The Investiture of a Judge

“We are not just beneficiaries of the American promise of justice for all. …,
It falls on all of us to preserve, maintain and expand that promise
for the benefit of all people…”

–From Remarks by The Honorable Judge Jordan B. Yeager after his Investiture to the Court of Common Pleas, Bucks County

It is Friday January 3, 2020 when almost 200 citizens gather to witness the swearing-in of Jordan B. Yeager, a newly-elected Judge who will sit on the Common Pleas Court in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. We are on the 4th floor in Room 410 of the Justice Center…this new building where the lives of citizens are changed for better or worse. In my May 5, 2015 post—‘The Sins Committed In The Name of Progress’ about the demolition of the 1877 Court House, I briefly mentioned the Justice Center.  On Saturday January 10, 2015 a ceremony officially opened the Justice Center, replacing the”Rotunda” and Administration building that outgrew their use.

Now sitting in this room of the Justice Center, I’m OK with Progress even though a Bucks County historical treasure was lost when that classic structure, designed by Addison Hutton was demolished.

The Clerk announces Oyez, oyez, oyez for us to stand. The Judges enter, take their seats and then President Judge Honorable Wallace H. Bateman welcomes us to the Investiture of Jordan B. Yeager. With an increased number of dockets on the Court’s calendar it was determined that three additional Judges were needed. The other two newly installed Judges were sworn in earlier that morning: Denise Bowman and Charissa Liller.

Before administration of the Oath two colleagues of Jordan Yeager recall their years of collaboration with him. First, Bucks County Commissioner Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia describes the valued counsel she received from Jordan, counsel that encouraged her to always bring people together.

Next to speak is Frank S. Guarrieri, Esq.—Managing Partner at Curtin & Heefner, LLP.  That is where Jordan spent eleven years litigating cases, some argued in front of the Pennsylvania Supreme, Commonwealth, or Superior Courts; and some in the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Third, Second, and D.C. Circuits.

Jordan’s wife–the Honorable Kathy Boockvar, Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania—administers the Oath while their daughter Collette holds the Torah  from her father’s Bar Mitzvah; and the Constitutions of the United States and Pennsylvania State. These three vital documents charted the journey that began when Judge Yeager’s descendants escaped “…religious persecution in Eastern Europe …in search of Freedom and the American promise of justice for all.”

Numerous friends and family are thanked for traveling this road with him. However, the best appreciation is saved for last: Kathy and Collette–two companions who from the beginning were always along on this journey. “Their love—and their patience with me—has sustained me more than words can express.”

Justice Center, Bucks County Pennsylvania

One final thought. When you receive that piece of mail notifying you to appear for “Jury Duty”… Do It if you can. No Excuses.

Preservation Zero. Progress One.

The recent ribbon cutting of the completed Bucks County Justice Center recalls a time nearly 60 years ago, a drama that also caused citizens to question the cost, the location and the construction of a tall building in downtown Doylestown. It also recalled to me, an incident that happened in 1958.

Back in 1958 the demolition to tear down the 1877 County Courthouse caused many Doylestown residents to plead saving the 19th Century Courthouse: Their was “Leave it there and build someplace else!”. Jump to 2011 when citizens again raised their voices insisting the Justice Center should be built on a property at North Main Street (Mrs. Paul’s Kitchen, vacant since 1988). The People’s voices were ignored and the County government to this day continues at “… the top of the hill.”

Plug your search engines to The History of Bucks County by W.W.H.Davis (b.1820—d.1910). First published in 1876  it is an online book that devotes an entire chapter to Bucks County heritage. Davis wrote several books but thisFirst Doylestown CH “History …” details our Bucks’ heritage beginning with a Chapter about our County government when the “… first court house…was probably in Falls Township.” Chapter XLVII, Our Courts: County Seat; Division of County; Building of Almshouse, records the progressive changes of our County seat beginning at Middletown then to Langhorne then to Bristol then to Newtown and finally in 1812 to Doylestown. (Picture above).

