Organized in 1845, Houghton County once comprised the entire Keweenaw Peninsula. Eagle River was its first county seat. In 1861, after the state legislature split the county into Keweenaw and Houghton, the village of Houghton became the new seat of Houghton County government. Finnish settlers were predominant in the county. There were also Scandinavians, as well as Cornish, Germans and French Canadians. Jobs were plentiful, since Houghton County was the center of the copper boom. In 1874 Michigan produced 88 percent of the nation’s copper, of which Houghton County mines supplied 79 percent. Two years later, Michigan copper production peaked at 90 percent of the nation’s output. The Michigan Mining School opened in Houghton in 1886. In 1964 it was renamed Michigan Technological University.The opulent High Victorian design of the Houghton County Courthouse testifies to the prosperity that the copper boom brought to the area in the late nineteenth century. The building’s irregular form and polychromatic exterior make it one of Michigan’s most distinctive nineteenth-century courthouses. The red sandstone trim and copper roof were products of the Upper Peninsula. The architect, J. B. Sweatt, was from Marquette. Originally from Chicago, Sweatt typified the many architects who worked in Houghton and participated in the building rush that occurred during the copper boom. Dedicated on July 28, 1887, the courthouse replaced a frame structure constructed in 1862.
Plaque via Michigan History Center