Potter County Courthouse
The Potter County Courthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.
Construction began on the Potter County Courthouse in 1851 and the structure was completed by 1853. The Potter County Courthouse is basically Greek Revival in style with major alterations having taken place during 1838-1889. The structure is two and one-half stories in height, five bays in width, and six bays in depth. It is constructed of brick with stone quoins at the corners. The present Potter County Courthouse was erected immediately to the front of the first courthouse and jail, a smaller two and one-half story structure built in 1835 and torn down in 1870.
The Potter County Courthouse is characterized by a bilateral symmetry. The main facade features a center hall entrance with two bays on either side. The structure appears as a large rectangular block set in an open courthouse square. The structure lacks orders and, in general, also lacks projections. As originally constructed, it also lacked the gables on either side. Both first and second story windows are characterized by a slightly projecting shelf above and lugsill below. The main entrance features an entablature. The structure rests on a raised stone foundation.
As constructed during 1851-1853, the wood shingle roof was of low pitch with a clock tower surmounted by a hemispherical dome. The roof had double chimneys to the rear and also behind the clock tower and lacked the gables to the sides. The 1888-1889 alterations changed the roof to a rather steep pitch. This roof was constructed of slate and has center gables which project slightly to either side. The steep-pitched roof features an entablature above the second story and Victorian brackets at the front and side gables and the tower above. The large inset clock tower still rises above the courthouse and is now surmounted by a vaulted conical roof with gabled dormers and statuary.
During the winter of 1933-1934, a Civil Works Administration Program enabled the Potter County Courthouse to undergo a complete overhauling. The basement was excavated and rest rooms and offices were built in it. Concrete footing was placed under the old walls. The entire interior and exterior were repainted and various modern conveniences were installed.
The Potter County Courthouse was constructed during the years 1851-1853 by William Bell of nearby Warren County. The construction of the Potter County Courthouse evoked one of the most bitter controversies ever to arise in the area. The controversy focused on the use of tax monies for construction of what was, at that time, a new courthouse, "squandering the hard earnings of the laborer upon a useless object." The alterations which were undertaken during 1888-1889 by Homer Hall, an architect from Olean, New York, faced basically the same criticisms. Hall resigned prior to completion of the work and George Abson finished the project. L.D. Horton was in charge of the stone and brick work.
As the Potter County Courthouse for over 120 years (1855-1974), the structure has served as a focal point in the life of the citizens of Potter County. The building, which was once criticized as extravagant, is today barely adequate to meet the needs of the county.
Architecturally, the structure is a fine example of Victorian architecture. The Greek Revival style, blended with later Victorian elements, and the setting of the courthouse in the open town square, provides the building with a stately appearance, appropriate to its role in the political life of Potter County.
Beebe, Victor L., History of Potter County. Pa., Potter County Historical Society, 1934.
Lesson, Michael A., compiler, History of the Counties of McKean, Elk, Cameron and Potter, Pennsylvania, Chicago: J.H. Beers & Co., 1890.