Houghton County Courthouse, photo submitted 1974
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Houghton County Courthouse
401 East Houghton Street, Houghton - Houghton County
Property Type courthouse
Style Second Empire
Architect/Builder J. B. SWEATT
Significant Person Charles Eastlake
Narrative Description The Houghton County Courthouse is a two-and-one-half story sandstone structure with a steep mansard roof, designed with a conglomeration of architectural styles. Primarily a midwestern interpretation of a Second Empire building, it features asymmetrical massing, a four-story tower, red brick with yellow trim, and a sheet metal roof. A pavilion projects from one wing, however, the building is unified by red sandstone bands at the belt course and the wooden cornice at the roof level. The interior continues the heavy, decorative style of the exterior.
Statement of Significance The Houghton County Courthouse is the most important symbol of Houghton County government and is a regional landmark. It has housed the governmental offices for the county for over 100 years. The courthouse was built in 1886 after designs -- likely derived from architectural pattern books -- by J. B. Sweatt of Marquette. Sweatt used local materials almost exclusively, an important detail to local residents. The interior was designed by Charles Eastlake of England using elaborately decorated plaster and woodwork, which remain in good condition after restoration during the 1970s. The courthouse continues to house governmental offices and is a centerpiece of Houghton County.
Marker Name Houghton County / Houghton County Courthouse
Marker Text HOUGHTON COUNTY Organized in 1845, Houghton County once comprised the entire Keweenaw Peninsula. Eagle River was its first county seat. In 1861, after the state legislature split the county into Keweenaw and Houghton, the village of Houghton became the new seat of Houghton County government. Finnish settlers were predominant in the county. There were also Scandinavians, as well as Cornish, Germans and French Canadians. Jobs were plentiful, since Houghton County was the center of the copper boom. In 1874, Michigan produced 88 percent of the nation's copper, of which Houghton County mines supplied 79 percent. Two years later, Michigan copper production peaked at 90 percent of the nation's output. The Michigan Mining School opened in Houghton in 1886. In 1964 it was renamed Michigan Technological University. HOUGHTON COUNTY COURTHOUSE The opulent High Victorian design of the Houghton County Courthouse testifies to the prosperity that the copper boom brought to the area in the late nineteenth century. The building's irregular form and polychromatic exterior make it one of Michigan's most distinctive nineteenth-century courthouses. The red sandstone trim and copper roof were products of the Upper Peninsula. The architect, J. B. Sweatt, was from Marquette. Originally from Chicago, Sweatt typified the many architects who worked in Houghton and participated in the building rush that occurred during the copper boom. Dedicated on July 28, 1887, the courthouse replaced a frame structure constructed in 1862.
Period of Significance 1866-1900
Significant Date(s) 1845, 1886
Registry Type(s) 01/13/1989 Marker erected
05/12/1975 National Register listed
07/26/1974 State Register listed
Site ID# P23260