First Public Buildings

Created: Monday, 14 September 2015 Last Updated: Monday, 14 September 2015 Written by Administrator Print Email

By a perusal of the minutes of the board of county commissioners, it is ascertained that on October 29, 1795, the first commissioners of Somerset county--John Fletcher, John Read and John Leech--entered into a contract with Josiah Espy and John Campbell, of the town of Somerset, for the construction of "a temporary gaol in the said town on or before February 15, 1796.\'\' On the same day they hired a room from Jacob and Henry Schneider for the use of the county. It was in this room, probably, that the first term of court was held, and at a rental of thirty dollars per year the same room was occupied for public purposes until the completion of the first courthouse, which event transpired seven years after the organization of the county. In September, 1796, the commissioners paid Messrs. Espy and Campbell for building \'\'a temporary court-house and gaol." We will also add in this connection, that in February, 1796, George Woods, of Bedford county, and Alexander McClean, of Fayette county, made returns to the commissioners of all lands surveyed in the county of Somerset.

On April l7, 1798, a contract was made between the commissioners of Somerset county and Robert Spencer, of Bedford county, by the provisions of which the latter agreed to build a court-house in the town of Somerset for the sum of five thousand six hundred dollars. It was further stipulated that the walls of the structure should be of stone, \'\'to be forty-four feet in front on Main Cross-street, and forty feet deep on Union street." This building was not finished until 1802. Meanwhile, or in April, 1801, Peter Kimmel entered into a contract with the county commissioners to build two public offices of brick for the use of the county. These offices were also completed in 1802. In July of that year the commissioners contracted with Peter Kimmel and Robert Jourdan, \'\'for the painting of the roofs, doors, windows, shutters, etc., of the offices, and the shutters on the court-house, and the Venetian blinds on the cupola.

The contract for building the first substantial jail was awarded to Abraham Miller, on October 7, 1802. The building cost two thousand three hundred and twenty-nine dollars, and was finished in the fall of 1806.

The plans for the new or present court-house were adopted by the board of county commissioners, February 28, 1851. On April 5th following, the contract for building the same was awarded to Samuel S. Benson. The structure was completed in 1852, at a cost to the county of about sixteen thousand dollars. Subsequently the builder, Benson, was killed by a fall from a building he was constructing.

On April 28, 1856, the contract for building the present county jail was awarded to John Mong for the sum of six thousand five hundred and ninety-nine dollars.

(Source: extracted from the History of Bedford, Somerset & Fulton Counties, PA; 1884)