Construction of monument honoring county to begin
The long delay in constructing a monument to commemorate the 200 years of the existence of Schuylkill County, 1811-2011, which was authorized by a past board of county commissioners, is to finally to become a reality.
Commissioner Frank Staudenmeir, who served on the past board, announced construction is scheduled to begin, weather permitting, and should take four weeks to complete.
The monument will be constructed on the Laurel Boulevard side of the courthouse in Pottsville, in the courthouse commons. It will be a public garden and will function as a place for outdoor gatherings, and can be used as a forum where celebratory or other public functions can take place.
The project will be broken into three phases. The first will consist of a structure that will have a 24 foot by 24 foot print with a granite monument that stands at about eight feet tall on the north wall of the square. The monument itself will be 10 feet wide and five feet tall, sitting on a two foot by eight inch base.
On the monument will be a county map in the center with the names of all the municipalities. The square will be surrounded by 18 foot-high walls, which will be made of granite and double benches. Fourteen of these benches will be scattered throughout the complex.
In the middle of the square there are six blocks of recessed slabs which will contain 768 name bricks. The bricks, pavers, and benches will be engraved with the names or messages of those who purchased them during fundraising.
The second and third phases of the project will allow for future generations, whom the site is dedicated, to expand upon the project. The total cost of construction of the first phase was $200,000 and the work is being done by Heim's Construction Company. The architect was Yongcheol Kim.
Schuylkill County was formed from parts of Berks, Northampton, and Northumberland counties arising from the need to allow easier and more effective access to the judicial process.
Travel was a much greater hardship in 1811 than anything the public faces today. In March 1811 Gov. Simon Snyder named the new county Schuylkill. The first courthouse was in a stone tavern building in McKeansburg, East Brunswick Township.
McKeansburg, Orwigsburg, and Schuylkill Haven sought the distinction of becoming the county seat. The first county seat was in Orwigsburg in 1815 and the first courthouse built cost $5,000, a simple two story brick building 40 feet by 50 feet.
In 1847 a rail line between Pottsville and Philadelphia was completed and it was decided to move the county seat to Pottsville plus a new jail.
Construction was completed in 1851 with the cost of construction around $30,000. As the county grew it was decided to construct a new courthouse. This building was constructed entirely of Cleveland Limestone at a cost of $400,000 for a five story building 195 feet by 100 feet. Even today the Number One courtroom is the largest public seating capacity courtroom east of the Mississippi, with the exception of the Supreme Court in Washington D. C.
Throughout the years the courthouse has undergone many changes and renovations. An annex was built in 1932 and in 1968 a juvenile detention center was constructed; later it was converted into the county commissioners quarters. The five courtrooms on the second floor were remodeled and there are now seven courtrooms.