This Was Doylestown, 1962
Bucks County dedicates a new courthouse in Doylestown, James A. Michener campaigns for Congress, and a movie is made at the Mercer Museum, 50 years ago this week.
Bucks County Courthouse dedicated -
Bucks County Commissioners Edward B. Boyer, John J. Bodley and Adolph A. Andrews on Saturday morning formally dedicated the Bucks County Courthouse.
The ceremony, held outdoors in the courthouse square under a cloudless sky, began at 10:30 a.m. with a musical program by the United States Steel Chorus and the Quakertown Band. The Rev. Oswald Ebert, pastor of Christ Lutheran Church, Tinicum Township, gave the invocation, and the Rev. Raymond J. Hinsworth of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, Doylestown, offered the benediction.
President Judge Edward G. Biester, giving the principal address of the day, cited court statistics showing how the mushrooming population growth of Bucks in the last decade made larger court accommodations a necessity.
"Within the confines of this edifice there will be many decisions both by juries and judges deeply affecting the lives of those who require the service of our courts. Thousands of people will be charged with criminal offenses and their liberty and freedom will be at stake.
"That is why I say that the physical structure is secondary. Our first consideration is that we who occupy this building dedicate our very finite intelligence and judgment to make proper and unbiased decisions," Judge Biester said.
Although the building's cornerstone was officially laid by the county commissioners, one more item was unfinished--that of sealing articles within the stone. Building Superintendent Wesley C. Erven said this will be taken care of in the near future.
Harold Hellyer, commander of American Legion Post 210, Doylestown, presented the commissioners with an American flag. Three members of the color guard raised the flag to the top of the new flagpole in the courthouse square as Miss Sharon Payton, vocalist for the Quakertown Band, sang the National Anthem.
Carillonneur Robert J. Carwithen, organist and director of the First Presbyterian Church, Germantown, played musical selections on the courthouse carillon at the conclusion of the dedication ceremonies.
The hundreds of citizens who filled the judicial wing and administration building for a first-hand view of what their $7 million had wrought, seemed highly impressed with the buildings.
The ladies were especially appreciative of the modern furniture in the attorneys' lounge, and comments ranged from "gorgeous" to a simple "oh, boy!"
Predictably, the small fry headed for the judge's chairs in the various courtrooms. A reporter arrived in the main courtroom just in time to see four small boys seated behind the bench with their father facing them.
The Back Story: Doylestown's Third Courthouse
The first Bucks County Courthouse in Doylestown, built in 1812, was replaced in 1878 with a brownstone edifice featuring an ornate clock tower and a circular court wing. Fifty years later, the county's population had jumped from 69,000 to 97,000, and the courthouse was considered obsolete.
"It has long been foreseen that the time would come when the county would be obligated to erect a larger Court House, or enlarge the present one, as the population and business of the county increased and its interests expanded," the Doylestown Daily Intelligencer stated in 1928.
The commissioners eased the space crunch by buying the former Doylestown National Bank on Monument Square in 1932 and converting it into the county administration building. Later, the county bought a three-story building at 50 N. Main St., formerly a store, and moved offices there.
These stopgap measures provided temporary relief. The county's suburban boom after World War II, particularly the creation of Levittown in 1952, spurred the drive for a new courthouse.
"The commissioners have decided that an entire new building on the site of the present court house will be 'most desirable and economical,'" said a December 1953 Intelligencer article.
This proposal generated tremendous controversy. Opponents said using the traditional site--bounded by Main, Court and Broad streets--would cause parking and traffic headaches and would make future expansion difficult. They suggested locations away from the center of Doylestown, such as the county prison on South Pine Street or the old fairgrounds off Swamp Road.
In March 1954, the Bucks County Bar Association voted 22-19 in favor of a new site "to assure adequate space for additions which may be necessary in the next 75 to 100 years and to provide adequate parking facilities for witnesses, parties, jurors, lawyers, etc."
Proponents, especially Democratic County Commissioner John T. Welsh, said rebuilding on the existing site would save $1 million and avoid a tax increase.
A Sellersville lawyer named Cyril Weston filed suit, saying the commissioners had not consulted with the county planning commission as required by state law. While the suit was pending, architects hired by the county went ahead with plans for a modern courthouse.
