Open House At The Peoples House

It was an event that took six weeks planning to showcase the detailed work that’s been two years in the making at the Indiana County Court House. County residents were invited to an open house Thursday evening that showed what county agencies do, and what has happened to transform the inside of the half-century-old courthouse. “The floors were done with a purpose,” County Board of Commissioners Chairman R. Michael Keith said, as he showed the work already done on three of five floors of the courthouse along Philadelphia Street:

  • The first floor has walls decorated by various maps and designs that represent both local and national history, including the nation’s founding documents and emblems of actor James Maitland (Jimmy) Stewart’s ties to his hometown.
  • The third floor is painted blue, symbolic of law enforcement agencies found on that floor, including the sheriff’s office and that of the county’s district attorney.
  • The fourth floor, with its courtrooms, is painted green.

The second floor is yet to be redone. Keith showed where the white wallpaper is starting to pull away from the wall. And the basement is yet to be redone, but that’s where work is being done on heating, ventilation and air conditioning units. “This spring, when we turn the heat off, we are going to replace the boiler pipes,” Keith said, as he showed pictures of those well-aged and corroded pipes.

As Keith said at a commissioners’ meeting in April, the work is being done on a shoestring budget, with leftover materials. The work behind the scenes on pipes isn’t visible to the casual visitor, even the crowds that gathered for Thursday’s open house, but they could see a miniature tour of Indiana County history. Pictures are placed atop large versions of such documents as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. One picture shows original buildings as well as an article answering the question about “The State Normal School” and “why is this School so popular as a Training School for Teachers?” Of course, those are scenes that depict the soon-to-mark-150-years Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and the aforementioned references to Mr. Stewart — in front of which one found a booth for the Indiana County-Jimmy Stewart Airport. Other scenes include the passenger rail service once available north of the Conemaugh River, with such runs as Indiana-to-Clymer.

There was something on each floor, including something that usually doesn’t happen, photographs being taken in the courtrooms on the fourth floor. Normally, one can’t take pictures or run a tape recorder in those rooms.

There also was a booth from Indiana County Community Action Program, accepting canned foods as well as donations. One dollar translates into 10 pounds of food ICCAP can obtain through its providers for its Indiana County food bank. Sheriff’s deputies conducted security as they would on weekdays for regular courthouse business. Visitors could enter a drawing, snack on fruit and cheese donated by state Sen. Joe Pittman, R-Indiana, check out booths for various county agencies based both inside and outside the courthouse, and a food truck outside selling kettle corn.