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Clearfield County Courthouse


The Clearfield County Courthouse (2nd and Market Streets) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1] Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.

Description

The present Clearfield County Courthouse is a two and one-half story brick building with a square brick tower. Rectangular in shape, the Clearfield County Courthouse has a gable roof with two large cross-gables and smaller hipped roofed dormers. Heavy dentils line the boxed cornices and returns. Its stone foundation has evenly spaced rectangular windows and is separated from the brick walls by a stone water table. First story windows have rounded brick arches and are 13 over 2. The upper sash has a large central pane surrounded by 12 smaller square panes. The first and second stories are separated by a decorative brick belt course. Second story windows are elongated 16 over 16 with semi-circular fan lights of 7 lights. Decorative brick arches cap each window and are connected by a brick belt course.

The front facade is dominated by the central square brick tower. Capped by a ball-shaped roof, the tower is the most impressive feature of the courthouse. A six-bay brick portico flanks the central tower on the first story. Heavy dentils and a decorative balustrade embellish the roof of the portico. Openings in the portico and the central tower have circular arches. The central tower is divided into six visual levels by the placement of windows and belt courses. A decorative belt-course is located three quarters of the way up the first story. Semi-circular arched windows are located on levels two, three and four. At the main roof line, two belt courses are located on the tower dividing the lower tower from the clock tower. Clocks on the four sides of tower are located between the lower double belt course and a single belt course above. The upper-most section of the tower has two louvered shuttered window openings on each tower face with a belt-course dividing this section near the roof line.

Significance

On March 26, 1806, Clearfield County was created by an Act of Legislature along with six other western Pennsylvania counties. However this area of Pennsylvania was sparsely settled in 1806 with a population of only 104. Therefore the new county was annexed to Centre County for legal purposes until the population became as such that could support an independent governmental system. It was not until January 29, 1822 that Clearfield County became independent of Centre County. The new county commissioners chose the lands of Abraham Witmer, the site of the Indian town of Chencleclamousche, for their new county seat. Witmer of Lancaster County donated six lots for use for a courthouse, jail and three schools as well as $3,000.

The first courthouse of Clearfield County was built circa 1814 on the corner of 2nd and Market Streets. Robert Collins was contracted for the construction of this brick structure costing $4356.26. This first courthouse was in use for 46 years until the increased need for office and court space necessitated the need for a larger structure. In January of 1859, proposals were solicited for four weeks in the local newspapers and on February 9th, a contract was awarded to George Thorn of Clearfield for a 60' by 90' two story building for the sum of $13,960.00. The new Clearfield County Courthouse was to be built on the site using materials from the old courthouse. Work on the new foundation began April 17, 1860 and the cornerstone was laid on June 4th of that year. Owing to an architects blunder, most of the tower had to be rebuilt and was not completed until 1862. The first clock also proved defective and had to be replaced.

In 1882 a 5' by 75' addition was made to the rear of the courthouse. The roof and upper portion of the courthouse were also altered at this time. The contract was awarded to Thorn and Burchfield of Clearfield for $35,897.25. By 1884 the addition and alterations to the Clearfield County Courthouse were completed.

The center of all county governmental operations in Clearfield County, the courthouse is an important structure. The survival of the 1860 Clearfield County Courthouse is unusual in western Pennsylvania where most counties built third courthouses during the 1890 to 1910 period.

References

Swoope, Roland D. Jr., 20th Century History of Clearfield County, Pa. Chicago: Richmond-Arnold Publishing, Co, 1911, p.30-36.

Caldwell's Atlas of Clearfield County, Pa., Condit, Ohio: J.A. Caldwell, 1878.

  1. Zacher, Susan M., Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, Clearfield County Courthouse, nomination document, 1978, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Clearfield County Courthouse Map

Street Names
2nd Street • Market Street

**Information is curated from a variety of sources and, while deemed reliable, is not guaranteed.
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