Fayette County Courthouse
The Fayette County Courthouse is a late 19th century Romanesque Revival-Style courthouse that features intricate carvings along the building's exterior along with stone arches and porches. The courthouses was built between 1894 and 1895 under the vision of Wheeling architects Edward Bates Franzheim and Millard Giesey. Three additions were made to the building in 1948, 1958, and 1976. The bell tower features cast-iron stairs that lead up the historic bell, cast in 1895, and continues to operate on days when court is in session.
Backstory and Context
The town of Fayetteville was originally named Vandalia when Fayette County was organized by the state of Virginia in 1838. The first county courthouse was built in Vandalia in 1838, and was completed seven years after the county's organization, but the building was destroyed in the Civil War. The next courthouse was a small frame building, but eventually proved insufficient and was replaced by a courthouse made of brick and stone by architect Frank Davis in 1887. This building burned down in April of 1893, which led to the construction of the current courthouse in May of 1894, and was completed on November 22, 1895. The architects hired to design the new courthouse were Edward Fransheim and Millard Giesey of Wheeling. This courthouse was listed on National Register of Historic Places on September 6, 1978.
The County Commissioners contracted with Samuel Bryan, Jr. of Harrisburg on April 12, 1846 for construction of a new courthouse. It was built in graceful Greek revival style with Ionic columnns across the front. The building measured 85 by 58 feet, with County Offices on the first floor and Court and Jury Rooms on the second. It was surmounted by an octagonal belfry which contained a large four-faced town clock. Atop its spire sat an 8-foot 2-inch statue of Lafayette carved out of poplar wood by Uniontown artist David Blythe. The new Courthouse opened in March 1847.
Disaster struck on February 4, 1845, when fire broke out in the Courthouse apparently starting in one of the stovepipes or chimneys. Two fire companies from Uniontown fought the flames but the fire was not contained and the roof and entire second story were destroyed. The records, however, were saved through the heroic efforts of townspeople and county employees. Court sessions were moved to the upper room of the John Dawson Law Building. This building still exists at the corner of Main and Court Streets.
Some Fayette County records, including marriages, dating from its formation in 1831 survive, while others, such as births and deaths, do not exist prior to 1866. Fayette County has many significant gaps in its records, but for the most part, the dates of the missing records do not correspond to the war years or to the courthouse fires. Some of the most extensive gaps in records are well after 1893.
Some alterations have been made to the interior of the building, but still retains most of its original design. Extensions have been added on to the rear of the building, each constructed of brick to match the original work. Renovations and restorations have been set in place to work on sections of the original brick, the front stone steps, and additional sealing throughout the building.
"History of the Courthouse." About Fayette County. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 May 2017. <http://www.co.fayette.pa.us/AboutFayette/Pages/CourthouseHistory.aspx>.