Berrien County Courthouse

Berrien County Courthouse (HM1BPV)

Location: Oronoko Charter Township, MI 49103 Berrien County
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Country: United States of America
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N 41° 56.894', W 86° 20.468'

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Michigan's Oldest County Courthouse

— Michigan Legal Milestone —

The county courthouse is an iconic symbol of the American legal system. Its importance in Michigan is established in the Michigan Constitution of 1835, which authorized county courts and the laws that followed, requiring counties to provide suitable courthouses. The legal precedents that continue to guide Michigan judges arose out of cases that were decided in the state's earliest local courthouses.

This courthouse, erected in Berrien Springs in 1839, is Michigan's oldest existing county courthouse and is architecturally representative of the type of building used by Michigan's earliest judges and lawyers. Architect Gilbert B. Avery designed the Greek Revival-style courthouse. Local builder James Lewis began construction in 1838 and finished in time for the April 1839 court term. The courthouse consisted of the courtroom on the main floor and offices for county officials on the lower level.

The courthouse also served as a community gathering-place. Political party meetings and conventions, musicals and theatrical performances, civic meetings, religious services, weddings, and funerals all took place here. During the Civil War, county residents held fund-raising rallies for soldiers' families on the courthouse grounds.

Structural problems led to a major renovation in 1863. The building was raised three feet and a brick lower floor installed, along with a second-floor balcony, boxes under columns, and two new interior staircases.

An 1894 election moved the county seat of government from Berrien Springs to St. Joseph. The county thereafter sold the courthouse, and between 1894 and 1966, the building served as a dance hall, militia drill hall, the first home of Emmanuel Missionary College (now Andrews University), and as a church.

The Berrien County Historical Association acquired the courthouse in 1967 and began a seven-year restoration of the building. The state of Michigan re-designated it an active courthouse for ceremonial purposes in 1974 and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Marker Number38
Year Placed2013
Placed ByState Bar of Michigan, the Berrien County Bar Association, and the Berrien County Historical Association
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Wednesday, October 8th, 2014 at 6:11pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)16T E 554610 N 4644238
Decimal Degrees41.94823333, -86.34113333
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 41° 56.894', W 86° 20.468'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds41° 56' 53.64" N, 86° 20' 28.08" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)269
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 200-298 W Union St, Oronoko Charter Township MI 49103, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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