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Tuscola County Courthouse

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1932–1933, William H. Kuni. 440 N. State St.
  • (Photograph by Balthazar Korab)

An Italianate brick courthouse built in 1872–1873 to the designs of Porter and Watkins of Bay City had served the community until it emerged from the pioneer stage of development. As the thriving agricultural county needed more space for business and county records, the electors of Tuscola County voted in 1926 to assess a special tax for a new courthouse. In 1931 the building committee reviewed plans submitted by more than two dozen architects and selected the proposal of Kuni (b. 1889) of Detroit. Cecil M. Kelly of Flint, formerly of Caro, got the contract to build the structure and began work by removing the old brick Italianate courthouse from the large well-manicured site donated by Caro pioneer Peter DeWitt Bush (1818–1913).

The present Modernistic two-story courthouse was thought by the local press to have “balance, grace and dignity.” The main facade of its central portion contains windows recessed in five vertical bays beneath round arches separated by fluted pilasters. The building rests on a foundation of Minnesota granite and is faced with smooth Indiana limestone decorated with patterned banding and relief sculpture.

Equally grand is the interior, whose lobby leads to a sweeping staircase lit by a large art-glass window. On the first-floor stair landing, the stained glass window depicts Lewis Cass signing the Treaty of Saginaw with the Chippewa in 1819 on the banks of the Cass River as it flows through Tuscola County. The window was designed by A. Kay Herbert and manufactured by the Detroit Stained Glass Works Company. Both the lobby and the barrel-vaulted second-floor ceilings display beautiful moldings carrying various geometric patterns. Wood paneling is used extensively in the circuit courtroom on the second floor.

The new courthouse seemed modern in every respect and appropriate to the county's position as the center of sugar beet growing and refining. Moreover, Great Depression prices had reduced its estimated cost of $300,000 to $180,000.

Writing Credits

Kathryn Bishop Eckert


What's Nearby


Kathryn Bishop Eckert, "Tuscola County Courthouse", [Caro, Michigan], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Michigan

Buildings of Michigan, Kathryn Bishop Eckert. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012, 357-357.

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