Every time I drive down the Pennsylvania Turnpike to visit family in Somerset County, PA , I know I have reached my exit when I see the verdigris copper dome of the Somerset County Courthouse. It sits high on a hill above the turnpike and the rest of the city of Somerset. From the first moment I saw the courthouse, it looked familiar, but the penny didn’t drop until I read that the architect had modeled the courthouse’s dome on the dome of Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London. Somerset County is situated in the heart of the Allegheny Mountains, the site of the highest point in Pennsylvania, so the county seat sits at a high elevation. The county’s courthouse has been located at that majestic site since 1795; I think it must have always impressed residents coming to have their cases heard or getting their marriage licenses. The building creates an imposing view from the highway.
The current building was completed in 1906, and is a two-story Classical Revival building 135 feet tall built of Indiana limestone. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is still a working courthouse. If you are ever tooling down the turnpike—especially during sugaring season—it is worth stopping for a look.