In 1739, the small brick courthouse of old Lancaster, one of the first in America, was completed. The two story courthouse was constructed in the center of the square and provided a courtroom on the first floor, and a council chamber and small storage rooms on the second floor. Small panes of leaded glass formed the windows, while atop the shingled roof sat a steeple and belfry. Every fall for 45 years, a colorful group of English and German churchmen, Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, and Quakers gathered at the courthouse to elect local officials. On June 15, 1774, citizens grouped at the courthouse to courageously protest the Act of Parliament against Boston declaring that importing/exporting with Great Britain should be halted. Several weeks later at a public meeting on July 9, citizens passed eleven resolutions against British oppression.
Then, on July 7, 1776, news of the Declaration of Independence reached Lancaster, and on the following day it was publicly read from the courthouse steps. Local magistrates rushed to the courthouse where they surrendered their commissions refused to recognize the King, and ordered the removal of the royal coat of arms from the courtroom.
Perhaps the most famous event occurred on September 27, 1777; on this day Lancaster was the Nation's capital as the leaders of our rebellion against England met at the old courthouse to discuss the nation's business while fleeing the British advance to Philadelphia. A sad end befell this venerable courthouse when in June 1784, it was entirely consumed by fire.