WELCOME County Seats & Courthouses: Dauphin - Huntingdon WELCOME


Dauphin County, Harrisburg (pop. 48,950). HARRISBURG, an inset from County Map of the State of Pennsylvania from Mitchell's New General Atlas of 1876. S. Augustus Mitchell and his son Jr. published many maps of Pennsylvania over the years. This particular one contained insets of Erie, Williamsport, Scranton, and the city of Harrisburg shown here. In addition to being a county seat, Harrisburg is also the state capitol. The courthouse sits right along the river overlooking the Harrisburg Bridge, and south of the State Capitol Building . Today, just upstream of the courthouse and not on this map, a pedestrian bridge stretches over the river affording a fine view of the city and its buildings. Harrisburg is a compromise capitol city agreed in the early nineteenth century after western politicians raised a fuss about traveling all the way to Philadelphia, a real hardship in those days. They also worried about the undue influence Philadelphia had on state affairs. Philadelphia politicians refused to cross any mountains to get to the capitol, or even any rivers, hence Harrisburg.

The Courthouse (1943). A log cabin built by John Harris, the founder of the town, was used as a courthouse until a brick courthouse was put up. This building became the state capitol from 1812 until 1822 when the first capitol building was ready. A second brick courthouse was built in 1860 and enlarged in 1894. The present building was dedicated in 1943 and sits facing the Susquehanna River about three blocks south of the capitol. It is built in the Art Moderne style, and resembles many Federal Government buildings, post offices, Federal courthouses, Federal Reserve banks, built in the same style around the same time as part of the effort to spend the country out of depression. The building has a decorative iconography, describe in part by Williams quote: "This building likely has more words carved in stone than any other courthouse in the nation, though I know of no records kept on the subject. It is a showcase for marble, wood, and terrazzo and is loaded with iconography rendered in these and other materials, including etched glass." This courthouse is as handsome from the rear as from the front, one of the few of which that can be said. This is a wonderful building, as impressive in its way as the more imposing state capitol up the street, and not to be missed by courthouse acolytes.

Delaware County, Media (pop. 5,530). This map is a small section from Franklin's Map and Guide of "Eastern" Delaware County, Pa., published by Franklin Survey Co., Philadelphia 1959. The location of the courthouse is indicated by the map. After Delaware County was split from Chester County in 1789, the county seat remained at the city of Chester until about 1850 when it moved to the more central borough of Media. Chester is likely the oldest town in the state as it sits on the site of the original Swedish settlement of Uplandt founded in the early 1640s. It is also the site of the oldest extant courthouse in the state, built in 1724 with some (slight) later changes. This building was the courthouse for Chester County until the seat moved to West Chester in 1786. It then served as the Delaware County courthouse until the move to Media. Some history is on a plaque affixed to the front. According to another plaque it is the oldest public building in continuous use in the country. Someone will have to explain why the Merion Golf Club is a National Historic Landmark, and this building is not. Media is a much newer place, incorporated as a borough in 1850, round about the time the seat moved there.

The Courthouse (1913). The first Media courthouse was a relatively simple structure that apparently has continuously been added to ever since. A plaque in front gives some building history. The major rebuilding giving the present look was in 1920, resulting in a Neoclassic style with a broad front, really broad, covering two Media blocks. However, the county website dates their building to 1913 with this description: "A unique mix of old and modern architecture, the Courthouse is of the Classical Revival style made with Georgia White Marble on the exterior, and was erected in 1913." In the terms used here, the building is Neoclassic with an entrance portico on a broad front. (The Classical Revival term is used here to denote the long and narrow buildings of circa 1850 vintage with portico and bell tower.) The central part of the courthouse including the entrance dates to 1913 , a six column Ionic portico with a clock in the pediment and a slope-roofed shed above for a tower. The columns are repeated on the sides of the projecting 1920 end bays, which harmoniously match the earlier building. An incongruous (in fact, downright ugly) 1985 structure , called the Government Center, is connected to the rear of the courthouse and now accomodates some courthouse functions.

Elk County, Ridgway (pop. 4,590). RIDGWAY, ELK COUNTY PENNSYLVANIA, 1895, drawn by T. M. Fowler, Morrisville, Pa., published by T. M. Fowler & James B. Moyer. This is a panoramic, or bird's eye view map, from the Library of Congress. The present courthouse, with its back to the camera and without later additions, is shown. Ridgway is not the largest town in the county, that honor goes to St. Marys which mounted a campaign to become the seat, and failed.

