Click Here to Return to Index

Click Here to Return to Milestones

Court in Beavertown

Milestones Vol 27. No. 2

Beaver County Court convened for the first time on a brisk February morning in 1804.

Four years earlier the Pennsylvania legislature had enacted a bill giving life to the county of Beaver and seven neighboring counties.

The legislation, "An Act to erect certain parts of Allegheny, Westmoreland, Washington and Lycoming Counties into separate counties," also established that the court would be at "Beavertown" in the new Beaver County. It mandated also that three trustees be named to build the court house, jail and offices to preserve the records.

The court had many matters before it on its first session. Over 20 men were admitted to practice before the new court. A grand jury had to be named, as well as constables and record keepers.

The first building erected was a two story structure, with the first story used for the jail and the second story for the courtrooms. That building served until 1810, when a new building went up in the same square as the present court house, but a little to the east of it.

In 1840, a wing was added on the eastern side and eight years later, some offices for preservation of records were located on the west side.

The 1810 court house also was two stories of white painted brick with a captain's walk above the 20-foot bell tower.

In time, this second building came to be known as the "old court house." The March and June sessions of the 1874 grand juries examined the building and found it inadequate. The jurors recommended that the county commissioners build a new court house. On December 19, 1874, the district attorney petitioned the court, setting forth neglect of the county commissioners to build a court house and seeking a directive to them to start building. The order was granted the next month.

The 1875 commissioners enacted a resolution obligating the county to a new debt of $120,000 so the court order could be obeyed. Taxes went up two mills to cover the bond issue. Before the bond issue, however, the total indebtedness was nothing.

William M. Keyser received a contract on June 2 9, 1875 to build the new court house for $115,000. The actual cost, with furnishings, architectural and other costs was $129, 655.50. On February 28, 1877, the new building was turned over to the court officials; 20 years later it was expanded.

An addition was built also in 1923 and nine years later, disaster struck. A painter's blow torch set fire to pigeon nests in the bell tower. The blaze that followed so severely gutted the building that it almost had to be reconstructed.

The older sections of today's court house stands on the foundations of the old building.(Editor's Note--This is no longer the case since the old courthouse was demolished.)

The old courthouseof 1933 meets its end in the winter of 2002.
Photo by Bob Bauder

It was expanded in 1970-71, with a $2 million addition to house the courtrooms and chief county government offices. But it was barely built in 1972 when it became the scene of a high drama. Just as it was being occupied, a group of young men from Weirton, WV, anxious to destroy court records of their arrest, enlisted some friends and planted a basket of dynamite between the old and new sections. The blast that followed caused considerable damage and took almost two years to restore permanence to many offices. The latest addition was dedicated in June 1974.

--From Beaver County Times 175th Anniversary Edition