With a grand goal of restoring the Allegheny County Courthouse but few details and even less funding, an effort to rehabilitate the 125 year old building was launched Wednesday by County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. The executive has named a committee chock full of current and former elected officials to spearhead the effort.
“We owe it to the next generation to make sure that it [the courthouse] gets the proper maintenance and update that it needs and it’s not going to be easy,” said committee member and former County Executive Dan Onorato. “It’s going to be a big price tag and it’s going to take everybody in the community and a lot of private donations partnering with the public sector, to get this done.
No timeline was set out for the work of the committee, which includes names like former County Executive Jim Roddey, Common Pleas Judge Donna Jo McDaniel, and former County Commissioner Mike Dawida who said he brings some expertise.
Dawida said he and former County Commissioner Bob Cranmer “were able to make that jail behind us into one of the worthy buildings… and now it is great to be able to help do the rest.” The 100 plus year old jail was transformed into courtrooms for juvenile and family cases during Dawida’s time in office.
While pointing at the bell tower on Grant Street, Bob Cranmer noted that the building has been in need of repair for years. “One thing that we talked about was how we would [cut down] the tree on the roof that was growing up in this corner.”
Common Please Judge Jeffery Manning is on the committee and bemoaned the poor state of the courtrooms in the building while former County Commissioner Barbara Hafer took a less lofty approach to pointing out the need for repairs.
“I’m sure every woman that goes to the women’s bathroom here will enjoy a rehabbing of those restrooms. They are absolutely horrible, they were horrible in the 80’s when I was here and they continue to not be very pleasant.”
The move comes as the Henry Hobson Richardson designed building celebrates its 125th anniversary and Allegheny County celebrates 225 years since the creation of its charter.
Fitzgerald said some of the work would begin right away while other projects will be launched as funding becomes available.
A large portion of the committee’s work will involve fundraising. That effort will be kicked off with a 125/225 anniversary gala in September.
Judge McDaniel said it is a building worth saving. “Anybody can build a new glass and brick building but a building like this is just an extraordinary piece of history and I think we all need to treasury it.”