The Daily Intelligencer on Feb. 3, 1955 ran architect's sketches of the proposed new courthouse, estimated to cost $4 million. The drawings showed a seven-story administration building and a five-story circular judicial wing, looking similar to what eventually was constructed.
Despite objections from county planners that the site was inadequate, the planning commission narrowly voted in favor of the commissioners' preference in May 1955. The courts ruled against Weston, and the commissioners awarded the construction contracts.
The groundbreaking ceremony for the administration building was held on June 24, 1958. "We are in hopes that our new building will take care of the growth of Bucks county for the next 50 years," Welsh told the crowd assembled on the courthouse grounds.
The old courthouse remained in use while the administration building was under construction. The office building was completed in March 1960, and the Bucks County Civil Defense agency was the first department to move in.
The furnishings of the old courthouse--including judge's footrests for 15 cents and courtroom benches for $4 to $10--were sold at a public auction in August 1960. Demolition of the courthouse began on Sept. 29, 1960, followed by razing three other buildings in the triangle (except for the Ross Law Office, which was moved two blocks away).
After the site was cleared, construction of the judicial wing began. Doylestown's third courthouse was dedicated on Saturday, Sept. 29, 1962. The complex cost $7 million--approximately $3.5 million for each building.
As critics predicted, the new courthouse could not be expanded as the county's population skyrocketed from 308,567 in 1960 to 625,249 in 2010.
Following years of discussions after 2000, the county commissioners approved a fourth courthouse, to be built across Main Street. Groundbreaking for the $84 million, eight-story building took place in July 2011, and construction currently is ongoing.
The new courthouse, to be called the Bucks County Justice Center, is expected to open in the spring of 2014.
Michener campaigns at kaffee klatsch -
Editor's note - James A. Michener, one of the country's foremost authors, in 1962 ran as the Democratic candidate in the 8th Congressional District, which then consisted of Bucks and Lehigh counties. He was defeated by Republican incumbent Willard Curtin.
Michener said that as a member of the majority party in Congress he would have an advantage that his opponent now lacks. He also said that he has many personal friends who hold high government positions.
He pointed out that national interest has focused on the congressional campaign in Bucks County.
"This is the forefront of the races in the nation," he said. "My interest and concern would not suddenly vanish if I were elected.
"My opponents have described me as a man who wants to get to Washington to get into the swing of things and go to cocktail parties," Michener said. "Well, I'm a man who goes to cocktail parties and drinks ginger ale.
"I have worked hard," he said. "Hard at writing, hard at teaching, and I'll continue to work hard if elected."
Michener said that government was an important aspect of everyone's life, and that he, as an individual member of society, had a responsibility and an obligation to society and to the nation. He assured his audience that he would continue to write.
Michener also said that he was for [proposed] Medicare and that "I will work for it very hard and vote for it." He said that he favored federal aid to education--to a degree.
In areas where the population increases rapidly, he said, the state governments should try to alleviate the problem. If the states cannot handle the problem, then the federal government should be provided with the machinery. But he emphasized that he favored local governmental control.
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Central Bucks teachers to get flu shots -
If past experience is any barometer, the cost of flu vaccine is more than balanced during the year by the savings in teacher salaries.
On that note, the Central Bucks Joint School Board [which ran the high school and two junior high schools] is attempting to chop budget costs for 1962-63 by administering flu vaccine to employees.
"It's been predicted again that Asian flu will be severe this winter," noted Regional Superintendent Dr. B. Anton Hess, "so we're getting ready for it."
Last winter, when pupil attendance was off 15 to 20 percent and some neighboring schools had teacher absenteeism up to 10 percent, Central Bucks was never more than five percent on six occasions--about normal for the middle of the winter.
Five percent absenteeism on any day would represent about eight absent teachers; 10 percent, 16 absentees.
"At $20 a day, this represents $160 for eight or $320 for 16 substitutes on one day," said Dr. Hess. "The difference is enough to almost pay for the flu vaccine in one day."
This, coupled with the value of the educational program of keeping regular teachers healthy and in the classroom, compels the board to order now for the polyvalent vaccine, Dr. Hess said.
