The 1860/1873 Records Building
The courthouse basement originally housed county offices and records storage. The county government soon outgrew these quarters. In 1859, the board of supervisors commissioned Gilbert Avery, the courthouse architect, to design a new fire-proof office building. Avery designed a one-story brick structure with slate floors and roof, and then supervised its construction himself when the original contractor encountered difficulties with the project. A large two-story addition to the building, designed by an unknown architect, was completed in 1873.
By the mid-19th century, the Greek Revival had been displaced by the Italianate as the most popular architectural style in America. With its low-pitched roof, decorative brackets and rounded window hoods, the 1873 addition to the Berrien County Records Building serves as a fine example of an Italianate building. This style held allusions to the land of art and culture - Italy. Through the architecture on the courthouse square, the citizens of Berrien County communicated that their corner of the world possessed the culture and sophistication spawned in a burgeoning democracy.
After the county seat was moved to St. Joseph in 1894, the records building saw a variety of uses, including serving as a laundromat and low-income apartments. The Historical Association plans to restore this structure in the future for use as exhibition and collection storage space.