There are literally thousands of pictures of Lancaster’s Courthouse at both its current Duke Street local and original Penn Square home. But would you believe that only one image exists of it draw by a person who actually saw it?
A Brief History of Lancaster’s Courthouses
Lancaster has had four courthouses since it was established as a county on May 10, 1729. Lancaster County held its first court session on August 1729 at John Postlethwaite’s tavern on the Old Conestoga Road, which is present-day Long Lane near Rock Hill. Read more about the Postlethwaite tavern courthouse here.
In 1737, the county’s first real courthouse was constructed in the square at Lancaster. It is in this courthouse that the Continental Congress met on September 27, 1777, and the Pennsylvania General Assembly met during the British occupation of Philadelphia. Click here to read more about Lancaster being the nation’s capital for one day.
In 1786, the original courthouse was destroyed by a fire, and a new one was constructed in the square and used until 1853.
The current courthouse was built between 1852 and 1855. The original building was designed by Philadelphia architect Samuel Sloan. The north wing was added between 1896 and 1898, and low flanking wings on either side of the exterior staircase were added in 1926–1927. These later additions were designed by Lancaster architects James H. Warner and C. Emlen Urban, respectively. Click here to read more about this sketch of the current courthouse.
Nicolaus Garrison, Jr. Courthouse Sketch
This illustration shows the only contemporary image of that first “real” courthouse (background of the drawing on the left). It was drawn in 1757 by Nicolaus Garrison, Jr. The original is at the Moravian Archives in Bethlehem.
Here’s a closeup of the same image with the contrast-enhanced for better visibility.