1724 Chester Courthouse

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Chester Courthouse
1724 Chester Courhouse.JPG
1724 Chester Courthouse, May 2010
1724 Chester Courthouse is located in Pennsylvania
1724 Chester Courthouse
1724 Chester Courthouse is located in the US
1724 Chester Courthouse
LocationAvenue of the States St. below 5th St.,
Chester, Pennsylvania
Coordinates39°50′52″N 75°21′36″W / 39.8478°N 75.3599°W / 39.8478; -75.3599Coordinates: 39°50′52″N 75°21′36″W / 39.8478°N 75.3599°W / 39.8478; -75.3599
Arealess than one acre
Built1724 (1724)
ArchitectBrazer, Clarence
NRHP reference #71000702[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPMay 27, 1971
Designated PHMCMay 14, 1954[2]

The Chester Courthouse is a historic courthouse in Chester, Pennsylvania, the former county seat for Chester County, Pennsylvania, one of the three counties in the Province of Pennsylvania laid out by William Penn. It was built in 1724 and is the oldest courthouse still standing in the United States.[3]

Description[edit]

The courthouse is 2 1/2 stories high with no basement and 2 foot thick walls. The south and east facades of the building are hewn stone with the other two built of rubble stone. The Quaker influence on the building can be seen in the two front doors, one for men and the other for women.[4]

The interior measures 31 by 36 feet. The first level has a stone floor court room divided by a low wooden railing that was designed to separate the judges and lawyers from court observers. There are no fireplaces on the first floor but both the jury room and petit jury room on the second floor have fireplaces. The second floor is accessed by a stairwell in the northwest corner of the building.[5]

The cupola on the courthouse contained a bell that was cast in London and added in 1729. The bell was removed for many years but returned during a 1920 restoration. A three-sided bay with large multi-paneled windows was added in 1744.[5]

History[edit]

Drawing from Smith's "History of Delaware County" 1862

The Chester courthouse was built in 1724 and was the fourth courthouse built in Chester.[6]

In 1789, the Chester County seat was moved to West Chester, Pennsylvania and the Chester Courthouse served as the Delaware County courthouse.[5] In 1850 the Delaware County seat was moved to Media, Pennsylvania and the Chester Courthouse served as City Hall for the city of Chester.[7]

The courthouse was used by the Delaware County Historical Society until 1966 when structural deficiencies forced them to relocate.[5]

The court room was the oldest active court in use in the United States until 1967. Every year, one trial was held in the court room to maintain that status.[8]

Each year in May, during the celebration of Law Day, a special ceremony is held at the Chester Courthouse. Students from the Chester-Upland School District present a mock trial before Judges of the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas and the Magisterial District Courts to commemorate the significance of the courthouse and its importance to American jurisprudence.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  2. ^ "PHMC Historical Markers". Historical Marker Database. Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission. Retrieved December 20, 2013.
  3. ^ "Saving Chester's 1724 Court House". www.oldchesterpa.com. Retrieved 21 September 2018.
  4. ^ Williams, Oliver P. (2001). County Courthouses of Pennsylvania: A Guide. Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books. p. 88. ISBN 0-8117-2738-6. Retrieved 21 September 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d "1724 Chester Court House" (PDF). www.dot7.state.pa.us. Retrieved 21 September 2018.
  6. ^ Martin, John Hill (1877). Chester (and Its Vicinity,) Delaware County, in Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: Wm. H. Pile & Sons. p. 21. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  7. ^ Ashmead, Henry Graham (1884). History of Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: L. H. Everts & Co. pp. 394–395. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  8. ^ "1724 Old Chester Court House". ExplorePAhistory.com. Retrieved December 13, 2013.
  9. ^ "Law Day at the 1724 Colonial Courthouse". www.co.delaware.pa.us. Retrieved 21 September 2018.

External links[edit]