CROWN POINT | Veteran astronaut Jerry Ross will make a hometown landing in September to help celebrate a milestone in city history.
Ross, along with renowned artist James Paul Brown, are two of the celebrities who will be on hand to commemorate the 135th birthday of the Old Lake County Courthouse on the downtown square.
The community is invited to the party at the courthouse from 2 to 5 p.m. Sept. 22. Visitors can enjoy a slice of specially designed birthday cake and mingle with Civil War re-enactors, historical impersonators and Lake County Historical Museum President Bruce Woods, among others.
No stranger to celebrities, the courthouse in its earlier days was where silent film stars, famed athletes and others obtained marriage licenses to take advantage of Lake County not having a waiting period.
As many as 170,000 marriages were said to have been performed in Crown Point between 1915 and 1940, with demand for county-issued licenses from the courthouse peaking in the late 1930s.
The red brick building combining Romanesque and Georgian architectural styles was built in 1878 with additions completed in 1928. The courthouse still dominates the downtown from the center of the square, outlasting a fruitless effort in the 1970s to have it razed for a parking lot.
The old courthouse is home to shops, businesses and a vintage court room occupied by the Crown Point City Court since Lake County moved its courts to a then-newly built government complex on North Main Street in the mid-1970s.
The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. Its preservation is overseen by the Lake Court House Foundation, headed by Martha Wheeler.
Ross, a Crown Point native, retired in 2012 as a NASA astronaut, a veteran of seven Space Shuttle missions. He will sign copies of his book, "Spacewalker: My Journey in Space and Faith as NASA's Record-Setting Frequent Flyer," during the courthouse birthday celebration.
Brown was raised in Crown Point, where his father was in banking. His work includes paintings of U.S. Presidents Clinton, George Bush and Ronald Reagan.