IRON COUNTY COURTHOUSE
THANK YOU VOTERS OF IRON COUNTY FOR YOUR SUPPORT AND INSIGHT IN THE EFFORT TO RAISE FUNDS FOR THE RENOVATIONS NEEDED AT THE IRON COUNTY COURTHOUSE.
The bonding proposition held on September 25, 2001 for
the purpose of borrowing an amount not to exceed $2,837,230.00 for the
Courthouse renovations and improvements was passed by the voters. The
county-wide total vote was: 1,890 YES 918 NO.
Prints of a painting of the Iron County Courthouse – Circa
1890 by Iron County Artist Bertha Kantola Johnson are now available for $150.00
each with the proceeds from the sale graciously donated by Mrs. Johnson to
repair the Courthouse for future generations. There are only 200 of these
16" x 20" prints and each will be signed and numbered by the artist.
For more information on how to obtain your unique depiction of "The Iron
County Courthouse – Circa 1890" call (906) 875-3301.
THE IRON COUNTY COURTHOUSE
The Iron County Courthouse in Crystal Falls, Michigan, an
imposing castle-like structure built in 1890 stands at the head of Superior
Avenue commanding a view of the main street of the City and the scenic panorama
of the valley at its feet. On a clear day one can stand on the tower balcony and
see neighboring Iron Mountain across the hills some 20 miles away. The brick
structure, described as "to the Queen’s taste" and "the finest
building Northwest of Milwaukee or Detroit" in 1891, was named to the
National Register of Historic Places in February 1975 – the first such site to
be named in the Iron County area.
While the Iron County Courthouse is now a national landmark, many people will recall the lore which surrounds it and bold political larceny assigned to its origins. When the state legislature set off Iron County form Marquette County in 1885, the City of Iron River, Michigan, was designated temporary county seat. A permanent site was to be chosen later by election. Neighboring Crystal Falls, older but by a few months and more densely populated, cherished the title of county seat.
The "Stealing of the Courthouse" has been
the topic of many a conversation and article. It is somewhat difficult to
separate the fact from fiction. Most versions of the story agree that a poker
game was arranged to follow a board of supervisors meeting in the temporary
courthouse. The game was at its height at the Old Boyington Hotel. Two Crystal
Falls, men, Frank Scadden and Bert Hughitt, left the game pretending to go
upstairs to bed. Instead, the sneaked out and back to the temporary courthouse.
Treasurer Hughitt cleared the safe of all county records, loaded them on a sled
and took them to the railyard where they were loaded into a boxcar. The two men
took the records to Stager, the oldest station in the County, and then they were
put into safe keeping – some say in hollow pine trees, other in the Mastodon
However, on February 28, 1889, a resolution was adopted to remove the County seat to Iron River and that matter placed before the electors at the ensuing spring elections. Election results showed a total of 2,193 votes cast on the issue with 1,050 favoring removal and 1,142 being against the proposed change. This appears to have settled the controversy, and as the stipulation exacted by the taxpayers vote at the launching of the County, that no courthouse be constructed for a period of five years, was not nearing fulfillment, the more public spirited leaders turned their energies in this direction.
A committee recommended the raising of $30,000 for the purpose and that the proposition be placed before the electors at the forthcoming annual Township elections. The bond issue was approved by a vote of 1,164 to 567, and on April 22, the Board proceeded with the steps necessary to carry out the mandate.
J.C. Clancy, an architect of national reputation, designed the building, characteristic of the Romanesque revival period with its high-pitched roof, high windows, deeply arched doorways, and exterior ornamentation. The contractor for the building was Louis A. Webber, whose low bid of $26,470 was accepted by the County Board. However, Webber had some problems in completing his contract due to personal illness and the County Board was forced to call in another contractor to finish the work. The total cost rose to about $40,000.
Work on the building started in July 1890. By November the walls were erected as high as the ceiling on the second story and part of the roof was on. In February 1891, plastering and the installing of black oak were in progress. By May the tower was near completion and the 17-foot high statues of Law, Mercy, and Justice were placed in position.
The clock in the tower was not added until some time later, the funds being by public subscription. It was wound weekly by a succession of local jewelers. The clock, made by one of the finest clock companies in the United State, the Howard Company, has four faces, and according to one jeweler, one of the biggest problems is keeping the hands on all sides synchronized. In the early days, before electrification, the weights, wound by a windlass, took fifteen to twenty minutes to wind. The largest weight for the strider weighs about a half-ton. Beneath the clock on a balcony is a huge bell, which on a clear day could be heard over four miles away. The hammer, which strikes the bell, weighs over fifty pounds. The bell is hung on eight by eight timbers that were replaced in 1974. During World War II, the balcony was used for air watches by the Civilian Defense. The clock bell is no longer allowed to ring as the vibration causes damage to the deteriorating tower and building.