The first Lake Court House was a log Post Office built on the south side of what is now the downtown Crown Point square. It was known as the Lake Court House.
Solon Robinson, the first permanent settler of Crown Point, and Judge William Clarke in 1850 donated the land where the courthouse is now located for construction of a larger replacement of the original.
The first part of the historic Lake Court House as we know it today, the center clocktower, was constructed in 1878 and 1879 in what is now downtown Crown Point. The first expansion, the two-story additions on both the north and south sides, was constructed in 1909. A second second-story expansion on both the north and south sides was completed in 1928.
The historic Lake Court House is a Victorian Era-Romanesque Georgian building designed by prominent 19th century architect John C. Cochrane. Cochrane designed numerous buildings throughout the Midwest during his career including the Illinois State Capital, Iowa State Capital, Cook County Hospital in Chicago, the Livingston County Courthouse in Pontiac, Ill., and the Marshall County Courthouse in Marshalltown, Iowa, among others.
It took 500,000 hand-kiln bricks from the Henry Wise Brickyard in Crown Point (located at the time on Walnut Street across from what is now Col. John Wheeler Middle School) to construct the original brick courthouse.
It cost $52,000 to construct the original brick building in 1878-79. The first addition in 1909 cost $160,000. The second addition added in 1928 cost $85,000.
The Lake Court House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.
The Marriage Mill
During its peak between 1915 and 1940, Harvey Minas and two other justices of the peace performed between 200 and 300 weddings a month at the Lake Court House. An estimated 175,000 people were married during that period. In 1937 alone, 11,410 couples received their marriage licenses here.
During "The Marriage Mill" heyday, a marriage license cost $2. There was no blood test or waiting period required. Grooms had to be 21 and brides 18. The couple also had to be sober to be wed.
The Lake County Clerk's Office was open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for marriage licenses when the historic Lake Court House was a functioning county building.
The ease of obtaining a marriage license drew people from across the country to Crown Point to wed. Among the famous to tie the knot here were World Heavyweight Champion Boxer Muhammad Ali and actor Rudolph Valentino. Former President Ronald Reagan, while he was an actor, married his first wife Jane Wyman in 1940 at the historic Lake Court House.
The Lake Court House Foundation Inc. was founded in 1975 to preserve the historic Lake Court House when county government moved to new offices in 1978.
The Foundation's purpose is to secure the ongoing preservation of the building for future generations to enjoy. The Foundation is governed by an 18-member board that oversees the operations and financial security of the Lake Court House.
The Lake Court House is a private building that receives NO TAX DOLLARS for support. The preservation of the building is funded through PRIVATE DONATIONS and operational revenues.