New plaque graces historic courthouse

The restoration of the historic courthouse in West Chester – a painstaking project that uncovered architectural details from a bygone era – continues to earn kudos.

Representatives from the West Chester Downtown Foundation and the West Chester Historic Preservation Awards presented the Chester County Commissioners with a West Chester Historic Preservation plaque this week, commemorating the rehabilitation and restoration of the interior of the courthouse, said a county press release.

The plaque, created by West Chester-based Smithworks Design Communications, was placed on the front of the landmark building to note the special recognition. The historic courthouse was designed in 1846 by renowned architect Thomas U. Walter, known for his work on the U.S. Capitol.

Chester County’s restoration efforts previously earned a “Bricks and Mortar” award from the West Chester Downtown Foundation. The preservation award committee cited the county’s efforts to rehabilitate the primary symbol of the Borough of West Chester to active and useful service as a courtroom. In addition, the committee noted that the restoration uncovered hidden door frames and architectural details that allowed visitors to see the courthouse as it could have looked when it opened in 1847, the release said.

This formal presentation of this plaque is one of a number of plaques being placed on properties throughout the Borough of West Chester that have previously won historic preservation awards. The 2016 winners of the West Chester Downtown Foundation Historic Preservation Awards will be celebrated on Thursday, Oct. 20, at the Chester County Historical Society.

Toward the end of the 19th century, growth in the county exceeded the historic courthouse’s capacity, and an annex to its western end was completed in 1893, the first of many modifications to accommodate the burgeoning population.

More than a decade ago, the commissioners faced the realization that the county had once again outgrown its space, which led to the construction of the Justice Center several blocks away. That decision also left a once-grand building in need of a facelift that uncovered treasures such as an exterior staircase.

The renovated historic courthouse now serves as the home of District Court 15-1-04, which covers West Chester Borough Wards 1, 2 and 4. It is also used for special events.

 

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