Berks County Court House

2012-11-23
Return to Historical Articles Index

 

Rising 19 stories or 275 ft., the county courthouse is the tallest building in Reading. The courthouse was the only skyscraper and art-deco style temple of justice in the United States when it was completed in 1932, and is one of three art deco buildings in the city. The others are the Medical Arts Building, 421 N. Fifth St., and Northwest Middle School.



The courthouse was designed by Miles B. Dechant, Reading engineer, architect and artist, and was constructed at a cost of about $2 million.

The building's facade is chiseled into sharp angles and vertical indentations common to art deco. The stepped silhouette creates a striking appearance to the city's skyline.

Stone, wood, and metal from foreign countries went into the massive, ornamental structure. Three million bricks were used. The outside walls are granite and Indiana limestone.

The courthouse is featured in a book called "Courthouse." It's a pictorial account of courthouses throughout the United States. The Berks County courthouse occupies the largest amount of space in the book.

To construct the new courthouse the old courthouse had to be removed. This was met with bitter opposition by many. Insistent demands were made that something be done to preserve the structure in the way of a memorial hall.

For a time it appeared as though some shrine would be developed with the front but upon orders of the county commissioners, every stone in the foundation and columns were removed.

The Goddess of Justice was removed from her lofty perch atop the old courthouse and loaded onto a truck. She was to go on the lawn of the Historical Society of Berks County at Centre Avenue and Spring Street.

But after a few days she was considered "an ugly piece of art" and her tarnished sides were declared anything but an attraction. Anyone could have it for the taking.

But there were no takers. The Goddess was taken to a dump in Glenside, where she gazed rather mournfully over the banks of the Schuylkill River and a public dumping ground.

Later, Dominic Mauer, who obtained the demolition rights to the former courthouse, took pity on the Goddess, loaded her on his truck and set out for the Oley Valley. There at his home below Stonersville he placed her on a pedestal overlooking Boyertown Pike.

Eventually the Goddess was placed in the lobby of the Berks County Services Center.

Old Court House - 6th and Court
~Click Image to Enlarge~

Goddess



Connect with us