The Eaton County Commissioners built this courthouse to
reflect the very best technology available to Midwestern Americans in the 1880s.
Today historians characterize the second half of the 19th century as one
continuous race to develop the next new technology. The end of the 19th century
saw the invention and popularization of the light bulb, the phonograph, and the
new “horseless carriage”.
As is true of both many public and private buildings built in this era, the
Eaton County Courthouse utilized a boiler that produced steam heat for the
building. Gibbs placed the boiler behind the courthouse so that, in the event of
an accident, the building or any of its occupants would not be harmed. The heavy
iron radiator would create heat that would be retained in the room thanks to the
heavy brick walls dividing the courthouse. Note the marble top on the radiator.
While heating the courthouse was important, cooling the building was equally
critical during Michigan’s notoriously muggy summers. Gibbs gave the building
high ceilings that would draw the hot air above the business area. Glass
transoms, or windows, above the doors opened to allow cool breezes entering the
courthouse through its large windows into the hallways while allowing the door
below to remain closed, thereby ensuring privacy for its occupants.