Lackawanna County Courthouse
The Lackawanna County Courthouse and John Mitchell Monument was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.
The Lackawanna County Courthouse occupies a 4.7-acre lot bounded by Washington Avenue, Linden Street, Adams Avenue, and Spruce Street in downtown Scranton, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania. The property meets the registration requirements established for resources associated with labor history in the Multiple Property Documentation Form: Anthracite-Related Resources of Northeastern Pennsylvania, 1769-1945 because it was the site of the first session of Anthracite Coal Strike Commission and for its symbolic representation and commemoration of John Mitchell's and the United Mine Workers of America's achievements. The Lackawanna County Courthouse property includes the stone courthouse, originally built in 1884 in the Romanesque Revival style and enlarged in 1896 with the addition of a third story and the reconstruction of the roof, and the 1924 John Mitchell Monument, sculpted in bronze and granite. Both of these resources retain integrity to convey a sense of history associated with the significant dates 1902 and 1924. Those resources on the property that do not contribute to its significance are the 1964 courthouse wing, six additional memorial monuments, and two cannons erected between 1892 and 1977. Modern concrete walkways surround the Lackawanna County Courthouse and interconnect the monuments. The property also contains a surface parking lot southwest of the courthouse, modern lighting standards, benches, and street furniture.
The Lackawanna County Courthouse is a three-and-one-half-story, rectangular-plan, masonry building measuring approximately 100 by 140 feet with a raised basement, hipped roof, and a five-story clock tower. The Lackawanna County Courthouse features five bays on the northwest (front) facade, four bays on the southeast (rear) facade, and three bays on each of the northeast and southwest facades. Several bays feature blind arches. The foundation and walls are finished with rough-cut, coursed, local stone and the roof is sheathed with tile shingles. The water table, string courses, window sills and lintels, and buttress caps are trimmed with Onondago limestone.
Alterations to the Lackawanna County Courthouse in 1896 introduced eclectic stylistic features, including a dentilated cornice line, scrolled Flemish wall dormers, broken pediments, urns, pyramidal-roofed towers, and oculus windows. A three-and-one-half-story pavilion centered on the front (northwest) facade of the building best illustrates the building's two primary periods of stylistic influence. The pavilion's two-story arcade features Romanesque Revival-style detailing including round arch openings and grouped columns atop heavy piers. Corbelled stone above the second-story arches imitates the building's cornice line as built in 1884. The upper one-and-one-half stories of the pavilion demonstrate a number of eclectic stylistic elements introduced in 1896. This section contains rectangular window openings, a wide stone frieze with a dentilated cornice line, and scrolled Flemish wall dormers topped with a broken pediment and urns.
Throughout the Lackawanna County Courthouse, paired and tri-part flat and round arched window openings are fitted primarily with one-over-one double hung aluminum sash that replaced historic one-over-one-wood sash, probably in 1976. Second and third-story window openings on the northwest and southeast facades have been altered and fitted with modern, fixed aluminum sash. Space between the second and third story openings contains ribbed aluminum panels. The building's primary entrance on the northwest facade features an arcaded pavilion protecting a modern concrete and tile staircase. All entrances on the building are fitted with replacement doors, including double-leaf wood paneled and glazed doors and double-leaf aluminum and plate-glass electronic sliders. Two chimney stacks are located in the building's southeast slope and one in the northwest slope. The three stacks were reconstructed in 1896, at which date original chimneys were eliminated. Wall dormers added in 1896 are fronted with scrolled Flemish gables, and many are topped with broken pediments and urns. Corner staircase turrets with conical roofs are situated on the north and east corners of the building. Originally hipped-roof towers on the southeast facade were reconstructed with pyramidal roofs in 1896. A square clock tower stands on the west corner. The tower's 1929 hipped roof replaces an original pyramidal spire.
The building's significant exterior details include corner buttresses, crenellated corbelling, a dentilated cornice, and decorative iron and stone bracketing. The north and east corner turrets each feature paired battered piers topped with cushion capitals nestling a pendant. Two oculus windows encircled by a double-arched frame with voussoirs were added to the upper half-story dormer on the northeast facade in the 1896 building campaign. An original decorative iron balustrade highlights the clock tower's belfry.
