Mercer County Courthouse Makes Historical Register

      The county courthouse has been named to the National Register of Historic Places, county commissioners learned Thursday, Jan. 7, 1999.

      Also named was the court house south annex. Originally the county jail it was built in 1869, and now houses the Public Defender's Office. 

      Commissioner Olivia Lazor said the designation makes the courthouse eligible for federal funds for restoration. She said she also hopes to find sponsors for donations toward restoration and beautification.

Problems

      Mrs. Lazor said the years have taken their toll on the historical elements of the courthouse. She pointed out, for example, that the com missioners' meeting room now has a dropped ceiling and paneling. Commissioner Gene Brenneman agreed, adding that two large paneled boxes in the room hide basement column.

      Brenneman added that wiring is a problem, both be cause of its quality and it's inadequacy to serve the expanding computer system in the building.

History

  The courthouse was built between 1009 and 1911, proceeding two earlier courthouses, which burned down.

      The Youngstown architectural firm Owsley and Boucherle and Co. designed the building.  Estimated to cost $325,000, the final accounting showed it cost $490,000.  Luyster and Lowe, of Dayton, Ohio, was the contractor.

      The three-story structure is visible for several miles from ground level and for many miles from the air, where it became a navigation point for early commercial aviation.

      It is similar to Mahoning County's. Courthouse and shared the same architect and engineer as well as being built at the same time. However. Mercer is one story shorter. and boasts a clock, bell tower and prominent porticoes that were not possible at the Mahoning County site.

     Pittsburgh consultant Charles Uhl, who was hired by Mercer County to prepare the paperwork for the historical designation. states in his application that architecturally, Mercer Courthouse "has no stylistic peers in Western Pennsylvania.  

Artwork

     The artwork inside is one of the most striking features of the building. A wall mural in Courtroom 1, titled "Criminal Law" by Vincent Aderante, depicts four female figures: Humanity asking for Justice under Law, tempered by Mercy, Aderante was born in Naples, Italy, and came to the United States early in the century. 

     A mural painter, he did work at the U.S. Mint in Denver, and at city halls in Yonkers, N. Y., New York City and other towns.

     Alonzo Foringer, an Armstrong County native, trained in Pittsburgh and New York City. His painting in Courtroom 2 depicts Justice hearing a case before the public. He did murals for the Utah State Capitol, Yonkers City Hall, and Church of the Savior in Philadelphia. He is best known for his World War I Red Cross poster, "The Greatest Mother in the World."

     Edward Simmons, a nephew of poet and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson. painted the allegorical figures in the rotunda of the courthouse.  Trained in Paris, he was a famous landscape and mural painter. He did murals for the Library of Congress, Massachusetts State House, Minnesota and South Dakota State capitols, Harvard University and several other courthouses. His work here snows four female figures representing Guilt, Innocence, Power and Justice.

     The National Register is the official list of the nation's cultural resources worthy of preservation and significant in historic architecture, archeology, engineering and culture.

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