When I drove by the courthouse in downtown Marquette, Michigan, I thought it looked familiar. Where had I seen it before?
I hadn’t been to Marquette for over 10 years, so it wasn’t a familiar place. Did someone share a photo with me on social media? Was the courthouse in the news recently?
I stepped out of the car to take a closer look at the Michigan State Historical Marker near the steps leading up to the courthouse doors, and smiled.
It was the courthouse seen in Anatomy of a Murder, the classic 1959 Otto Preminger movie.
I remember watching the movie for the first time in college when I was fascinated with classic movies. (I’m still a bit of a movie buff, love the classic black and white movies!)
The movie Anatomy of a Murder was loosely based on the novel of the same name written by Ishpeming, Michigan author John D. Voelker, also known by his pen name Robert Traver.
Architecture and History
With three stories and a copper dome, the statuesque red sandstone building stands out in downtown Marquette, Michigan. It sits back from the street, on a hill, surrounded by tall maple and oak trees.
The Beaux-Arts and Neoclassical structure was constructed of red sandstone in 1902-04 for $210,000. Two side wings flank the central main building and four Doric columns mark the entrance.
While it’s famous as the setting for Anatomy of a Murder, the courthouse has another interesting story behind it. In 1913, President Theodore Roosevelt won a libel suit against Ishpeming newspaper publisher George Newett.
In 1912, Roosevelt was running for his third term as President of the United States. He traveled through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, making campaign stops at St. Ignace, Munising, Marquette, and Houghton.
After Newett heard Roosevelt speak in Marquette, he published an article that Roosevelt gets drunk too, and that not infrequently in the Iron Ore, Ishpeming’s newspaper.
Roosevelt read the article and sued Newett for libel. At the trial, Roosevelt took the stand as the first witness.
Additional witnesses included prominent people of the era (PDF), including James H. Garfield, former Secretary of the Interior and son of President Garfield, Edmund Heller, Curator of the Smithsonian Institute, Robert Bacon, former Ambassador to France.
When Newett took the stand, he admitted he couldn’t produce any witnesses for Roosevelt’s drunkenness. He conceded, saying he didn’t make the statement with malice.
Roosevelt disagreed with his attorney’s request for $10,000 in damages, asking the court for nominal damages. The judge instructed the jury to award Roosevelt six cents, the cost of a newspaper.
In the early 1980s, the courthouse was renovated at a cost of $2.4 million.