Grand Traverse County was officially organized in 1851. Its first courthouse and jail were built in 1854 for $600 on land donated by the lumbering firm Hannah, Lay and Company. The courthouse, a wooden structure, burned in 1862. The county used rented quarters until 1900. In 1898 the county accepted plans for the present brick and stone structure submitted by architects Rush, Bowman and Rush of Grand Rapids.
The building, placed on the site of the original courthouse, was completed in 1900 at a cost of $35,665. In 1975, after an intensive campaign led by County Historical Society president Jennie Arnold, citizens voted to remodel the building. The renovation was completed at a cost of $1.7 million, and the structure was rededicated on July 4, 1981.
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