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Penn's Provincial Court

William Penn established the Provincial Court in 1684, joining the the province's three other governing bodies established two years earlier - the Provincial Assembly, Governor, and Council.

The Court consisted of five judges who rode on horseback around the province and holding trials and hearing appeals in taverns and homes.

Old Chester Courthouse

OldChesterCourthouse1.jpg

C.P. Tholey (drawing), George Smith (book), 1862

Presented to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania by the Pennsylvania Bar Association on May 22, 1972 at Independence Hall, Philadelphia Pa. On the 250th Anniversary of the Founding of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Drawing signed Waltrich.

As the province developed, the residents found it necessary to build courthouses to conduct official business in the county. Old Chester Courthouse, erected in 1724, is the oldest meeting place of the Supreme Court still standing

Market Square Town Hall

Presented to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania by the Pennsylvania Bar Association on May 22, 1972 at Independence Hall, Philadelphia Pa. On the 250th Anniversary of the Founding of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Artist Unknown

When the Supreme Court began holding sessions in the Western District in 1806, it met in this court building on Market Square in Pittsburgh which also served as the Town Hall. A new courthouse was opened in 1841 providing space for both the Supreme Court and the U.S. District Court. The Market Square building pictured here was destroyed by fire in 1882.

Allegheny County Courthouse

OldAlleghenyCountyCourthouse.jpg

By Unknown author - A scan of an engraving that appeared in the Feb 21, 1857 edition of Ballou's Pictorial, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=623226

In 1841, the court moved from the Market Square location to a new county courthouse designed by John Chislett, hearing arguments on the second floor. That courthouse, however, fell into disrepair and eventually caught fire requiring it to be demolished.

The court moved into the current county courthouse at the same location in 1888, hearing arguments on the eighth floor before moving across the street to the City-County Building.

AlleghenyCountyCourthouse.jpg

The still-standing Allegheny County Courthouse. Artist and Photographer Unknown

Philadelphia's Towne House

Artist Unknown

Much of the Provincial Court’s early work took place in Philadelphia and at its beginnings the Court used local homes to conduct its business.  In 1707, the city constructed the Towne House, which was a two-story house and market that functioned as an early city hall.  The Court conducted its business at the Towne House until 1743 when it moved to its own courtroom in the State House - now known as Independence Hall.

Independence Hall

The Supreme Court's Courtroom in Independence Hall was restored to its original condition by the National Park Service. The Supreme Court celebrated its 300th anniversary on May 18, 2022.

The Supreme Court witnessed the birth of the nation from its courtroom sitting opposite the Assembly Room where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were drafted and signed.

The Courtroom served as a museum dedicated to the Country's independence until its restoration by the National Parks Service.

A view into the Assembly Room from the Supreme Court's Courtroom in Independence Hall.

Violet Oakley's mural in the Harrisburg Courtroom depicting the Supreme Court sitting in its chambers during the time of the revolution. After the reading of the Declaration of Independence the seal of King George, which hung behind the bench was removed and burned in the street.

Detail of Pennsylvania’s Coat of Arms hanging in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania’s courtroom at Independence Hall.  Painted in 1785 by George Rutter.

Other Philadelphia Courtrooms

After Congress authorized Philadelphia to temporarily become the nation’s capital in 1790, the Court moved to Old City Hall where it shared a room with the newly-created United States Supreme Court.  After the federal government relocated to Washington D.C., the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania moved back to Independence Hall where it held session until 1824.  The Court later took up quarters in a number of rooms including at Old Congress Hall, the Grand Chapter Room of the old Masonic Hall, and a second story room in Independence Hall.  The Court sat in Independence Hall until moving to City Hall.

The Courtroom at Old City Hall.

In describing the importance of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to the nation, United States Chief Justice William Howard Taft remarked “[w]e whose past covers only 132 years feel strongly the honor of (recognizing) the bi-centennial of that more venerable court, the members of which grace this presence, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. A court which has contributed to the jurisprudence of this country through Judges like McKean, Tilghman, John Bannister Gibson and George Sharswood, and in the strength and wealth of whose judgments the genius and learning of Andrew Hamilton, Dallas, Binney, Sergeant, Rawle, the Ingersolls and a host of others of the country's greatest lawyers are manifest, may well command the admiration, pride and profound respect, not only of Pennsylvanians, but of all Americans."

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