The Lackawanna County Courthouse has experienced two major interior renovations, the first in 1920 and the second in 1976. While the building's historic plan and much of its historic materials are evident, the installation of elevators, modern doors, lighting, ceilings, and new stair towers in the public corridors have lessened the architectural significance of the Lackawanna County Courthouse's interior. Two courtrooms and a former law library on the second floor, however, have retained much of their historic character and materials. A 1902 photograph of the former Superior Courtroom (now Courtroom No. 3) indicates that it retains a number of classically-inspired architectural details that were present during its period of significance. Details include an ornately coffered ceiling, wood paneled doors with ornately-carved round arched wood surrounds containing pediments and pilasters, brass wall sconces, and a decorative, tri-part wall panel behind a seven-person judges' bench. The metal wall panel is framed by wood pilasters with wood panels below and features bas-relief carvings of blind justice and caduceuses. The courtroom measures approximately forty by fifty feet and also features marble pilasters with painted Ionic capitals, low marble wainscoting, carved wood window surrounds with pilasters and round arch fanlights infilled with fabric, and historic brass and opaque glass chandeliers. Walls are covered with modern wallpaper and the floors with wall-to-wall carpeting.
While the Lackawanna County Courthouse has experienced both interior and exterior renovations and the construction of modern additions, the overall integrity of the building has not been compromised. In 1964 a two-story, rectangular-plan, flat-roofed wing was attached to the courthouse's northeast facade by a two-story, glazed breezeway. The addition, covered with stone and trimmed with black marble, sits above a ground-level parking lot. The wing features long rectangular window openings fitted with plate glass. After 1979, a single-story arcaded staircase and corridor on the southwest facade were replaced with a three-story stair tower.
The 1924 John Mitchell Monument fronts Adams Avenue southeast of the Lackawanna County Courthouse. The monument consists of four sections: a heroic-sized bronze statue, a granite monolith containing a niche in the southeast facade, and two low, curved, granite benches flanking either side of the granite monolith. A bronze statue of John Mitchell stands atop a granite block that is inscribed with the words, "John Mitchell (1870-1919)." The granite monolith features a bas-relief scene carved in the niche directly behind the likeness of Mitchell. It consists of six miners at work, a mule pulling a car of coal and a driver boy. Above this scene and the Mitchell statue are the words, "Champion of Labor, Defender of Human Rights" flanking two clasped hands with the inscription "UMW." A second bas-relief carving is located on the rear facade of the monolith, which illustrates a miner at home with his family. Below the scene is the inscription: "This monument is created by contributions of the United Mine Workers of America and their friends. John L. Lewis, president; Philip Murray, vice president; William Green, secretary-treasurer." The southwest and northeast sides of the granite monolith feature inscribed quotes from Mitchell.
Other monuments on the Lackawanna County Courthouse square include tributes to General Philip B. Sheridan (1910) at the south corner of the property, Christopher Columbus (1892) at the west corner, Soldiers and Sailors (1900) centered on the northwest lawn and flanked by two mounted cannons, veterans of World War II (1977) near the south corner, George Washington (1893) at the south corner, and General Casimir Pulaski (1973) at the east corner.
The Lackawanna County Courthouse and the John Mitchell Monument retain integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association present during their periods of significance. While the Lackawanna County Courthouse has experienced both interior and exterior renovations and the construction of modern additions, the overall integrity of the building, and particularly the integrity of the Superior Courtroom, site of the Strike Commission's hearings, has not been compromised.
The Lackawanna County Courthouse is nationally significant as the site of the first session of the Anthracite Coal Strike Commission, appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt in the fall of 1902 to end the "Great Strike" of anthracite coal workers. The "Great Strike" was one of the largest and most significant strikes in American labor history. The Strike Commission hearings represented the first non-violent, even-handed intervention by the federal government in a labor dispute. The most celebrated witness to testify in the hearings was legendary labor leader John Mitchell, organizer and leader of the anthracite coal workers and president of the United Mine Workers of America (UMW). Mitchell's role in the "Great Strike" and other endeavors gained him hero status in the anthracite region, and in 1924 the UMW erected a posthumous memorial to Mitchell in the Lackawanna County Courthouse square. The Lackawanna County Courthouse meets NHL Criterion 1 for its association with the high-profile Strike Commission hearings and the John Mitchell Monument meets NHL exclusion for commemorative properties and National Register Criteria Consideration F as a commemorative resource for its symbolic representation of early-twentieth-century union and labor principles.
