Allegheny County Courthouse

Allegheny County Courthouse

Pittsburgh Beautiful is focusing not only on a pictorial exposition of the region through the eyes of it’s residents and visitors, but also the history of the entire region.   Here is a little bit of Pittsburgh history:

The Allegheny County Courthouse is part of a complex designed by a man named H.H. Richardson. The buildings are designed in Romanesque Revival style. The original courthouse first heard cases in 1794 and was a wooden structure. It was located on one side of Market Square. While the courthouse was there, the PA Supreme Court and the Western District of PA held court sessions.

Land for a new courthouse, where it is today, was bought in April of 1834. The building was actually built with gray sandstone quarried at Coal Hill, known as Mount Washington today. The second building was designed by a man named John Chislett. It was a Greek Revival design and included a domed cupola that housed a rotunda 80 feet high. Unfortunately, because of corrosion caused by coal smoke, the building ended up deteriorating and in May of 1882, a fire broke out and the building was completely damaged. This fire brought about plans for a new courthouse.

Today, the Grant St. complex is bordered by streets named after city founders (Ross Street for James Ross, Forbes Ave. for John Forbes). Grant Street is named after James Grant. The current building was named a National Historic Landmark in 1976, less than 100 years after it was built.

Allegheny County Courthouse

Inside the building are five murals that were completed in 1937. They portray the themes industry, justice, peace, Ft. Duquesne and The Battle of Grant’s Hill. There is a prison connected to the courthouse through what is called the Bridge of Sighs. The Bridge of Sighs was inspired by the bridge of the same name in Venice, Italy.

The courthouse’s design has influenced many buildings around the U.S., including Minneapolis City Hall, a building on the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign’s campus and a courthouse in Richmond, Indiana. In pop culture, several films featured the courthouse, including Striking Distance and Hoffa. 

More information on the courthouse can be found here.

More Pittsburgh History can be found here (Part 1) and here (Part 2).

2 thoughts on “History of the Allegheny County Courthouse”
  1. I believe Richardson was the Architect for the Boggs mansion on the Northside. The Boggs mansion is aB&B. The stone was also restored, and the owners have preserved as much as they could inside and out.

  2. So many memories. I worked for attorneys in the Grant Building and was in and out of the Courthouse all the time. I left Pittsburgh in 1977 but I still miss it. There’s no place like it.

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