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Thursday, June 4, 2015
A sign marking the designation of the Niagara County Courthouse as being on the National Register of Historic Places was unveiled today. The courthouse has been on the list since 1997 but such designation doesn't include a sign. The William G. Pomeroy Foundation paid for the sign. (CRAIG BACON /  CONTRIBUTOR)


The Niagara County Courthouse complex received a placard this afternoon noting its placement on the National Register of Historic Places — 18 years after the designation was made.

The Niagara County Legislature, County Clerk Wayne Jagow, and the county historian unveiled a new marker noting the history of the 129-year-old building. The sign was received through a grant from the William G. Pomeroy Foundation.

Dorothy Rolling pushed to have the designation as an historic place in 1997.

The William G. Pomeroy Foundation established an historic signage grant program in 2006 to provide funding for Historic Roadside Markers in New York State, as the state stopped funding these markers in 1939. To date, the foundation has funded over 250 markers in 43 counties across the state, including two others in Niagara County. One is located in Pendleton commemorating the role of Sylvester Pendleton Clark in the formation of the Town of Pendleton. The other is located at Falkner Park in Youngstown, recognizing the efforts of Betsey Doyle as she assisted in the defense of Fort Niagara during the War of 1812.

When the Pomeroy Foundation discovered that a designation on the National Register did not include funding for a sign or plaque, they established a program in June 2013 to award grants to erect signage on these historic properties.

“We are thrilled that this sign has been erected so current and future generations will recognize the courthouse’s important role in your community,” said Paula Miller, executive director of the foundation in a letter.

Legislator W. Keith McNall, said, “The Niagara County Courthouse has stood sentinel on this corner since 1886. The lot had formerly been the Public Square, often the site of circuses, baseball games, and Independence Day celebrations. Across the street, and also part of the National Register designation is the County Clerk’s building. It is the oldest standing Niagara County governmental building, having been constructed in 1856.”

“The National Register of Historic Places endeavors to save and protect important places and buildings in our community. The William G. Pomeroy Foundation has generously donated grant money for appropriate signage. This helps to highlight, educate, and alert citizens and visitors to the significance of these structures,” added Legislator Anthony Nemi.

According to County Historian Catherine Emerson, the current courthouse was erected in 1886. Its contract stipulated that it must be “made of Lockport stone.” Originally, the main entrance faced Niagara Street and was marked by a tower topped by a statue of the Goddess of Justice.

When the government outgrew the courthouse, an addition was approved and undertaken 1914-1915. A new layout changed the orientation of the building to now face on Hawley Street. The imposing tower was removed and replaced with a rotunda and portico.

By the 1950s, another addition was needed and completed in 1958. This modern office building annex houses the County Clerk’s Office, and nearly all architectural references to the original 1886 construction disappeared.

The County Clerk’s Building on the opposite corner was constructed by Benjamin and James Carpenter. Benjamin would later become the first Mayor of the City of Lockport. In 1917, the building was enlarged with a L-shaped addition wrapping around the west and south sides of the original edifice. A dome and skylight was added at that time. In 1961, the building was repurposed to become Civil Defense headquarters, complete with an air raid shelter in the basement. The County Clerk’s Building currently houses the County Historian's Office and the Public Defender’s Office.

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