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Inside the old Cass County Courthouse

CASSOPOLIS, Mich. -- As Cass County Commissioners get closer to deciding what to do with the old courthouse in Cassopolis, we wanted to take you inside the historic building to see what potential developers will be working with.

“This was the main entrance of the 1899 building,” said Dave Dickey, Cass County’s maintenance director. “In 1976, when [the courthouse] was remodeled, it changed.”

Dickey was pointing to a section of exposed brick inside a room in the old courthouse.

On the outside, the former Cass County Courthouse looks 118 years young.

But on the inside, its age is evident as you spot cob webs, broken ceiling tiles, and wires dangling from above.

The courtrooms emptied in 2003 when things were moved down the road to a new courthouse.

But Dickey said the main fixture of downtown Cassopolis is still standing because of its charm and bones.

“Those new buildings won’t last the test of time that these old structures would,” he said. “That’s the first thing that comes through my mind [when I walk through].”

“With my first interview, as I came around the corner, [the courthouse] was the first thing that grabbed my attention,” said Karen Folks, the Cass County administrator.

Folks started her job about a year and a half ago.

She quickly learned why the old courthouse – and its special features like a vault from 1899 – is such a landmark.

The building has seen better days, but its history is as captivating as testimony once given from the witness stand.

Folks said county commissioners want to repurpose the courthouse; but they want to get it right.

They’ve recently heard from experts who led similar projects in other Michigan communities.

“By transforming that structure into a repurposed use and returning it to the tax rolls, what they saw is a true reverberation in typically a four to six block area,” Folks said.

She’s hoping that will happen in downtown Cassopolis, where there are already several empty storefronts and not a lot of foot traffic.

The county board of commissioners will meet on Thursday, December 7 for a work study to discuss the future of the courthouse with a real estate attorney.

Folks said the county’s economic development corporation wants to take the building over and lead the redevelopment.

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