The following article originally appeared in the December 2001 issue of The Metro Monthly.
By Mark C. Peyko
Warren’s Courthouse Square – like Lancaster, Pa. and Shelbyville, Tenn. – has its roots in European town planning.
Dr. Marshall McLennan, retired director of the historic preservation program at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Mich., said the original American courthouse square plan reflected the “influence of the Scots-Irish on settlement in the Pennsylvania region.”
The plan, which typically features a courthouse building as a focal point of a downtown, ultimately had its roots in Ulster, Northern Ireland.
McLennan said the British put government buildings in the center of town to assert their power and dominance. These buildings were centrally located to allow “a field of fire in all directions.”
Although the European model had political implications, the American plan simply sought to create a pleasant parklike setting in the center of town.
Bobbie Brown, director of the Fine Arts Council of Trumbull County, agreed.
“In the midst of all these tall buildings and concrete, there’s this lovely green space. It’s a nice place for people to come together.”
McLennan said Lancaster, dating from the 1700s, is the earliest known existing courthouse square plan in America. Besides Warren, other courthouse square plans in the region include Lisbon, Ohio and Butler, Pa.
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