By 1877 the new Courthouse was necessary when the business of the County had outgrown that 1812 structure. The next building also stood at the top of the hill until 1958. It was then demolished to make way for the current building–The Toilet Bowl.

Growing up in Doylestown I’m old enough to remember the 1877 Courthouse (Picture Below). My one and only time to go inside was in my early teens. I was breathless looking up and around the amphitheater that was like a cavernous coliseum.

An article in “Doylestown: 150 Years (1838-1988)” 1877 ch picturewrote in their Living Spaces website–

“By the late 1860’s, Bucks County was rapidly outgrowing its courthouse. On October 3, 1877, State Attorney General George Lear turned the first spadeful of earth for a new courthouse on the same site. The completed building was highlighted by a clock tower that rose high above the rest of 1878 Doylestown.

“In addition to the clock tower and the surrounding park, another memorable feature of this second courthouse was its dramatic courtrooms. One was a high-ceilinged amphitheater which could hold as many as 500 spectators in tiered seats. It was in this amphitheater that the first grand jury was convened in the newly finished courthouse.”

Like many long-time residents there remains a place in my heart for that structure. I’m sad that it was destroyed.

I recently discovered that the 1877 courthouse was designed by Philadelphia architect Addison Hutton. His granddaughter, Elizabeth Biddle Yarnall wrote about her grandfather in her book, Addison Hutton—Quaker Architect, 1834-1916.

Born into a Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania Quaker family, Addison was the 2nd of 5 siblings with 2 sisters and 2 brothers. When he was old enough Addison joined his father building houses, work he enjoyed and was instrumental in shaping his life as an architect.  An avid reader since the age of four, Addison’s schooling alternated with carpentry and soon he was teaching at the Fairview Schoolhouse which he had helped build with his father.

He left Pennsylvania for a short time to live in Ohio with relatives where he honed his skills as a carpenter. One of his co-workers taught him the rudiments ofAddison Hutton architectural drawing which Addison much enjoyed. Soon after returning to Westmoreland County his life changed when a leading Philadelphia architect, Samuel Sloan came to Greensburg to oversee the courthouse Sloan had designed. During Sloan’s stay he asked for recommendations about young man who would be interested in coming to Philadelphia to study architecture.

There was no formal school for architecture in Philadelphia. Instead it was a profession learned at architectural firms. Addison began his employment at Sloan’s firm as a draftsman. Within the pages of Yarnall’s book she writes how architects gained their experience by studying buildings and structures often by traveling to Europe. In his later years, after he gained success with his designs Addison did just that. Buildings in Doylestown still standing include the Lenape Building, the Intelligencer Building, the Presbyterian Church, and Bucks County Prison (now Michener Museum). Structures he designed beyond Doylestown can be discovered at Lehigh University, Swarthmore College, George School, Philadelphia, Lincoln University and dozens of stately homes throughout the Delaware Valley and along eastern United States.

Addison kept his Quaker roots and was described by his granddaughter as a “Nonconforming Quaker”. He attended Meetings but also enjoyed outings, traveling, the theater, art, and the fiddle which he learned to play as a youngster. He doted on his children and kept in close touch with the extended families of his sisters and brothers.

Probably one of Addison Hutton’s biggest disappointments was losing the 1901 design competition for Harrisburg’s new state capitol. In her book Yarnall writes the details including how and why this event caused her grandfather to be expelled from the Philadelphia AIA.

Yarnall’s book is not in the Bucks County Free Library system. Gratitude to the staff at the Doylestown Branch for a loan of this book from Kutztown State College. Readers…you can purchase this book through Amazon.

Next time on The Bucks Underground Railroad: In 1958 Doylestown, the high school students who succeeded in painting a protest message across a five-foot wooden fence that surrounded the Courthouse triangle construction site in Doylestown.