forth on the courthouses. Before I started this project I always thought the French style courthouse in Adel was the prettiest courthouse in Iowa, but it didn’t even make the list. But maybe I just didn’t photograph it well. I admit that I didn’t always put the best effort in the documenting the courthouse part of these trips. Especially when I had to go back and pick up courthouses I missed when I wasn’t documenting them in the early part of these posts.

    The publishing will be a bit more ambitious than that. I’m going to try to list it on Amazon, like my friend Anders had done with a couple of his books:


    But I’m sure what is sorta coffee table book will run quite a bit more.

  3. I think it is a great offshoot of the original project to photograph the courthouses, and your selections are all gorgeous. I think it is a great way to document how unique and lovely Iowa is.

    Oh gosh, that’s definitely more ambitious – and so cool! For certain you’ll want more copies if you’re not just taking personal orders. Also, I had no idea Anders had done all of that! I also look forward to purchasing a copy of your book.

  4. I would throw in a vote for the Woodbury County Courthouse. It may not qualify under the criteria of “beautiful” from the outside. But it’s details, interior, and uniqueness are all amazing. It’s a large Praire Style building, which is rare among public buildings.

    It has an immense dome you can’t see from the outside. Here is a link to some photos and 3d tours.

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