Museum of History at Old Courthouse

Museum of History at Old Courthouse

The Old McLean County Courthouse, 200 North Main Street, in Bloomington, Illinois, located on the courthouse square, now houses the McLean County Museum of History operated by the McLean County Historical Society. It ceased being a courthouse in 1976 when the Law and Justice Center was opened. It is actually the fourth McLean County Courthouse facility.

The Old Courthouse maintained active County departments until the completion of the Law & Justice Center expansion in 1991. The Museum began operations in the old Courthouse in October 1991. It is a nationally accredited award winning museum with five permanent exhibit galleries and two rotating galleries. This educational institution is dedicated to telling the rich story of McLean County through programs which serve people of all ages. The museum features seven exhibit galleries, preserves more than 20,000 objects, makes available more than 15,000 rare and hard-to-find books on local history and genealogy, and manages 2,000 feet of historical papers and images in its archives.

McLean County Facilities Management maintains the Old Courthouse and the McLean County Board providing operational funding support to the Museum. In 2002 McLean County approved $1.2 million for renovation following a historic structures report. Other funding came through a Public Museum Capital Grant from the Illinois State Museum, a division of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The project included restoration of the 100-year-old courthouse dome. Original copper was salvaged and reused and the clock restored to working order. On December 24, 2004 the tower bell was rung for the first time in nearly fifty years. The dome was restored from its oxidized copper green to the original copper color.

On October 15, 2006 the Landmark Preservations Council of Illinois presented the "Outstanding Restoration" award to the McLean County Museum of History for its efforts to restore the dome of the old courthouse.

Building of the Original County Courthouse

The first McLean County Courthouse was built on this site in 1832 by Asahel Gridley for $339.25 and served as the County's courthouse until 1836. Then the second McLean County Courthouse was built in 1836 and served until 1868. The third McLean County Courthouse was built in 1868 and served as the courthouse from 1868 to 1900. In 1900 a fire destroyed that facility and a replacement courthouse (the present building) was built on the same site and same foundation. It was dedicated in 1904.

About the Museum

This beautiful museum facility offers the citizens of McLean County a unique glimpse back in time to how life was lived from the earliest days when this area was inhabited by the Kickapoo Indian nation. This building is listed on the National Registrar of Historic Places.