Development of the Lackawanna County Courthouse
The Lackawanna County Courthouse's construction resulted from the formation of Lackawanna County from Luzerne County on 13 August 1878. In December 1879 the Lackawanna Iron & Coal Company and trustees of the Susquehanna & Wyoming Valley Railroad & Coal Company deeded to the Lackawanna County Commissioners a block of former swamp land bounded by Washington Avenue, Linden Street, Adams Avenue, and Spruce Street in Scranton, Pennsylvania as a site for public buildings and a park. In 1881 Isaac G. Perry, of Binghamton, New York, designed the Romanesque Revival-style courthouse and John Snaith, of Ithaca, New York, completed its construction in 1884. In 1896, local architect, B. Taylor Lacey, designed the building's third floor, adding eclectic stylistic influences such as a steeply-pitched hipped tile roof, wall dormers with scrolled Flemish parapets topped by broken pediments and urns, a dentilated cornice, and pyramidal-roofed towers. In 1920 T.I. Lacey & Son, architects made alterations to the Lackawanna County Courthouse interior. In June 1929, architect Harry Duckworth re-designed the building's clock tower as a result of roof tiles falling from its steep spire. The most significant modern alteration to the Lackawanna County Courthouse is a two-story rectangular wing with open parking on the ground level. The addition, constructed in 1964 of local stone with black marble trim, is attached to the Linden Street facade of the courthouse by a two-story glazed breezeway. Also at that date, new stair towers, lighting, wiring, and ceilings were added to the original Lackawanna County Courthouse. Interior renovations undertaken in 1976 included the installation of new interior doors, lighting, and aluminum sash.
The Anthracite Coal Strike Commission
The Lackawanna County Courthouse acquired national significance in the fall of 1902 for its role as the meeting site for the Anthracite Coal Strike Commission during its sessions in Scranton. The Multiple Property Documentation Form: Anthracite-Related Resources of Northeastern Pennsylvania, 1769-1945 includes a discussion of the Great Strike of 1902 and its national significance. As a result of President Theodore Roosevelt's October 1902 intervention between the UMW and coal operators, both sides eventually agreed to accept the findings of an investigative committee appointed by the president and the UMW called an end to the strike. Roosevelt's Anthracite Coal Strike Commission began its proceedings on 30 October 1902 with a week-long tour of the anthracite region's physical conditions and coal mining operations. The Commission then met in the Lackawanna County Courthouse's Superior Courtroom (now Courtroom No. 3) from 14 to 22 November and from 3 to 20 December 1902 to hear testimony. John Mitchell, who testified not as president of the UMW but as the "representative of the anthracite mine workers," presented the demands of unionized mine workers. Represented by noted labor and criminal attorney, Clarence Darrow, Mitchell was the first and most celebrated witness of the public hearings. During the cross examination of Mitchell on the third day of the hearings, a crowd attempting to gain admittance into the packed chamber broke through a set of plate-glass doors.
Sessions continued at the federal office building in Philadelphia (no longer extant) from January until February 1903, where the Commission heard operators' testimony and the mine workers' rebuttal. The Strike Commission then adjourned to Washington, D.C. where it announced a decision on 21 March 1903 awarding mine workers a ten percent wage increase and an eight to nine hour working day without pay reduction. The Commission also created a board to settle labor disputes for the three years during which the award was to be enforced. The miners reluctantly accepted the award, disappointed that the Strike Commission did not recognize their union.
The Anthracite Coal Strike Commission is nationally significant because the creation of such a body by a US president was unprecedented. The Commission, appointed by Progressive president Theodore Roosevelt, represented, for the first time in American history, even-handed, non-violent federal intervention between labor and capital. Roosevelt's attempt to settle labor matters through a special, expert, and supposedly impartial commission reflected the shifting relations between the federal government and American business that emerged from the 1902 anthracite coal strike. Prior to this conflict, federal intercession in labor disputes consisted of military intervention to break a strike, rather than arbitration to bring about a peaceful settlement. As a result, the Anthracite Strike Commission is also significant in the context of the US labor movement because it set a precedent for federal intervention in future labor-management relations, such as President Woodrow Wilson's creation of the War Labor Board during World War I and President Franklin Roosevelt's passage of the National Industrial Recovery Act in 1933. As a result of the federal government's involvement and the impact of the 1902 coal strike on the public, national attention focused on the anthracite region, the Strike Commission, and its well-known attorneys and witnesses, including Clarence Darrow and John Mitchell.
