Completed in 1888, the Allegheny County Courthouse was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976. Its architect, H.H. Richardson, later referred to it as his "great achievement." Richardson won a competition held by the city to find a design for a replacement for the courthouse which burned down in 1882, and his subsequent building designs are commonly referred to as some of the finest examples of the Romanesque Revival style.
The main building was innovative for its time. It was built around an interior courtyard, which allowed for light and fresh air to make its way throughout the building. In the early part of the 20th century, the street level in front of the building was lowered. Incredibly, Richardson assumed this would happen and already built masonry below the building that was then revealed.
Perhaps the most breathtaking part of the building is its "Bridge of Sighs," a design meant to mimic the Bridge of Sighs in Venice. The prison is connected to the courthouse via this bridge, and thus emphasizes the name of its Venetian counterpoint, so named because prisoners would sigh at their final view of Venice through the window before being taken to their cells.
Another beautiful architectural feature is the murals of Vincent Nesbert on the first floor. Completed in 1937, the murals are titled "Industry," "Justice," "Peace," "Fort Duquesne," and "The Battle of Grant's Hill."
The courthouse has been consistently ranked highly in architectural competitions, and the public continues to visit this monument to view one of the most beautiful courthouses in the country.
Cover image credit: "The Allegheny County Courthouse in downtown Pittsburgh, PA, USA" by Allie_Caulfield via Flickr, CC BY 2.0