The Courthouse (1879). The present Second Empire style courthouse was built in 1879, and remains essentially unaltered outside, though not inside. A significant restoration was done in the 1970s including the building of an annex on the right side attached by an enclosed hall. There is also a modern connection at the rear to the jail. The structure is built of native sandstone and red brick, which seems to be the color of choice for courthouse brick. There is elegant stone trim on all the corners and the windows, which are narrow and arched in the Italianate style. The courthouse sits in a spacious park with several memorials, one unfortunately sited too close to the entrance as the photo shows.

Erie County, Erie (pop. 103,720). PLAN OF THE CITY OF ERIE, a map from Atlas of Erie County Pennsylvania, by F. W. Beers, published by F. W. Beers, A. D. Ellis & G. G. Soule, New York 1865. The original west wing of the present courthouse is shown on Sixth Street, a half block west of the Public Square, now called Perry Square. Today, the additions at the back and the east wing take up more of the block. As the map shows, Erie has a model rectangular layout, allowed by the flat land next to the lake. Pennsylvania purchased the northern part of Erie County from New York in 1792 after it was discovered that the 42nd parallel passed south of the lake shore. The lake location does not have the transportation importance it once held, and Erie is now primarily a manufacturing center. There is one other city in the county, Corry.

The Courthouse (1855). The original courthouse sat in the Square as shown in this view , the building with the belfry. The double wing design of the present Neoclassic courthouse is unique. The west section (to the left) was opened in 1855 and enlarged around 1890, when the original bell tower was also removed. The east wing was added in 1929 as a carbon copy of the west with the two connected at the rear, an ingenious idea. Today, there are modern annexes at the back, and around 2001 a new entrance was built in the space between the wings as part of a general courthouse restoration project.

Fayette County, Uniontown (pop. 12,420). UNIONTOWN, from Atlas of the County of Fayette and the State of Pennsylvania, published by G. M. Hopkins & Co., Philadelphia 1872. The courthouse sits at a bend in Main Steet as shown on this county atlas map, although the map shows the old building, built in 1845, and replaced along with the jail in 1892. Uniontown is the western gateway to the Laurel Highlands, a prime tourist spot. There is one other city in the county, Connellsville, popular now as a pit stop on the Allegheny Highlands bike trail from Pittsburgh to Cumberland.

The Courthouse (1892). This is a miniature version of the Richardson Allegheny County courthouse done by other architects in 1892, complete with a ' bridge of signs ' to the jail at the back. The building is not symmetric, and the main street in Uniontown goes by what is really the left side which has an entrance through a large Romanesque arch. The smaller entrance under the tower opens onto a side street. There is a modern annex to the right. The complex of courthouse, annex, and jail occupies a block, and there is little open ground around the buildings.

Forest County, Tionesta (pop. 620). TIONESTA, FOREST COUNTY, PA. 1896, drawn by T. M. Fowler, Morrisville, Pa., published by T. M. Fowler & James B. Moyer. This is a town view from the Library of Congress. The courthouse shown is the present building, sans the bell tower. Tionesta was once logging country and today serves as a hub for hunting, fishing, and camping activities. It is the only borough in the county.

The Courthouse (1869). The first county seat was at Marien, now called Marienville, and moved to Tionesta in 1867. The courthouse was built in 1869, and its look today can be compared to this closeup view from the panoramic map; the bell tower is now gone. Forest is the least populated county (around 5000 lonely souls) and its courthouse needs are correspondingly modest. Nevertheless, this small building has some nice Italianate touches; the most prominent being a Palladian window over the entrance. There is also a peaked roofline with a lunette and narrow arched windows. As can be seen from the photo, the courthouse sits on a large and woodsy, or maybe "Foresty", lot obscuring the building.

Franklin County, Chambersburg (pop. 17,860). CHAMBERSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA., Burned by Rebel Cavalry July 30th, 1864. 1895, drawn by T. M. Fowler, Morrisville, Pa., published by T. M. Fowler & James B. Moyer. This is a bird's eye view, or panoramic map, from the Library of Congress. The present courthouse is shown in the view, right on the town square with its back to the camera. Today the square is paved over for parking except for a large fountain in the center.

