Courthouse

The Second Indiana County Courthouse
Indiana, Pennsylvania

A new addition to Carnegie Science Center's Miniature Railroad & Village in autumn 2002 was the 'old' Indiana Courthouse. This structure was selected to serve as a centerpiece for the exhibition's depiction of a western Pennsylvania town. The replica is constructed of acrylic plastic, with over 100 hand-cast windows, pilasters and columns. Wood, paper, cardboard and vinyl were also used in its construction.

The cupola is gilded with real gold leaf, and the clocks are, in reality, four battery operated watches telling actual time. Twice a year, during daylight savings time, the staff must change the time on all four watches.

The real Indiana County courthouse is located at the corner of Philadelphia and Sixth streets, Indiana, Pennsylvania. It was the second of three courthouses serving the county.

Designed by architect James W. Drum and erected between 1868-1870. The architecture is high Italianate Second Empire style.

"It is a large red brick and stone building of three stories and a mansard roof which gives the impression of expansive classicality. All windows on the first floor are arched with lintels and keystones, the windows of the second and third floors have segmental tops and triangular pediments. All windows are separated by either pilaster, or Corinthian columns. Each floor is separated from the next by stone belt courses and there is a large but rather simple wood classical cornice. The central pavilion has four Corinthian columns of stone which support a large triangular pediment. Between these and at either side, are the round arched windows of the courtroom, which are two stories high. Above this pavilion is the tower consisting of podium, belfry and cupola. In the convex tower mansardare four clock faces.

The two story courtroom, 100 feet by 82 feet and 30 feet high on the second floor, is possibly the most splendid space among all Pennsylvania courthouses. The varnished wood ceiling alone is a marvel of Victorian joinery. Above what was formerly the judge's bench, is sort of a tabernacle with Corinthian columns, but most of the decoration of the room was frescoed in the trompe-l'oeil manner.

A type of decoration rare in our courthouses. Two niches containing statues of Justice and Knowledge were painted on the wall to 'fool the eye of the viewer' "1

A. Fulton & Son cast a bronze and silver bell, weighing 2,480 lbs. in Pittsburgh, Pa., at the cost of $1,017.87 dollars. Many residents and the local press expressed fear that the hourly ringing of the bell 'would make enough noise to wake the natives for ten miles around'.

The Howard Clock Company of Boston and Springfield, Ohio manufactured the large clock, with four 7' diameter dials facing in four directions. The minute hand is 4' in length and the hour hand is 3' in length. It was operated by a 75-pound weight with an eight-day movement, requiring a 15-minute rewinding period. The bell was converted to electricity in 1950.

The Courtroom is 60' x 82' x 30' high.

The walls are finished with Corinthian pilasters and an entablature. The windows were originally stained glass, and the courtroom walls, corridors, and vestibule was painted with allegorical Grecian figures using the fresco painting technique. Edward Morgenroth, of Allegheny City (now Pittsburgh's North Side) created the frescos.

A jail and Sheriff's residence was erected behind the courthouse in 1879; a 'bridge of sighs' connects the jail to the courtroom. Prisoners were walked over the bridge and into the second floor courtroom in order to stand trial for the crime with which they were charged.

In honor of Indiana's Centennial celebration (1903), The Women's Christian Temperance Union donated and installed a water fountain along the sidewalk in front of the courthouse:

The fountain offered a refreshing drink of water for humans, horses and even a level for dogs. The fountain was removed in 1916.

A scale model of this fountain can be seen in front of the courthouse replica on the Miniature Railroad & Village.

Courthouse CelebrationThe keys to the second Indiana Courthouse were given to the county commissioners during a dedication ceremony held on December 19th, 1870. The total cost of courthouse construction between 1868-1870 totaled $186,000 dollars.

The courthouse served as a center of activity during Indiana's 1903 Centennial celebration. Buildings along Philadelphia Street were decorated with red white and blue banners, bunting and American flags.

A 'living human American flag' composed of a large grandstand filled with 275 female students from the Indiana Normal School costumed in red, white or blue caps and shawls. When the girls waved their handkerchiefs of the appropriate color, they made the flag come alive as onlookers cheered!

The second Indiana County courthouse served as the seat of justice for Indiana County until its closed for its final session on November 11th, 1970.

Toward the end of its service, the building was too small to hold all of the government offices, and the 100-year-old courthouse had settled to the point where it would have to be demolished. But, in 1972, a local bank stepped forward, offering a restoration-lease proposal for the old Indiana Courthouse Renovations were completed during the 1980's and the bank uses the old courthouse for some of their executive offices, and the golden cupola has become the corporate logo.

Actor Jimmy Stewart is one of Indiana's favorite sons. Born of Elizabeth and Alexander Stewart on May 20th, 1908. Alex owned and operated the J. M. Stewart Hardware store, located on Philadelphia Street.

At the beginning of WW2, Alex Stewart constructed a wooden 'V' for victory, decorated with electric red, white and blue light bulbs that he erected on top of the bell tower of the courthouse.

Jimmy StewartThe courthouse served as a backdrop in a photograph for the September 24th, 1945 Life magazine cover, featuring Air Force.

Colonel Jimmy Stewart's homecoming from active service in WW2. His father, Alex Stewart, hung a bed sheet from the courthouse cupola with the words: 'Welcome Home Jim' painted upon it. Alex's 'V' for victory can be seen in the photograph as well.

Congratulations to Indiana, Pennsylvania, celebrating its Bicentennial year in 2003!

Many thanks to:
Architect Thomas R. Harley, First Commonwealth Bank for the tour of their facility, and the Historical & Genealogical Society of Indiana County for their support of this project.

 

 

 

 

For further information, surf the web to these sites:
Historical & Genealogical Society of Indiana County
http://www.rootsweb.com/~paicgs/

The Jimmy Stewart Museum
http://www.jimmy.org/


1 Old Courthouse Italianate Masterpiece Preserved, by James D. van Trump, Indiana Gazette, July 1, 1982