Washington County Courthouse
The Washington, PA Courthouse is where Washington County courts hold session. The courthouse also keeps vital records. Read on to learn about the history of the four Washington County courthouses, including the current building.
The first session of Washington County Court was held in 1781. The original courthouse was built shortly after that. It was a two-story log cabin style building.
A dozen years later, a second courthouse was constructed of brick.
The third courthouse was built in 1842. It “featured a two-story, octagonal cupola capped with a small dome and a wooden statue of George Washington,” according to Court History at the Washington County Courts.
Late in the 1800s, technology had changed. Electricity was available. Telephones were used. Typewriters were common. It was time for a new courthouse – the one that is used today. It was constructed of sandstone and granite. Its classical terra cotta dome is capped with an 18-foot-tall statue of George Washington. Interior doorways, the grand staircase and base of the dome are lavishly finished. The open central rotunda is crowned with brilliant stained glass windows in the domed skylight. It has been described as exquisite and magnificent.
The courthouse was built for $1 million. Adjusting for inflation, the cost in today’s currency would be $30 million. It has been used as the county courthouse with few interior alterations since it was built more than a century ago.
The statue of George Washington from the old courthouse was moved to a corner lot at Locust and Highland.
A time capsule was put in at the northeast corner of the building. It contained photographs of prominent citizens, copies of newspapers, pamphlets and histories related to the previous courthouse.
The Washington County Courthouse was designed in the Beaux Arts style, which combined the columns and symmetry of classical architecture with eclectic elements from other styles. While Beaux Arts was intended to be a French national style, it was embraced by American architects for public and civic buildings like the Washington County Courthouse following the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.
Some consider the Washington County Courthouse to be one of the finest remaining Beaux Arts structures in the U.S. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated as a historic public landmark by the Washington County History & Landmarks Foundation. The same architectural style was followed in building the Washington Trust Building a few years later.
A bench in front of the courthouse commemorates Union veterans of the Civil War. People take selfies of themselves sitting on the bench as part of waymarking.
A history like that calls for a tour! Washington County Courthouse tours are offered for free by the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum. A guide conducts a walk through the courthouse, talks about early Washington County history and covers details about courthouse offices – all in less than an hour. Tours are limited to 20 people and have to be booked in advance.
During the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 and 2021, tours were suspended. The pandemic disrupted court business. Courts reopened on June 1. People entering the courthouse were required to undergo screening, wear a face mask and comply with social distancing. People were encouraged to conduct their court business remotely.
The Washington County Courthouse is located at 1 South Main Street, Washington, PA 15301. Paid street and garage parking are available nearby. There’s no free parking at the Courthouse. Visitors pass through a security checkpoint.
This article was published in and updated in