The courthouse is an example of Victorian architecture. Its Greek Revival style and prominent location in the open town square create a stately appearance, appropriate to the building’s role in the political life of the county.
Alterations were made in 1888-89, including relocation of the courtroom from the first floor to the second. Contractor was Home Hall of Olean. N.Y., who also built the Coudersport Consistory.
During the winter of 1933-45, through the Civil Works Administration, Potter County was able to renovate the courthouse. The basement was excavated for establishment of additional office space. Concrete footing was placed under the old walls. The entire interior and exterior were repainted and modern conveniences were added.
A cupola clock keeps time for the town. It was a gift of Henry Hatch Dent. A courthouse bell was donated by the Hon. Timothy Ives.
Atop the clock tower is a statue of justice. The statue is a plastic replica of the original, which is on display in the courthouse lobby.
Even so, the building could no longer meet the county government’s space demands and several functions were located in rental units.
Prior to construction of today’s courthouse, a building constructed in 1835 to accommodate court proceedings and other county functions was disassembled. Its stone foundation was moved across Second Street to become part of the Potter County Jail.
History of F. W. Gunzburger County Office Building
The 57,000 square foot building actually has its roots in two separate schools that occupied the same lot in the early 1900s.
What was once the Coudersport Elementary School (or “Grade School”) faced First Street. Charming reminders of that era can still be seen with the prominently marked “Boys” and “Girls” entrances on the north side of the Gunzburger Building.
A separate Coudersport High School on the same block faced Main Street. Expansion in the early 1930s linked the two school buildings and, soon, the students had a gymnasium. Another addition on the West Street side in the late 1950s accommodated a cafeteria.
Most of the smaller communities in what is now the Coudersport Area School District had their own schools, many of them of the one-room variety. Consolidation brought an increase in the number of students and space limitations.
When the present-day Coudersport Area Junior-Senior High School was built in the early 1960s, the building became solely the Coudersport Elementary School. It served the community well, but physical modifications required to meet new regulations were too expensive for the school district to pursue. A new elementary school was built in 1987 and the former school was put up for sale.
Its deteriorating physical condition and the need to remove deadly asbestos limited potential buyers’ interest. Finally, Adelphia Communications Corp. purchased the property.
Major renovations followed before Adelphia, which was experiencing rapid growth as a TV cable company, relocated several of its corporate operations to what was renamed the Rigas School Building.
In 2002, Adelphia came under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Eventually, Adelphia’s Coudersport assets were sold to Time Warner Cable. It wasn’t long before that company pulled its functions out of Potter County.
As stressful as these developments were for the community, one bright spot was Time Warner’s willingness to donate the property an asset valued in the millions of dollars to the people of Potter County.
Who Was F. W. Gunzburger?
F. W. Gunzburger: A Life of Service
The majestic courthouse in the middle of Coudersport’s town square became F.W. “Ferdy” Gunzburger’s second home in 1928 when he was appointed Chief Clerk for the Board of County Commissioners. He remained in position until he retired on Jan. 1, 1993.
A test of Gunzburger’s mettle came after the Great Depression in 1933. As Director of the Emergency Relief Board, he found work for upwards of 1,500 unemployed people. Streets were paved; renovations were made to churches, the hospital, and government buildings; an athletic field was renovated and wood was cut and delivered to needy families.
As counties’ burdens grew, Gunzburger found himself holding down more titles than any other county official in the state. He accepted these added roles public welfare director, veterans affairs director, chief tax assessor, director of elections and chief voter registrar so that the county taxpayers would not be burdened with additional employees on the payroll.
He was admired far and wide for his ability to instantly cite statistics, statutes, individuals and events. Auditors frequently commended Gunzburger for his investment abilities with county revenues. Any number of Potter County residents who came upon hardships benefited from Ferdy’s quiet charity and words of encouragement.
At his funeral in 2002, several speakers remarked that they had not once heard him utter an unkind word about another.