Multnomah County Courthouse detail

Multnomah County Courthouse, Portland

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Multnomah County Courthouse, Portland

Statistics

  • Built: 1914
  • Architect: Whidden and Lewis
  • Designation: National Register of Historic Places

Significance

Designed by the renowned firm of Whidden and Lewis, the eight-story Courthouse is an outstanding example of Neoclassical architecture, featuring an exterior of granite, limestone, and terra cotta. A prominent fixture of Portland’s “Government District,” it will soon mark a century of service as the county courthouse.

History

Built in stages between 1909 and 1914, the courthouse fills a city block that since 1864 has housed the seat of county government. When completed, the Multnomah County Courthouse stood as Portland’s largest building and the West Coast’s largest courthouse. Because of evolving demands on the County, most of the courtrooms and offices have been significantly altered, leaving only the hallways, stairs, and exterior façade in near-original condition.

Why it’s Endangered

Even after a century of interior alterations, functionality of the courthouse falls short of today’s requirements, and many of its internal systems need repair and replacement. The building does not meet modern seismic standards and could be severely damaged in the predicted Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake. There is no denying that the courthouse must be rehabilitated.

vintage interior Multnomah County Courthouse
Although a 2011 study demonstrated that the building could be rehabilitated for continued use as a courthouse, in February the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners embarked on a $1 million feasibility study for the construction of a new courthouse. Whatever the outcome, proactive steps must be taken to ensure the historic building will be protected and rehabilitated either for the court or for a new use.

Near-term Goals

Work with Multnomah County to ensure the rehabilitation of the historic courthouse building—ensure protections if building is sold or leased to new tenant.

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