The Historical Society of Greater Lansing and Courthouse Square are hosting a tour of the historic Eaton County Courthouse and Museum, Thursday, September 3. The tour is free and participants should meet at the front of the Courthouse at 100 West Lawrence, Charlotte. A tour of the grounds and exterior architecture begins at 6 p.m. and the building tour at 7 p.m.
The Courthouse was constructed from 1882-1885 and was used for county business until 1976 when it was replaced by a new courthouse and county facilities.
Valerie Marvin, President of the Historical Society of Greater Lansing, said the Courthouse tour will cover everything from the architectural style to topics such as construction materials, how rooms were arranged and the symbolism represented in the structure.
“Following the Civil War many counties in the North chose to celebrate the victory by erecting new and impressive public buildings. County courthouses were not only practical buildings housing important government business, but also were designed to elicit respect for the law and government,” Marvin said.
In addition to touring the various rooms which served the court and government offices, the tour will explore how the architect David W. Gibbs of Toledo, Ohio, designed the brick and iron structure for efficiency in heating and cooling. Gibbs most notable work was the Wyoming State House, designed not long after the courthouse opened.
Marvin said the building was almost destroyed by fire in 1894 when fire caused the dome to crash to the floor, but the three side structures were unscathed and the Courthouse was restored.
In addition to public space the Courthouse included nine private offices for judges and public officials such as the register of deeds, county clerk and supervisor. It also contained water closets which Marvin said likely were a great surprise especially to rural residents at that time.
The Courthouse also included wood floors, doors and trim work constructed of pine, walnut and butternut harvested from nearby forests.
In 1976 the Courthouse was repurposed as a museum and a venue for weddings, parties and banquets.
Marvin said, “Public structures were built in this time period with intent of celebrating civilization’s accomplishments.”
“The residents of Eaton County are to be commended for saving this glorious structure,” she said.
The HSGL will also host a tour of the Ingham County Courthouse on Thursday, September 17.