The cost is about $200, and the vaccine will be offered to staff members in early October. The school physician will administer it.
Borough Council buys properties for parking lots -
Doylestown Borough Council on Monday entered into agreements of sale for the Ely property on East State Street and the Hayman-Radcliff garage on West Court Street, for use as mid-town parking lots.
"We're trying to plan ahead rather than attempt to do something when it's almost too late," said Council President John F. Mason.
The purchases are contingent upon approval from Harrisburg, because the money must be borrowed on a five-year interest plan from a local bank.
Council is looking into the possibility of financial help from the Bucks County Urban Development Commission (it supplies 75 percent of a property's cost), but needs additional time to work out agreements.
"We don't want to sign our community's life away without first looking into the commission's specifications," Mason said.
Mason explained that he had no idea how much money would be needed because council did not yet know what it wanted to finance. He added that the Fountain House lot is still under consideration.
The Ely property came on the market about the same time council was interested in securing lots, the president said. It is a prime location because it provides access to the central shopping district from the eastern portion of town.
The Hayman-Radcliff garage property is in an ideal location, also, within 600 to 800 feet of most of the central shopping area.
Gaily SKIRTING the fashion scene. Large Selection of Plaids - Checks - Solids. All Styles, $5.95 to $14.95..VOGUE SHOPPE, Court and Main, Doylestown.
Mercer Museum featured in film -
The Mercer Museum, a 46-year-old concrete castle-like structure, will be the hero of a movie that will be shown to schools, architects and engineers all over the United States.
Two cameramen from the Portland Cement Association of Chicago on Tuesday made a film of the museum and spoke as admiringly of it as they would if they were photographing the White House or Plymouth Rock.
In 1916, Dr. Henry C. Mercer completed the entirely reinforced concrete museum for the Bucks County Historical Society. Its floors, ceilings, steps, even the window sashes and roof are all solid concrete. It is still one of the few fireproof buildings in the world because the walls, floors, roof and partitions are concrete and cannot burn.
Harold Kite and Donald Maxwell, cameramen, technicians and filmmakers for the cement association, said: "Dr. Mercer must have been a genius. His imagination even today is still ahead of its time."
The two men, who set up 2,000-watt electric spotlights and floodlights and strung yards and yards of heavy, thick cables up and down the steps and around the five-story well, took pictures of the interior, the random use of windows instead of a conventional pattern, the roof, the architectural stresses and arches.
"In this building, we have the forerunner, nearly a half century ago, of what is being built in these very times when it comes to concrete arches and building plans," the filmmakers said.
"The roof alone is simply an architect's marvel. Putting windows into a building where you need light instead of just placing them in a balanced design is certainly still ahead of its time."
Doylestown Hospital chapel dedicated -
"A healing of the mind and spirit must go hand in hand with physical healing," Mrs. Fred Watts, president of the Bucks County Federation of Women's Clubs in the 1950s, told a quietly attentive group at Thursday's dedication of a Meditation and Prayer Room at Doylestown Hospital
The room was a project of the Federation from 1956, and is the last of four such rooms to be equipped for use in Bucks County hospitals.
Jaromir Marik, administrator of the hospital, read from the Gospel of Luke and gave a prayer.
Attending were members of the hospital staff; Mrs. Casimir A. Sienkiewicz, chairman of the hospital committee of the Village Improvement Assocation, which owns the hospital; Mrs. Julian Perry, president of the VIA, who accepted the gift and expressed her appreciation; a patient, William Spencer; members of the Central Bucks Ministerial Association; Rabbi Albert Ginsburgh, of Temple Judea, Doylestown; and Rev. Raymond Himsworth, of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Roman Catholic Church, Doylestown.
The room, equipped with kneeling stools, chairs, lectern, brass candlesticks, missal holder with Bible (a gift of United Church Women of the area), a table with tract container and brass lamp, is quietly beautiful and inspires meditation. It will provide a real need "for troubled minds and mixed-up spirits," visitors commented.
The furnishings were provided by the Federation of Women's Clubs and the religious groups of the community, as the plaque on the door will read when finished.
From The Daily Intelligencer, Week of Sept. 23-29, 1962