The Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission (PHMC) is being asked to assign an expert to study the exterior of the courthouse and weigh the choices of either repainting the building or stripping the many coats of paint to expose the brick masonry. An application for technical assistance is being submitted by the Potter County Commissioners and Potter County Historical Society. If it’s approved, there will be no cost to Potter County.
The courthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings and is the centerpiece of the Coudersport Historic District. It was built in 1851-53 of Victorian architecture. The Greek Revival style, blended with later Victorian elements, and the setting of the courthouse in the open town square, create a stately appearance.
On several occasions over time, the county has opted to apply new coats of paint in order to improve the building’s appearance and preserve, to the extent possible, the integrity of the brick exterior.
For most of the courthouse’s life, technology did not exist to adequately clean and preserve masonry. Owners assumed that the best way to prevent water from penetrating masonry was to seal it with paint. However, studies show that paint has limited ability to allow water vapor to move through a material.
As a result, moisture becomes trapped in the masonry behind the paint. It’s then subject to the natural expansive forces of the freeze-thaw cycle. Over time, this deteriorates the masonry. Trapped moisture also contributes to the crystallization of soluble salts, which can cause masonry to deteriorate.
Restoration of the masonry on the Potter County Courthouse has the potential not only to beautify the county seat, but also to preserve the structural integrity of this historic and appealing property for future generations. Potter County Today