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The present Marquette County Courthouse stands on the site of the County’s first courthouse. The earlier building was completed by the summer of 1858 at a cost of approximately $4,300. By 1889, the population of Marquette County had swelled to about 40,000 and county government had outgrown their quarters. Due to the depression of 1893, nine years passed before the county commissioned local architects Demitrius F. Charlton and R. William Gilbert to design the present structure which was constructed by Northern Construction Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin for a cost of approximately $210,000. The original dedication took place on September 17, 1904, and was held in conjunction with the dedication of the Peter White Public Library. The City of Marquette transferred guests to Presque Isle via the city’s street railway for an afternoon of refreshments and dancing.
Native Upper Peninsula sandstone graces the exterior of the courthouse. The foundation up to the water table is Marquette Raindrop Brownstone which was cut at the old Marquette Quarry operated by John Burt, son of explorer and inventory William Burt. The remainder of the exterior is Portage Entry Redstone which was quarried in the Keweenaw Peninsula and gives it a distinctive red hue. The red granite columns which support the main portico were quarried and polished in Redbeach, Maine and transported to Marquette. This was major undertaking as each column weighs 15 tons. The main corridors are lined with Italian marble wainscot and the flooring is vitrified mosaic tile set in a decorative pattern. Numerous columns of Scagliola plaster also appoint the corridors. The woodwork and furnishings are constructed of fine hardwood. The interior and exterior focal point of the building is an elaborate stained glass dome which is located above the main circuit courtroom and is protected from the elements by an exterior copper sheathed dome.
The courthouse has enjoyed a rich history. In 1913, former President Theodore Roosevelt filed a libel suit against George A. Newett, publisher of the Ishpeming Iron Ore. Newett had reported that Roosevelt “was addicted to the use of alcohol and a user of profanity.” Judge R. C. Flannigan found Newett guilty and ordered him to pay Roosevelt damages in the amount of six cents, “the price of a good newspaper.” More recently, the courthouse served as the setting for several scenes of the 1959 filming of Anatomy of a Murder, directed by Otto Preminger and starring James Stewart, Ben Gazzara, George C. Scott, and Lee Remick.
The renovation of the courthouse was originally conceived in 1977 and plans were drawn by local architect Lincoln A. Poley, Jr. The Tezak Construction Company of Traverse City, Michigan began the renovation work in 1982 for a cost of $1,784,648. The decorative painting which appears in the clerk’s office, main corridors and in the main courtroom was done by Conrad Schmitt Studios of New Berlin, Wisconsin for a cost of $179,500.
This monumental structure inspired Judge J. W. Stone to include the following passage in his 1904 dedication address. As we rededicated the Marquette County Courthouse his words still ring true.
“….This beautiful structure, this temple of justice, is to stand here as a monument to government, to law and order, as distinguished from anarchy lawlessness and disorder…..Its presence here cannot fail to have a salutary influence upon the people old and young, rich and poor. And, if a thing of beauty is a joy forever, its appeal to our sensibilities will ever make us glad.”
Hon. J. W. Stone, 1904