The Courthouse (1864). The old courthouse was destroyed by Confederate troops in 1864 and some pieces were used in the present building. As a rear view better shows, this is a large building for the time and the county fathers (there were no county mothers then) were looking ahead. It is built of red brick in the Classical Revival style with front portico and bell tower. An unusual feature of the tower is the ballastrade decoration; one guess who the figure on top might be. (Hint: He seems to be holding a lightning rod.) There is extensive decorative bracketing under all the eaves. The windows are square without decoration, although the ground floor ones are all shuttered. The exterior sits much as originally built, although interior renovations have been made. This 1864 building is now the old courthouse. A 1979 courthouse (or annex) is directly to the rear and connected by an enclosed pedestrian bridge, and now contains most courthouse functions. It is built of reddish brick in a utilitarian style, presumably trying to match the old courthouse color.

Fulton County, McConnellsburg (pop. 1,070). MCCONNELLSBURG, from Atlas of Fulton County, Pennsylvania, compiled and published by Frank P. Plessinger, county surveyor, Francis M. Taylor, C.E., McConnellsburg, Pa. 1916. This map identifies the present courthouse (C.H.) right on the town square. This small square is made even smaller by being quartered by an intersection, and what is left has been paved as a parking lot for the courthouse. Fortunately a small park lies to the west side of the courthouse and even has a bandstand. McConnellsburg is the only borough in this small county.

The Courthouse (1851). This is the original county courthouse built in 1851 immediately after the county was formed in 1850. It has the added distinction of being intact as built with modest interior renovations and well worth visiting for that reason. This courthouse is a simple brick Classical Revival style building with a six column portico, and a small window in the shingled pediment. An open tower sits over the front and a tall chimney sticks up from the rear. Several of the surrounding homes have been appropriated for county annexes and others renovated into lawyer offices, a common occurrence in small county seats.

Greene County, Waynesburg (pop. 4,180). MAP OF WAYNESBURG, GREENE CO. PA., from Caldwell's Illustrated, Historical Centennial Atlas of Greene County, Pennsylvania, published by J. A. Caldwell, Condit, Ohio 1876. Only the center portion of this large foldout map is shown here. The location of the present courthouse along High Street is indicated; the jail and sheriff's home shown on the map were demolished when the courthouse was later enlarged. The old log courthouse on Greene Street is also indicated by a red dot on this map. Waynesburg is the largest town in this rural county, and home to a fine small college of the same name founded in 1849. In 1853 it was one of the first two colleges in the state to award degrees to women (the other was Westminster College in Lawrence County).

The Courthouse (1850). The first courthouse, built of logs after the county was formed in 1796, was removed from the present site and reassembled on Greene Street where it accomodated numerous uses over the years. It was restored in 2002 with a modern visitor's entrance in the back, and is the only surviving original frontier log courthouse in Pennsylvania.The second courthouse can be seen on the left in this circa 1840 view. The present Classical Revival courthouse on High Street occupies the entire block. The front is the original stucture built in 1850 of brick. Additions were added around 1880 at the back resulting in a "T" shaped structure. These additions were partially demolished and replaced in 1988 with more modern and useful buildings. Restoration work was also done to the front original courthouse, and the inside modernized. The tower over the portico has a recent statue of Nathaniel Greene (Revolutionary War) on top replacing an older deteriorated one. The photo can be compared to this 1876 atlas view of the original courthouse sans its later additions.

Huntingdon County, Huntingdon (pop. 6,920). WARDS OF HUNTINGDON, HUNTINGDON CO., from Atlas Blair and Huntingdon Counties Pennsylvania, published by A. Pomeroy & Co., Philadelphia 1873. The county and seat have the same name, true for many Pennsylvania counties. However, this one is often misspelled; it's a "d", not a "t", named after Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon. The town lies along the Juniata River downstream of Hollidaysburg and remnants of the old Pennsylvania Canal are shown on this map. The old courthouse is marked and this is also the location of the present building although the grounds now take up most of the block.

The Courthouse (1883). This brick structure sits along the main street in Huntingdon and is a mixture of styles. It has an Italianate look, with arched windows and running horizontal trim; but no quoins on the corners. The clock tower rises in three stages with a little hemisphere on top. The building dates to 1883 although the original tower was taken down and replaced in 1930. There is a modern annex two blocks away where much of the routine courthouse business is done.

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