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Shiawassee County Courthouse

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1903–1906, Claire Allen; 1980s restoration, Wigen, Tincknell, Meyer and Associates. 200 N. Shiawassee St.
  • (Photograph by Balthazar Korab)
  • (Photograph by Balthazar Korab)

After Corunna was proclaimed the county seat in 1836, the Shiawassee County Seat Company platted the town, promoted its financial and commercial success, and in 1839 donated a public square and county office site. The county board of supervisors built a small wooden courthouse in 1842 and a larger brick one in 1854. Voters elected in 1903 to erect a new courthouse incorporating elegance and the latest in fireproofing techniques. The well-executed Beaux-Arts classical building that is the result was termed by the Owosso Evening Argus for May 4, 1905, “French renaissance design, somewhat Americanized.” Pedimented pavilions project from the center of each side of the symmetrical building, and a three-tiered baroque cupola with a tiled dome tops its hipped roof. Giant Composite columns support the entrance portico, and bull's-eye windows and cartouches punctuate the upper portions of the building. Light grayish-yellowish-brown Berea sandstone sheathes the exterior walls, which are penciled through the first-floor level and marked with Composite pilasters. The elegant interior includes a central full-height open rotunda circumscribed by an elaborate metalwork railing. A similar metalwork staircase, together with rich decorative painting, accents the main corridors. The large courtroom is paneled in oak and has a carved wooden judge's dais and backdrop. Seats are arranged beneath a dome lighted with glass stained green, gold, and purple. Twelve winged female figures, each holding a sign of the zodiac, are painted in Art Nouveau style in the dome encircling the stained glass. The courthouse was designed by Allen of Jackson, noted for his courthouses in Hillsdale ( HI1), Gratiot ( GR1), and Van Buren (in Paw Paw, 1901–1903) counties. In fact, the Shiawassee County Courthouse nearly duplicates the Gratiot County Courthouse. Rickman and Sons of Kalamazoo constructed the building. The courthouse proclaimed Corunna's position as Shiawassee County's unchallenged political center, if not its commercial hub.

Writing Credits

Kathryn Bishop Eckert

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