Allegheny County drafts team to lead courthouse restoration


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Throw a dart at the Allegheny County Government Hall of Fame, and you'll probably hit someone who's helping renovate the courthouse.

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced Wednesday a team of former county officials who will oversee the historic courthouse's restoration, a long-deferred project that could cost in the tens of millions of dollars.

Topping the list are former county executives Jim Roddey and Dan Onorato, who both commended Mr. Fitzgerald for launching the campaign. The committee also includes former county commissioners Cyril Wecht, James Flaherty, Bob Cranmer, Mike Dawida, Barbara Hafer, Larry Dunn and Robert Peirce, as well as other public figures.

Speaking from underneath one of the courthouse's soaring arches, Mr. Fitzgerald recalled the expressions of wonder on the faces of children who visit the building for holiday concerts.

"And as they look around, you can't help but notice this is something we want to be proud of," he said.

The Grant Street building was designed by Henry Hobson Richardson in the Romanesque style and was completed in 1888. Committee members detailed its woes -- drafty windows, water-damage holes in the roof. At one point, a tree was growing in the attic.

And don't even mention the women's bathrooms.

"We have somewhat of a gorgeous facade outside and somewhat of a tenement inside," said Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning, who also will sit on the committee.

But committee members still aren't sure on specifics. Mr. Fitzgerald couldn't pin down the cost of the project or its end date, repeating previous statements that it will likely be funded through a mix of county money and private donations.

The executive plans to use the courthouse's 125th anniversary celebration on Sept. 24 as a fundraiser for the building's restoration.

But the dream team did take the first step, unveiling a set of portraits of former courthouse politicians that will soon decorate its walls. "I was expecting a statue," quipped Mr. Roddey, standing next to his own picture.

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Andrew McGill: 412-263-1497 or amcgill@post-gazette.com


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