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Preserving a community’s assets

January 8, 2014

In the face of some well-organized and passionate opposition, Pike County Pennsylvania commissioners have a tough decision to make about where to build a much needed new courthouse annex in the heart of historic Milford. As the county’s population has grown (it increased 65% in the 1990s and another 24% between 2000 and 2010), the ability to conduct the county’s business undeniably requires more courtroom and office space. Where to site a new building (the plan is to connect it to the historic courthouse, built in 1874), and ultimately what kind of modern building the annex should be, has stirred controversy in the picturesque village.

One plan under consideration, the one county commissioners have indicated they prefer(though they have presented no formal application for its approval to the borough yet) would be to remove—either tearing down or relocating—the historic Queen Anne-style building known as the William B. Kenworthey House, constructed circa 1890s, at 410 Broad St. It sits on county-owned property directly next to the courthouse and is currently being used for court administration and judges’ chambers.

A second plan, which has been considered, would involve purchasing a building (now an attorneys’ office) at 104 W. High St. behind the courthouse to locate the new annex. According to an engineer’s analysis, this option would be significantly more expensive, in large part because the county would have to buy the land and building and reportedly have to foot the bill for moving the Verizon fiber-optic lines. Cost is the key reason the commissioners have given for not preferring this second option.

Opposition around the removal of the Kenworthey House centers around construction of a large, box-shaped, modern office building on a main street in Milford’s historic district where, out of 655 buildings, 400 have been deemed historically significant, with a handful listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

We at The River Reporter find ourselves swayed by the arguments made by historic preservationists and others who are questioning the commissioners’ Plan A to remove the Kenworthey House to construct a modern, new annex on Broad Street.