Eaton County has several historic attractions previously covered by this Examiner. These include rock formations, parks, an opera house and a large kiln. To this list may be added an area in the county seat of Charlotte. This is the historic Courthouse Square, including the distinctive orange Courthouse and the old Sheriff’s residence. The ongoing preservation of these properties is the responsibility of the Courthouse Square Association, which has redefined the traditional concept of preservation in this setting.
The 1885 Courthouse
This impressive edifice is right out of America’s Gilded Age. Built between 1883 and 1885, it harks back to the post Civil War period of optimism and opulence in civic structures. It served as the seat of county government until 1976. The interior reflects this civic pride, with several period rooms and hallways. Among these are the law library, the judge’s chambers and the circuit court room. Throughout the building, there is elaborate woodwork, complemented by tile floors and a stained glass ceiling. The exterior of the building is no less splendid. The orange and white trim make for a unique color scheme, and the clock cupola crowns the whole. At first, it resembles other courthouses of its time, but no two are alike. The records contained therein reflect the changing nature of the county, even as the structure housing them remains essentially unchanged. Its prominent local position has earned it a place on the National Register of Historic Places, much like the Turner-Dodge House in Lansing previously covered by the author (see this article at hornface.com).
Work of the Courthouse Square Association
The Association owns and preserves this special area. This includes the Courthouse and the historic Sheriff’s residence of 1873. It also owns the earlier Courthouse of 1845 located at nearby Bennett Park. As the conservator of these properties, the Association is concerned with their upkeep, but there is much more than physical maintenance to this story. The Association also preserves and promotes county history in the wider sense. It runs several education programs and preserves such artifacts as Native American tools and military uniforms from throughout the 1900’s with permanent and temporary revolving exhibits. The various properties are also available for rental purposes for assorted functions. This is similar to the Grand Ledge Opera House also reported by the author (see this article at hornface.com). With all this effort on behalf of the historic preservation movement, the Courthouse Square Association is to be indeed thanked by the mid-Michigan community. Information for this article came from the Courthouse Square Association and the author’s personal visits.