Mason County Courthouse (Michigan)
Mason County Courthouse
|Location||300 E. Ludingon Avenue
|Architect||Sidney J. Osgood|
|Architectural style||Richardsonian Romanesque|
|NRHP Reference #||88000602|
|Added to NRHP||February 24, 1988|
|Designated MSHS||August 15, 1975|
The area early in its history attracted several lumbermen because of the abundance of white pine timber. Among these early settlers in the area were Burr Caswell, Charles Mears, James Ludington, and Eber Brock Ward. The area began settlement when Burr Caswell moved to the area in 1847 from the state of New York. He built a frame house from driftwood in 1849. This was the first frame building in Mason County and is still at White Pine Village.
The Caswell farmhouse served as the first official county seat and as the first courthouse structure. Caswell moved his family upstairs and turned the first floor of his farmhouse over to Mason County to use for a courthouse and trading post. There was even a jail below the house. The Mason County Historical Society restored Caswell's house and the house is now part of "Historic White Pine Village". There were two additional structures before the final present day fourth structure was built in 1893 to serve as Mason County's courthouse.
Mason County was officially organized in 1855. The official county seat of Mason County and its courthouse was determined to be at Burr Caswell's farmhouse at that time. Prior to then the area was an unofficial settlement in the upper northwestern part of Michigan's Lower Peninsula. The Caswell farmhouse was the county courthouse until 1861. In 1861 the county seat moved to Little Sable (later called Lincoln Village). In 1873 the permanent county seat moved to the town of Pere Marquette in Pere Marquette Township of Mason County. The town name of Pere Marquette was changed to "Ludington" because of its developer James Ludington, a wealthy Milwaukee businessman, and officially incorporated as a city the same year. The 1873 brick courthouse was built at 407 E. Pere Marquette Street. The land was donated by Charles Resseguie.
The present multi-story building was erected between 1893 and 1894. The tower clock was built by Nels Johnson as one of his Century tower clocks and installed in 1907. The building was designed by the architect Sidney J. Osgood from Grand Rapids, Michigan. It is a Richardsonian Romanesque structure built of Jacobsville sandstone from Houghton County in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The courthouse is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and also as Michigan Registered Site L0404.
State Historical Marker
According to a News Release Mason County Courthouse receives State Historical Marker on 18 May 2000 by the Mason County Historical Society, the Director Ronald M. Wood congratulated the Mason County Board of Commissioners for receiving from the Michigan Historical Commission the above historical marker. There was an official dedication and unveiling at 5:30 P.M. on 14 June 2000 on the lawn of the Mason County Courthouse near downtown Ludington, Michigan. It represents that the State of Michigan deems the present Mason County Courthouse worthy of being preserved. This present existing structure was placed on the National Register of Historic Sites on February 24, 1988. It was placed on the State Register of Historic Sites on August 15, 1975. The existing Mason County Courthouse celebrated its 100th Anniversary on September 18, 1994. The first Mason County Courthouse at White Pine Village received a historical marker in 1986 and appeared on the State Register of Historic Sites on May 17, 1978. The News Release explaining the above is dated 2:34 P.M. of 18 May 2000 from the Historical Society to the Mason County Administrator. The official historical marker that was placed on the premises reads
The first permanent Euro-American settlement in Mason County began in 1847 when New York native Burr Caswell and his family arrived at the mouth of the Pere Marquette River. The Caswells lived in a driftwood cabin near the Ottawa village of Nindebekatunning. Abundant pine forests attracted lumbermen including Charles Mears, James Ludington, and Eber Brock Ward. In 1855 the state legislature organized Mason County, named for Michigan's first governor, Stevens T. Mason. The Caswell farmhouse in Pere Marquette Township served as the county seat. In 1860, Charles Mears persuaded the board to remove the county seat to Little Sauble (later Lincoln). But remote Little Sauble could not compete with booming Ludington. In 1873 Ludington became the permanent county seat.
Ludington became the Mason county seat in 1873, when county offices were moved from the now-vanished village of Little Sauble. At that time Ludington was the county's most prosperous settlement. Formerly called Pere Marquette, Ludington was platted in 1867 by Milwaukee lumberman James Ludington. The town served as a shipping center for West Michigan lumber. Erected in 1893-94, this is the fourth structure to serve as Mason County's courthouse since the county was established in 1855. Grand Rapids architect Sidney J. Osgood designed the Richardsonian Romanesque structure, which was built of Jacobsville sandstone from the Upper Peninsula. The courthouse is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
- County Administrator, Fabian Knizacky
- County Clerk, James Riffle
- Drain Commissioner, David Hasenbank
- Prosecuting Attorney, Paul Spaniola
- Register of Deeds, Diane Englebrecht
- Sheriff, Kim Cole
- Surveyor, Jack
- Treasurer, Shirley Smith
- Circuit Court Judge, Richard I Cooper
- District Court Judge, Peter J. Wadel
- Judge of Probate, Jeff Nellis
- Juvenile Court
- Magistrate, Paddy Baker
- Friend of the Court, Mark Niemeyer
- Equalization Department, Thomas A Routhier(Director)
Burr Caswell farmhouse now at White Pine Village
- State of Michigan (2009). "Mason County Courthouse". Retrieved June 26, 2010.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15.
- "Historical Marker - Mason County Courthouse". Retrieved 2008-07-23.
- "History of Ludington and Mason County Michigan". Retrieved 2008-07-23.
- "Genealogy of Aaron Burr Caswell". Retrieved 2008-07-23.
- "History of first Mason County courthouse". Retrieved 2008-07-24.
- "Rediscover small-town Michigan life in the late 1800s and beyond.". Retrieved 2008-07-24.
- "Mason County courthouse seat history". Retrieved 2008-07-23.
- Michigan Genealogy: Sources & Resources By Carol McGinnis, p. 270. Retrieved 2008-07-24.
- "Ludington Michigan history". Retrieved 2008-07-23.
- Ludington Daily News article by James L. Cabot, November 9, 1991, p. 4, Public library, one of the earliest institutions
- Ludington Daily News Aug 10, 1984 p. 4; From Our History by James Cabot
- Ludington Daily News, Oct 21, 2010, A4, Reader's Forum, Is the county courthouse haunted?
- Source documents from Mason County courthouse County Administrator of pertinent historical information received 22 July 2008.
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