1942- Fourth McKean County Courthouse

Above is a picture of the 4th and newest courthouse completed in the year 1942. This picture was taken in 1952 for the front cover photo of the official Smethport Centennial Book.
photo credit: McKean County Historical Society

Judge Glenn Mencer
Judge William F. Potter
Honorable Joseph P. Willson

Phases of the McKean County Courthouse

1851- Second
1880 Courthouse Construction
Third Courthouse

1940 Fire
1942- Fourth
2001 Courthouse

Click here for current view of Courthouse in 2007

Below to the left is a photograph partially into the construction of the 4th courthouse as the new courthouse's dedication ceremony during 1942. The picture to the right shows the new courthouse's dedication ceremony during 1942.

photo credit: McKean County Historical Society

The new, and fourth, courthouse is built of “tapestry” brick manufactured in McKean County. In shades from black to dull red, the brick contrasts with the lighter Indiana limestone trim.

The grounds were originally landscaped by experts from what was then Pennsylvania State Collage who supervised the planting of over 900 shrubs. A wide flight of stone steps leads up from Main Street to a large plaza
and flagpole. Six stone columns support a portico that is topped by a four-faced clock tower.

The courthouse is designed with four entrances. One each on Church and State Streets, and one in the back of the building off King Street designed to give access to the document offices - Recorder of Deeds, Register of Wills and Clerk of Orphans’ Court and Prothonotary and Clerk of Courts.

It is the main entrance, however, that is spectacular. Inside the double bronze doors is a small vestibule with bronze tablets recalling the history of the county’s courthouses, and the marble tablet rescued from the debris of the 1940 fire. Walnut doors lead to the marbled circular main lobby that is illuminated by a huge circular light. The floors in all the public areas of the building are made of patterns of terrazzo, containing highly polished marble in small pieces in a variety of attractive colors.

Courthouse 2007

photo credit: nicki ness

Current View (2002)

photo credit: Tim A. Moore Collection
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An Overview of McKean County's Judges

Smethport's popular Judge Glenn Mencer was honored in 1986 by Gannon University as a member of the very short list of Distinguished Pennsylvanians. Over the years others also honored with the award included Thomas J. Ridge, H. John Heinz, William Scranton III, Richard Thornburgh and Andrew Wyeth. Born May 18, 1925 in Smethport to Ruth L. Rice Mencer and Glenn H. Mencer, Judge Mencer graduated from Smethport High School in 1943. He entered the U.S. Army in 1943 during WWII and served in France, Germany and Austria. He is a 1949 graduate of University of Michigan and received a J.D. Degree in 1952. He developed a successful law practice in Eldred during the 1950s and 1960s and served as McKean County District Attorney from 1956 until 1964. In November 1964, at the age of 38, he was elected President Judge of the 48th Judicial district (McKean County) and served in that position until 1970 when he was appointed by Governor Raymond Shafer as an original member of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. In 1982 he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as United States District Judge for the Western District of Pennsylvania and continued as US District Judge until his retirement in 1994. On June 24, 1950 he married Hannah J. Freyer. They have three children: Ruth Ann, Cora Jane and Glenn John.

Smethport's Judge Glenn Mencer was
honored by Gannon University as a
member of the very short list of
Disinguished Pennsylvanians during
Hannah Mencer Collection

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Judge Potter Allegheny College Basketball Star

Judge William F. Potter was born Dec 15, 1925, in Bradford, son of Ernest Gurdon and Marion Gallup Potter. He graduated from Smethport High School in 1942. He enlisted in the U.S. Army from 1943-1946 serving in the South Pacific during WWII. He was recalled into the U.S. Air force from 1951-1953 as a lieutenant and financial officer. He attended Staunton Military Academy and graduated in 1950 from Allegheny College where he was center and captain of the basketball team, setting a four-year scoring record. He graduated from Dickinson School of Law at Carlisle, Pennsylvania in 1955 and practiced law in McKean County. He was elected District Attorney of McKean County and appointed by the governor as President Judge of Pennsylvania in July, 1970. He was then elected as President Judge of the 48th Judicial district in 1971. In 1951 he married Anne Digel Potter. They have six children: William Scott, Susan, Carol, Harriet, Amanda, and Martha.

William F. Potter and
father, Ernest Gurdon
Potter, a well known
member of the McKean
County Bar Association

Anne Potter Collection

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Joseph P. Willson, the son of The Rev. William and Wilhelmine Putnam Willson of Smethport, was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School. A football scholarship paid for his schooling at Penn and in 1925 the tackle was named captain of the varsity squad. He played in the Rose Bowl and faced "the Galloping Ghost," Red Grange. He earned money for law school at the University of Buffalo and Temple University playing professional football with the Buffalo Rangers (the Bills' predecessor team) driving to the games in an old Ford, and collecting $100 a time for his efforts. Judge Willson moved to Smethport in 1933 and practiced law locally. He became

Captains Joe Wilson and "Red" Grange exchanging greetings at the start of the 1925 Rose Bowl between University of Pennsylvania and University of Illinois
Deborah Willson Babcox Collection

a founding member of the Smethport Rotary Club and was the sole surviving member of that initial group when he died in August
1998. His law practice was interrupted by World War Two, and in 1941 he joined the U.S. Navy, serving in Dakar, West Africa. While there he helped make the arrangements for a crucial conference between Winston Churchill and President Roosevelt. Discharged as a Lieutenant Commander in 1945, he resumed his Smethport legal practice and became chairman of the McKean County Republican Party. In 1953 he was appointed by President Eisenhower to serve on the U.S. District Court for Western Pennsylvania. He presided over most of the condemnation cases, paving the way for the construction of the Kinzua Dam. Judge Willson became a Senior Judge in 1968, but continued to work until he was 89 years old, serving as a Special Master for the U.S.Supreme Court to resolve a boundary dispute between Nebraska and Iowa, hearing maritime cases in Tampa, and handling a number of Indian land cases in South Carolina.

Judge Joseph and Leonora Willson
Deborah Wilson Babcox Collection

Law Office built by Joseph Wilson.

422 W. Main Now offices of Dr. Christian Howard

Deborah Willson Babcox Collection

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