The John Mitchell Monument
The John Mitchell Monument was dedicated on 29 May 1924 and stands as the most visible historic resource commemorating the nationally-significant labor leader. The fourteen-ton granite and bronze monument derives its significance from its symbolic representation of the achievements of John Mitchell and the UMW to the US labor movement. Mitchell, who died on 9 September 1919 in New York City, perhaps sensed the significance of his labor successes in the anthracite region and requested to be buried in Scranton at the Cathedral Cemetery. While the UMW passed a resolution to erect a memorial statue within days after Mitchell's death, strikes in both the anthracite and bituminous fields kept the union from commissioning designer Peter B. Sheridan and sculptor Charles Keck until early 1922. The city of Scranton offered a site fronting Adams Avenue on the Lackawanna County Courthouse square to the UMW and ground-breaking ceremonies for the $75,000 monument took place on 25 July 1923. The UMW's International Executive Board collected money to fund the monument from its district offices as well as from other trade unions and donors nationwide. National labor leaders and government representatives attended the May 1924 dedication, and a parade celebrating the monument's unveiling included an estimated 10,000 miners. Mitchell was the first American labor leader to be honored by such a memorial statue.
The Multiple Property Documentation Form discusses Mitchell's and the UMW's role in the national significance of labor history in Pennsylvania's anthracite region, particularly in the strikes of 1900 and 1902. John Mitchell was beloved by coal workers throughout the country, and particularly in the anthracite region, for his role in the development of the UMW as one of the nation's earliest and most powerful industrial unions. Born in 1870 at Braidwood, Illinois, the former coal miner served as international president of the UMW from 1898 until 1908, and as a vice president of the AFL from 1898 to 1914. During his presidency, the UMW increased its membership from 34,000 to 300,000 and its treasury from $12,000 to $900,000. Mitchell was recognized outside the mining fields for his work toward the unity of all laborers regardless of industry and for his role in helping to make possible the permanent structure of the U.S. labor movement.
As young president of the newly-formed UMW, Mitchell led the union in organizing and defending Pennsylvania's anthracite mine workers. Under Mitchell's strong leadership, the UMW eventually provided mine workers with a cohesive organizational framework, the kind of disciplined and solid front that had historically benefited the region's coal operators. This structure helped mine workers to identify the union with their own interests. As a result, the UMW succeeded in uniting fragmented local labor organizations and limiting the inter-regional discord and violence that had plagued the region's labor movement in the past.
By extending leadership to all coal workers and imparting a sense of dignity to their work, Mitchell helped the UMW gain a reputation as a responsible labor organization, one of his most important accomplishments. Mitchell gained national recognition for his role in the 1902 strike and in the Anthracite Coal Strike Commission hearings that followed at the Lackawanna County Courthouse. His skillful management of the strike contributed to the eventual success of national unionism. In 1901, a year after the 1900 UMW strike ended, anthracite miners designated October 29 as "Mitchell Day" in tribute to their union president's skill in winning an eight-hour work day in the that strike. Labor advocates and miners nationwide continue to celebrate Mitchell Day to honor his contributions to the U.S. labor movement. The commemorative significance of the Mitchell Monument is evidenced by the fact that it serves as the location where the Scranton community gathers to celebrate Mitchell Day.
In addition to the bronze statue of Mitchell and his quotes inscribed in the sides of the granite monolith, the monument includes a bas-relief of miners at work and another of a miner at home with his family. These scenes symbolize the improved working conditions, eight-hour work days, and increased wages, that were gained by the UMW in the 1900 and 1902 strikes. Thus, the monument stands as a national symbol for these early accomplishments of the US labor movement in the heart of the anthracite region.
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† Nabors, Susan C., Lackawanna County Courthouse and John Mitchell Monument, nomination document, 1997, National Park service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.