Michigan’s Oldest, Still-Operating Courthouse
The oldest County Courthouse in Michigan that still retains its original purpose can be found in Lapeer. The very first courthouse in Lapeer County was built in 1839, but the current courthouse was constructed from 1845-1846.
While the Lapeer County Courthouse is currently the oldest original court structure that still serves its original purpose, there is one other Michigan courthouse that is older. The Berrien County Courthouse was built in 1839, six years before the one in Lapeer.
Beginning in the 1890s-1900s, the Berrien Springs courthouse started being used as an armory, and is currently a place for weddings, concerts, and plays. Even though the Berrien courthouse is older, the Lapeer is still used as it was originally intended.
Turning back the clock, Alvin Hart arrived from Connecticut in 1831 and became one of the original settlers. He soon became one of the leading citizens and became sheriff, a member of both legislature houses, and platted the town of Lapeer in 1833.
So if his name was Hart, why is the town named Lapeer? Early French traders took notice how rocky the river bottom was and called it “La Pierre”, or “the stone”. Over the years, 'La Pierre' was anglicized to 'Lapeer'. The town name alternated for a few years between 'Lapeer' and 'Whitesville' after another townsman, Jonathan White; it was changed for the last time and forever known as 'Lapeer' beginning in 1836.
Lapeer Courthouse is the first structure in Lapeer County to appear on both historic registries: Michigan Historic Site (1957) and National Historic Place (1971). It also currently has a section with historic artifacts for visitors to see. Take a look at the gallery below!
Michigan's Oldest, Still-Operating Courthouse