Dec. 12 2010 12:00 AM

Eaton County Courthouse, 100 W. Lawrence St., Charlotte

Property: Eaton County Courthouse, 100 W. Lawrence St., Charlotte

Assessed: $0

Owner: Courthouse Square Association

Looking to take a trip during the holidays without breaking the bank? Why not partake in the latest trend of a day-long vacation, affectionately known as a “daycation?” Twenty minutes southwest of Lansing, Charlotte is home to a 19th century courthouse that is an architectural landmark worthy of a visit.

Built in 1885, the Eaton County Courthouse is situated in the heart of Charlotte’s Courthouse Square, prominently fronting Lawrence Avenue. One of several distinguished courthouses in the greater Lansing area, the brick and limestone structure features elegant Corinthian columns supporting equally impressive pediments, a clock tower and rotunda — all lovingly preserved since the relocation of the circuit court to the governmental complex in 1976.

This courthouse was designated to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. Today, the re-purposed courthouse is home to a variety of associations, non-profits and a museum. Despite the fact that legal activities ceased at the courthouse more than 30 years ago, people still show up daily to pay parking tickets and apply for marriage licenses, according to Courthouse Square Manager Julie Kimmer.

Mid-Michigan is home to some architecturally stunning courthouses, including the 1885 Eaton County Courthouse. But those are only a few in a state full of well-appointed courthouses throughout Michigan’s 83 counties. Here's a great idea — why not experience Michigan by courthouses? Take time to collect personal photos of each one, enjoy the character and charm of the county seat while also visiting other highlights of the county both urban and rural. These trips could range from individual daycations to week-long trips.

Get started by visiting Charlotte’s Courthouse Square this winter to experience the 1885 Courthouse where, in addition to the grandiose exterior, the interior features beautiful black walnut and butternut wood, a highly decorative stained glass skylight and an impressive Judge’s Chambers, Law Library and Circuit Court Room all located on the second floor.

Hours: Monday- Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., closed for major holidays. The courthouse is closed Dec. 24-25 in observance of the holiday, so plan your trip accordingly.

Cost: $3 per person. Children 12 and under free. Family (4 members) $10.00 maximum. Free for Courthouse Square Association members.