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 PRESERVING THE HERITAGE OF ARENAC COUNTY, MICHIGAN
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Ye Olde Courthouse / Masonic Hall
Omer, Michigan

courthouse_1.jpg (28826 bytes)

~ 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 always welcome

~ 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.

courthouse_3.jpg (17708 bytes)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 to paying our mortgage and 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.

We continue soliciting pledges, donations and hosting fundraisers to pay for the mortgage. For information on how you could help with a pledge of $1000.00, payable in $100.00 increments for 10 years, or any other contribution, please contact the members below

Brenda Matt, Standish 989-846-0501

Phyllis Klender, Omer 989-653-2762

Joann Gulau, AuGres 989-876-6468

Click here for additional information on donations to the Courthouse / Masonic Hall Project.

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Arenac County Historical Society; 304 East Michigan Avenue; P. O. Box 272; Au Gres, Michigan  48703-0272;  989-876-6399

Last updated:  01/17/2010.   Content 2005-2010 by the Arenac County Historical Society