Allegheny County Celebrating Its 225 Birthday

PITTSBURGH – It was 1788. In January, Georgia had ratified the U.S. Constitution and became just the fourth U.S. state under the new government. By the end of the year, there will be 11 states formally in the new government.  The steamboat is patented by Briggs & Longstreet. The first permanent American settlement outside the original thirteen colonies is established in modern-day Marietta, Ohio. And a petition was presented to the Pennsylvania Assembly asking for the creation of a new county.

On September 24, 1788, an Act was passed creating Allegheny County from portions of Washington and Westmoreland Counties. Today, the County celebrates its 225th Birthday.

From 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., the courtyard of the County Courthouse will be the site of a birthday party with music, trivia games and prizes. As a “gift,” attendees are asked to bring a non-perishable food item or to make a monetary donation for Hunger Action Month.  In return, they’ll get a birthday cupcake provided by the Art Institute’s Culinary Arts Program and the Community College of Allegheny County’s Culinary Program.  It is open to the public and is free of charge.
At 4:45 p.m. members of the public are invited to join Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, County Council President Dr. Charles Martoni and members of Allegheny County Council as they also recognize the birthday of the County by turning on the Courthouse chimes for the first time in many years. The restored carillon will play a song followed by the clock chimes marking the 5 o’clock hour.  This is the only time this week that the carillon will sound, but it will begin playing beginning next week on a regular basis.  The press event, and turning on of the carillon, will occur on the fourth floor of the County Courthouse, outside of the Gold Room.

Today’s Allegheny County contains 130 municipalities, each governing itself.  On January 1, 2000, a newly formed home rule government began which includes an elected County Executive, an elected 15-member County Council and an appointed County Manager. A few years later, the voters elected to eliminate several row office positions and to transfer their responsibilities to appointed officials within the Executive branch of government.  Only an independently-elected Controller, District Attorney, Sheriff and Treasurer remain.

The first session of an Allegheny County Court was conducted on December 16, 1788, at Watson’s Tavern located at the corner of Second Avenue and Market Street in what is now the Market Square area of the City of Pittsburgh.  It was the Court of Quarter Sessions, a criminal court. George Wallace, a non-lawyer, commissioned by the Executive Council as President Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, Quarter Sessions and Orphans’ Court, presided.  In addition to George Wallace the following pioneer justices were appointed:  John Metzgar, Michael Hillman, Robert Richie, John Johnston, Abraham Kirkpatrick, Richard Butler, William Tilton, Joseph Scott, John Williams, Samuel Jones and James Brison. 

In 2013, the Fifth Judicial District of Pennsylvania exists to administer fair and timely justice and provide efficient and effective court services. The President Judge presides over the Board of Judges which includes four divisions (Criminal, Civil, Family and Orphans’), a minor judiciary, a summary appeals section, courts administration and 43 judges.

As Allegheny County celebrates its 225th birthday, its website and social media pages will be used to share histories, photos, and information on events to celebrate our birthday year.  Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, Pinterest or Foursquare, subscribe to our YouTube channel, or have us in one of your Google+ circles to learn even more about Allegheny County throughout this anniversary year.

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