banner search whats new site index home

Westmoreland County Courthouse


The Westmoreland County Courthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. 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 Westmoreland County Courthouse is located at the corner of Main Street and Pittsburgh Street in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Basically rectangular in shape the four-story Westmoreland County Courthouse has a central dome (175ft. above ground) flanked by two gable roof wings. The main entrance which faces east is set out from the east wall and has a large decorated pediment flanked by two smaller domes.

The exterior walls are faced with a light gray granite from Maine. The small domes and main central dome are covered with ornamental gold and ivory terra cotta.

The tympanum of the front pediment is marked by sculpture in granite representing Art and Industry under the protection of the Shield of the Nation. As a crown, also to be viewed from the main thoroughfare and facing east, are the three female figures symbolical of justice, the law, and the people. On the face of the two large cartouche, between the main entrance arches, is carved the seals of the Westmoreland County and the Commonwealth.

The basement and first storeys are rusticated with round arch windows. The main doorway is entered through three round archways. The second and third storeys are visually tied together with square pilasters topped with ornamental stonework. Windows on the second story are elongated casement topped by triangular hoods except for the center windows which have a round arch hood. Directly above each window hood is a circular window. The fourth story is separated by a beltcourse, the central window areas under this story have carved stonework panels. On the north and south sides there is a central fifth story under the pediments. The roof edges and pediments are decorated with stone banisters and ornamental carving and figures.

The interior of the Westmoreland County Courthouse was designed with the same ornate affluence as the exterior. The rotunda in the center was designed to extend up through four floors for reflecting light from four large semi-circular windows at the base of the dome.

The walls of the public hall and rotunda were finished in English-veined Italian marble with colored inlaid panels; colored marble mosaic in ornamental designs finished the floors and ceiling. The grand stairway was constructed of marble, with bronze railings on other stairs and elevators.

Saint Jago and SanDomingo mahogany completed the first and second stories while quartered white oak was utilized for the remainder of the building.

At present (Dec. 1977) a two-story office building and parking garage are being added to the rear (west) of the courthouse.

Significance

Following General John Forbes expedition in 1758, the first settlers came to the Westmoreland County area. On February 26, 1773, Westmoreland County was created out of parts of Bedford County and named after Westmoreland County in England. The first county seat was at Old Hannastown. Court was held at the public house of Robert Hanna until after the Revolution. In 1782, Hannastown was burnt and destroyed by an Indian attack. After the burning the county trustees selected an area on the old Pennsylvania State Road in Newtown (Greensburg) for the location of court buildings. Court continued to be held at Hanna's house until January 1787.

The first courthouse and jail was a log structure located on the corner of Main Street and Pittsburgh Street. This log structure served as Westmoreland County Courthouse until 1801. The second courthouse was a two story brick structure with a hipped roof and cupola on the same site. This building was demolished in 1854.

The third Westmoreland County Courthouse was constructed also on the same site by the firm of Bell and Arnold using plans furnished by Samuel Sloan of Philadelphia. This two-story structure was cruciform in plan with its main entrance on the east side. A large cupola with bell was located at the center of the cross. This building was used until the business of the county outgrew it and it was demolished in 1901.

The fourth and present Westmoreland County Courthouse was completed in 1906-7 and dedicated in January of 1908. Designed by William Kauffman, an architect from Pittsburgh, the courthouse has a large central dome. Only two of this style dome were ever built by William Kauffman, the other is in British Columbia, Canada. The ornate gold glazed dome and decorative statues and carvings help to make the courthouse an impressive building in the Beaux Arts style.

References

Albert, G.D. History of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. L. H. Everts and Company, Philadelphia 1882. pp.51-52, 140.

Bouchner, John H. History of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. Lewis Publishing Company, N.Y. 1906, pp.437-441.

Westmoreland County Courthouse, Greensburg, Pa. Dedication Program, Jan. 31, 1908.

  1. Susan M. Zacher, Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, Lawrence County Courthouse, nomination document, 1978, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
**Information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. You should independently verify any information you use for decision making.
Copyright © 1997-2014 • The Gombach Group • www.gombach.com • 215-295-6555 • 125526 • Privacy