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Allegheny County Courthouse & Jail

Pittsburgh Architecture Tour

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One of downtown Pittsburgh's most distinctive buildings is the Allegheny County Courthouse, designed in 1883 by renowned architect, Henry Hobson Richardson.
Allegheny County Courthouse, Pittsburgh PA

Allegheny County Courthouse

© 2005 Kimberly & Albrecht Powell
The architecture of the Allegheny County Courthouse is characterized by the classic symmetry of the Renaissance, with Romanesque details, including Syrian arches, Byzantine Capitals, late French Gothic dormer windows and French Renaissance roofs. Don't miss the frescoes on the first floor, the grand staircase near the entrance to the old law library, the beautiful fountain in the central courtyard park, or the "bridge of sighs" connecting the courthouse and former jail (now a court facility). If the Allegheny County Courthouse's gothic exterior looks eerily familiar, it is because jail scenes for the movie Silence of the Lambs were filmed there.

This courthouse is actually the third in the history of Allegheny County, commissioned by the county after the second courthouse was destroyed by fire in 1882. Richardson's design was chosen in January, 1884 for its clarity of design and organization. Construction on the Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail complex began in 1884. Work on the jail was completed in 1886. The courthouse was completed in 1888, Unfortunately, Richardson died in 1886 and did not live to see his masterpiece completed.

Although there have been innumerable alterations to both the Allegheny County courthouse and jail over the years, these impressive buildings have withstood the test of time and remain powerfully expressive structures enjoyed as architectural masterpieces.

The jail, which was officially closed in 1995, has been masterfully converted into a new combined home of the juvenile and family sections of the Common Pleas Court. The restored and readapted facility has won many national and international design awards.

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