Tioga County Courthouse
The Tioga County Courthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2010, The Gombach Group.
Originally known as the "New Court House," the Tioga County Courthouse was built on property called the Village Park, centrally located in the Village of Owego. Historically and visually it has been a notable landmark of the community for the past century, and in continued use as the seat of county government.
Rectangular in plan, the Tioga County Courthouse is two stories in height with four three-story towers, one on each corner. It stands on a foundation of regular ashlar quarried in Auburn. The walls of the building are constructed of smooth, hard-burned brick of a red-pink color which was manufactured by the builders. Trim details were cut from Onondaga County Reservation limestone.
The Tioga County Courthouse is symmetrical in design, with identical facades in all four directions. Each tower, however, is different architecturally. Originally, the northwest and southeast towers were higher (115 feet) than the corresponding ones (92 feet) on the other diagonal. The taller towers were later trimmed, so that all four towers now stand at a uniform height of 92 feet. Each tower is marked by its use of round windows with double pointed arch, limestone hoodmolds set in recessed panels, limestone quoins and hipped roof, several roofs having truncated corners and triangular pediments.
Between the towers on each of the four sides of the building is a pointed arch suggesting a gable with a cornice incorporating block modillions, raised to the level of the flat part of the main roof. Each arch serves as a visual focus for the entrance and trim detail beneath it. Within the arch on the south (front) and north (rear) facades is a cut stone tablet, five feet in diameter. Tioga County Court House and the date, 1872, appears on each one.
The Tioga County Courthouse has three doorways, each within a round arch of cut limestone. The main entrances on the north and south are larger than the other. They are covered by one-story porches which cover the entire width of the landing and which are accented by decorative iron railings.
Round windows set in recessed panels, were used exclusively on each facade of the building. The windows, in combination with their limestone hoodmolds, suggest the shape of a trefoil arch. In addition, second-story windows beneath each tower are located with trefoil arches of brick.
During May, 1969, the Tioga County Courthouse was sand blasted and the roof repaired. The ceiling in the court room was lowered at this time.
The interior of the Tioga County Courthouse is notable for its detailed woodwork. The courtroom on the second floor offers fine examples of nineteenth century craftsmanship.
The courtroom is wainscoted with chestnut to a height of three feet, with heavy black walnut capping. The doors and windows are cased with walnut. Fourteen round windows allow light into the courtroom. The judge's platform is constructed of chestnut and is paneled and molded. Upon it, the judge's desk is made of black walnut with carved raised panels, raised molding and carved black walnut rail, octagon paneled newels and balusters. Galleries, five foot projections, are made of chestnut and have highly decorated parapets. The galleries are provided with elevated seats, made of chestnut and trimmed with black walnut, as are the benches in the courtroom.
Similar detail, and extensive use of chestnut and black walnut is evident through the rest of the Courthouse.
Centrally located, the Tioga County Courthouse occupies a prominent position in the village of Owego. Not only a visual center of attraction, the structure is also a representative example of public building architecture in western New York in the 1870's and is a visual representation of 100 yeas of Tioga County history.
Miles F. Howe, an Owego resident and architect of several other buildings in Tioga County, designed the "New Court House." According to his plans, the building was erected between 1871-1872.
The site chosen for the Tioga County Courthouse was the result of a movement begun in 1868 to locate a court house in Owego, a bustling center of business activities. Two hundred feet of land in what was then the village park was subsequently set aside in 1869 for the construction of the building. A resolution was passed by the Board of Supervisors in 1871 to build the new court house and the village deeded the grounds to Tioga County.
The laying of the cornerstone was cause for a day of great celebration in Owego. The building was completed during 1872, and has been the center of Tioga County government activities ever since.
Initially, the Tioga County Courthouse contained the offices of the Sheriff, district attorney, county judge and county clerk. It is now occupied by both the Supreme Court and the County Court. In addition, the Courthouse is equally important to the civic organizations which make use of its meeting facilities on a regular basis.
Tioga County Courthouse is also notable as a local architectural landmark. Its use of multiple building materials, plus such details as its arches, round windows, four towers and use of decorative limestone features make it a representative building of its type and era. Interiors are likewise dignified and handsome with detailed chestnut and black walnut woodwork.
Visually attractive and still the county seat of government, the Tioga County Courthouse is appreciated by visitors to Owego as well as by the local population. The building has staunch support by the local citizenry for its continued use and preservation.
Building Committee. Tioga County Court House. Owego, N.Y.: February, 1871.
Montillon, Eugene D., AIA, ASLA. Historic Architecture. In Broome County, New York and Vicinity. Binghamton, N.Y.: Broome County Planning Department, 1972.
Tioga County Legislature Body.
Files of the New York State Historic Trust.