"The administration of justice is the
firmest pillar of government."
George Washington, 1789
You can't have a county without a county seat. In 1786 Luzerne County formed from Northumberland County. Wilkes-Barre, a place of early settlement, transportation and trade, emerged into the logical center of county government, a place of law, politics and power. The first courthouse opened on Wilkes-Barre's Public Square in 1791. Two larger buildings followed in the 19th century, but not large enough for a booming anthracite mining county. Industrial, commercial and residential growth - all added demands on the legal, judicial and administrative services provided by county government.
Debate over the location of the fourth courthouse lasted several years, taxing the court system itself. The city and county finally agreed on the River Common, where the City Park Commission's glorious landscape improvements would make the riverfront an impressive backdrop to Luzerne County's most important public structure. Tons of fill dumped into the site of an old canal basin created strategic land for the grandiose courthouse.
Pittsburgh architect F. J. Osterling designed the Beaux Arts-style marble and stone monument fronting the Susquehanna. Wilkes-Barre's Joseph Hendler Construction Company headed a talented
team of masons, stone carvers, carpenters and artists, all hard at work from 1906 to 1909. Walk through the building and view murals commemorating regional history. Look toward the dome to find the four allegorical figures of Moral Laws, Common Law, Statute Law and Equity. Behold Luzerne County's stately Temple of Justice!
[Photo captions, from top to bottom, read]
· Orphans Court, circa 1910. Interior plans and furnishings by Wilkes-Barre architects McCormick & French.
· Courthouse rotunda, circa 1910.
· Courthouse No. 2, one of five courthouses, circa 1910.
· Current Luzerne County Courthouse on the River Common, shortly after completion in 1900 [sic - 1910?].