Wedged between the filming of Steelers great Franco Harris’ Super Donut commercial and this summer’s production of the major motion picture “Southpaw” starring Jake Gyllenhaal was the Pennsylvania Cable Network’s shoot at the state’s historic courthouses.
PCN scheduled the Washington County Courthouse’s 30-minute telecast for 7 p.m. Thursday and 2 p.m. Saturday.
“I wish I could’ve been up there alongside Jake,” said Debbie Tingley, director of communications for the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, producer of the historic courthouse series, who found herself in the midst of an April cold snap on the date selected to shoot footage in the county seat.
Instead of a Hollywood star, viewers of the season premiere of the PCN series will see Washington County Commission Chairman Larry Maggi and President Judge Debbie O’Dell Seneca as they narrate courthouse history. Maggi also led the film crew through what some have called the “secret tunnel” from the old jail to the courthouse, which was used to escort prisoners away from the public eye.
“Walking in and seeing the rotunda just took my breath away,” Tingley said. “It was so beautiful. I hope everyone who sees it feels as wonderful about it as we do, because we love it.” Marble floors, woodwork, stained glass and a faux finish known as scagliola provide a feast for the eyes in the more than 100-year-old building.
With such a late spring, PCN sent a videographer from its Pittsburgh bureau to capture exterior shots of flowers in bloom and trees with leaves, plus interior shots and photographs of President John F. Kennedy’s visit to the courthouse Oct. 13, 1962, before the mid-term election. Workmen hung a banner reading “WELCOME MR. PRESIDENT” between two portico pillars above a platform facing Main Street.
For those who don’t have access to cable or satellite channels, after the closing credits air, the show will also be available on CCAP’s website, www.pacounties.org.
“One viewing, and then we make it public,” Tingley said. The Washington County website can link to the CCAP website to give a wider audience to the 30-minute program.
The commissioners also scheduled free viewings of the program for noon Aug. 25 and 7 p.m. Aug. 26 in the public meeting room of the Courthouse Square office building.
PCN, which bills itself as “Pennsylvania’s Neighborhood” and C-SPAN for Pennsylvania, will repeat the Washington County Courthouse program throughout the year, but dates beyond this week’s network schedule are not yet available.
In coming months, courthouses in Chambersburg, Franklin County; Tunkhannock, Wyoming County; Reading, Berks County; and Bellefonte, Centre County, will be featured.
Although these courthouses are spread across the state, “achieving geographical balance is not the defining factor,” Tingley said. “There were quite a few counties that were nominated.” Factors that CCAP considers include historical significance and variety of architecture.