~ THE PAST ~
The old Courthouse in Omer is a stately edifice. It beckons our attention to another
era in the history of Arenac County. The building is the former Arenac County Courthouse,
built in 1890. It was constructed after the original courthouse burned to the ground the
year before! A local contractor, Angus McDonnell, submitted the lowest bid on October 21,
1889 for $2,847.00. The new courthouse was completed on August 5, 1890. Mr. McDonnell lost
heavily on this project and the courthouse board agreed to extend a sum of $123.75 to him
so that he would have at least "broken even". This brought the actual cost of
the courthouse to $2970.75. The paint was barely dry when the county seat was moved to
Standish! The building sat vacant until in 1892 it was purchased by the Masons.
The Masons bought the structure from the county for the sum of $500.00. The building
became the Masonic Hall and the Masons occupied it for nearly one hundred years. This
stately structure has survived many a heavy blow from man and nature. It survived the
"cyclone" of 1895, the disastrous fires of 1901 and 1914, and the great flood of
1916. It survived the ruinous ice storm of 1922 and the ravages of time. This building
from out of our past is reminiscent of New England architecture and communicates a quiet
dignity that attracts many travelers along the Heritage Route.
Donations made to the Courthouse project or the ACHS Museum or are
~ THE PRESENT ~
In June of 2005 the Arenac County Historical Society signed a contract to
purchase this beautiful old building which is on the National Registry of Historic Places.
The ACHS believes that this historic landmark is worth saving for future generations of
Arenac County residents and visitors to Northeast Michigan.
When the Masons decided to move to smaller quarters, the structure was
purchased by Carol and Robert Britt of Au Gres. The Britt's foresight and love of history
prompted them to preserve this historic old edifice and all of its contents. They
completed repairs to the foundation, painted the exterior of the building and installed a
new roof. The Britt's then sold the building to the Historical Society on a land contract.
With the support of many generous donors and those supporting our fundraisers, the mortgage was retired in August of 2013.
This building is
filled with historic artifacts and documents. The magnificent furniture in the second
story was custom made for the Masons in 1903. It is still in excellent condition and we
have the original invoices. A walk through this building is like a walk through a
nineteenth century time capsule. It is reminiscent of the time when this was the home of
the Orner Masonic Lodge # 377. All of the old Masonic records are in excellent condition
and an outstanding source of genealogical information. This building is steeped in Arenac
County history and historical data.
The ACHS plans to preserve the structure and all of its contents so that
it may be enjoyed by all citizens and future generations.
This beautiful old building has become a center of community activity for
the City of Orner and the surrounding area. Several events are held here including our
annual Sucker Week-end, holiday week-ends, scrapbook days, Red Hat Teas, our Junque Sale,
bake sales, lunches, programs, weddings and receptions. These all contribute toward maintaining the building.
~ THE FUTURE ~
The Arenac County Historical Society is planning for the future of this
magnificent building and invites everyone to participate in this process. The plans
include incorporating this structure into the Arenac County Heritage Route along with the
old Michigan Central Railroad Depot in Standish and the Arenac County Historical Society.
The ACHS wants to establish points of interest for the public traveling along the Heritage
Route though our county.
Masonic memorabilia and historic artifacts from the Museum are on display
in the building. Visitors to the old Courthouse can see the first Arenac County Jail and
the now famous "hidden stairway", our barber shop exhibit (circa 1893) as well
as research our many records from the City of Orner and Arenac Township.
We are also the home of the North East Michigan (NEM) baseball league
museum. We have uniforms, pictures, scrapbooks and score books from this league that
existed from 1916 to 1986. Like the Michigan Central Depot in Standish and the ACHS Museum
in Au Gres this building is staffed by volunteers from the ACHS and the community. Anyone
is welcome to join the Historical Society.
Click here for
additional information on donations to the Courthouse / Masonic Hall Project.