State Senator Alvin N. Hart was more than
satisfied after the signing of the 1845 bill which allowed
local governments to raise taxes to pay for county buildings;
something only a direct vote of the people could do before.
To most people, it was just another piece of legislation
designed to strengthen the county governments. Yet to Hart, who
quietly shepherded the bill through the smoke-filled back rooms
of both houses, this was the last big step toward what he
wanted most, the Lapeer County Courthouse.
His first try at getting the courthouse in Lapeer's "lower
village," where he owned most of the land, was a disaster.
The Whigs, led by Jonathon R. White, blind-sided Democrat
Hart with an offer to donate a courthouse to the county as long
as it was built in "their" upper village. To get the bid, Hart
was forced to tell the board of supervisors that he, too, would
donate a court house.
When the building's frame was up, Hart asked to be paid for
the work. He told the supervisors that he never intended to
honor his promise.
The question of whether or not to pay Hart went to the
voters. They answered that a free court house was offered and,
The supervisors accepted the Whigs' renewed offer and the
county opened its first courthouse on the hill at Main and
Genesee Streets on July 4, 1840.
For the next five years, Hart waited for his opportunity to
change the place where court was held. The chance arose during
the legislative session of 1845.
A bill originated in the state House which proposed moving
Lapeer county's "seat of justice" from the upper village to the
While the Lapeer Whigs were busy speaking out against that
bill, the funding bill was moving swiftly through both houses.
By the time the Whigs knew they had been hoodwinked, the bill
had been signed.
As the ground thawed in the spring of 1846, Hart's
courthouse was being built. Funding was not important, because
Hart knew he would eventually get it.
In the final hours of 1846, the supervisors voted to rent
Hart's building for one dollar per year. They then ordered the
sheriff to move all of the furniture from the old court house
into the county government's new home.
On April 5, 1847, newly-elected Judge Alvin Hart presided
over a naturalization ceremony, the first business in his court
Court has been held in the same court room, surrounded by
much of the same furniture, every year since.