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Luzerne County Courthouse

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1899–1909, Frederick J. Osterling; interior, McCormick and French. N. River and W. North sts.

The county courthouse is a mammoth cruciform Beaux-Arts building of Ohio sandstone, crowned by a great dome that dominates the riverfront. More than any other Wilkes-Barre building, it demonstrates the grandeur, vitality, and power of the county during the period of its greatest prosperity, even as the scandals surrounding its construction attest to the corruption of its sponsors. It was designed by the Pittsburgh architect who had completed H. H. Richardson's Allegheny County Courthouse, and whose cost estimates were so far out of line that the final construction was given to the well-connected McCormick and French. Osterling conceived the building's basic appearance: a Greek cross in plan, its four arms centered on a domed rotunda, 100 feet high from the marble floor to the base of the dome. He designed the building to be sited, like its predecessors, on Public Square; the shift to the riverfront, part of Wilkes-Barre's embrace of City Beautiful planning, was simply another controversy. The idea of four small domes surrounding the main dome came from McKim, Mead and White's 1891 design for the Rhode Island State Capitol, and in turn looks back to St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. McCormick and French designed the lavish interior, with its pantheon of county heroes rendered in mosaic. The sumptuousness extends to the building's five courtrooms; those on the third floor feature work by muralists Edwin H. Blashfield, Kenyon Cox, Will H. Low, and William I. Smedley, while the mahogany and marble-clad former Orphans’ Court, on the second floor, boasts a mural by Charles L. Hinton.

Writing Credits

George E. Thomas


What's Nearby


George E. Thomas, "Luzerne County Courthouse", [Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of PA vol 2

Buildings of Pennsylvania: Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania, George E. Thomas, with Patricia Likos Ricci, Richard J. Webster, Lawrence M. Newman, Robert Janosov, and Bruce Thomas. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012, 464-465.

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