It was a peculiar scene in downtown Pittsburgh in late 1998. There were thousands of people braving below-freezing temperatures to wait in a blocks-long line to catch a glimpse of the Henry Hobson Richardson Allegheny County Jail’s mysterious interior-a prospect most of the public always tried to avoid. The jail, as well as its companion courthouse building, was scheduled to undergo a major renovation

The gathering was a final goodbye to the building’s life as a jail that began in 1885. The 200,000-square foot structure with is massive granite walls and dramatic semicircular arches was destined to undergo a $34 million transformation from a dark, damp, and inhospitable 19th century prison and was scheduled to emerge 17 months later as a bright, modern, inviting setting for the Family Division of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.