By Peter H. Milliken
The observation that history repeats itself is illustrated by how events and circumstances have come full circle in the century since the Mahoning County Courthouse was built and opened.
“We owe a debt of gratitude and appreciation to the leaders, both in the public and private sectors, who, a century ago, demonstrated vision and resolve to complete this courthouse amid economic uncertainty,” said William Lawson, executive director of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society.
Lawson was speaking at a Friday ceremony, during which hundreds of people gathered on all floors of the courthouse rotunda to mark the centennial of the building’s opening on March 6, 1911.
During the ceremony, a copper time capsule was opened, containing a 1908 Youngstown city directory, numerous religious, Masonic and labor-union publications, and newspapers of that vintage, all kept dry and in mint condition.
The capsule was encased eight inches inside the courthouse’s granite cornerstone in a June 11, 1908, cornerstone-laying ceremony attended by hundreds of dignitaries. It took 21/2 hours of cutting, drilling and chiseling to remove it last week.
The Mason-sponsored cornerstone-laying ceremony was part of an “Old Home Week” celebration that included carnivals, banquets, parades and reunions designed to accentuate the positive in tough economic times after the panic and depression of 1907.
In 1908, Youngstown’s population was about 75,000 and rising, and the city encompassed more than two-thirds of the county’s population, Lawson said. Today, Youngstown is still the county’s largest city, and its population is again at about 75,000, but it accounts for about only 30 percent of the county’s population, he added.
Lawson described the building as one of “the most highly accomplished and historically significant local government buildings in the United States.”
“May we all be as optimistic and persistent as those who opened this building 100 years ago in meeting the challenges that face us today,” Lawson said.
County officials seek to fund a multimillion-dollar restoration to preserve the courthouse for future generations.
“As we gather here in trying financial times, the elected officials of Mahoning County recognize the importance of this building and its purpose. They have dedicated a portion of a very tight budget to necessary renovations to keep this beautiful building in proper repair,” said Atty. Michael Harlan, president of the Mahoning County Bar Association.
Among those attending the ceremony was Paul C. Boucherle of Canfield, great-grandson of Louis Boucherle, an architect and partner in the firm of Owsley, Boucherle & Co. of Youngstown, which designed the courthouse.
Boucherle said the centennial ceremony demonstrated “the appreciation of the community for such a beautiful building. It’s stood the test of time.”
Boucherle returned to the Mahoning Valley 11 years ago, after having lived in the San Francisco area for nine years and in Chicago for about five years.
“It’s kind of nice to come back home and see this celebration.” he concluded