40 for 40: Garfield County
Garfield County Courthouse

By Holly Chamberlain previous story | next story | all stories

Often, the phrase “double dipping” has negative connotations. For the Garfield County Courthouse, however, multiple grants were the way to get justice done for preservation.

The $20,000 courthouse in Pomeroy was built in 1901 -- 20 years after the creation of Garfield County, which was carved out of Columbia County and named after the short-lived president. The previous wood-frame courthouse had been destroyed in a 1900 fire which burned much of the town. Architect Charles H. Burggraf, known primarily for his public, church, and commercial buildings, received the commission for design of the new building. Born in Illinois, Burggraf gradually moved west over the course of his career. He studied at Hastings College in Hastings, Nebraska and worked there until he moved his practice to Grand Junction, Colorado. He relocated to Salem, Oregon in 1891, and practiced there until sometime between 1896 and 1901, by which time he had moved his office to Albany, Oregon. He also designed the courthouses for Oregon’s Sherman and Wheeler counties.

Contractor August Isle of Spokane was the winning bidder for construction. The design featured multiple rooflines, many classical decorative details such as dentils and corbels, locally-made bricks (originally unpainted), roof shakes from Blue Mountain timber (now replaced with composition shingles), and two asymmetrical towers. The two-story western tower has a steeply-pitched conical roof with broad eaves while the square, three-story eastern tower has a domed roof with bellcast eaves, inset clock, and statue of “Lady Justice” atop. The statue is one of only about 20 in the nation with uncovered eyes (although several of these are in southeastern Washington).

That same “Lady Justice” needed help after a 2006 windstorm took off its upraised arm bearing the traditional scales. Fortunately, the Trust made an emergency grant of $1,500 from the Valerie Sivinski Washington Preserves Fund to help pay for the repairs done by the Walla Walla Foundry.

High winds were not the only challenges the building faced, however. The Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation’s Historic County Courthouse Rehabilitation Grant Program provided a $1,000,000 matching grant in 2011 for structural stabilization, window restoration, ADA and seismic upgrades, and removal of dropped ceilings. Miller Hayashi Architects, Cardwell Architects, and Swenson, Say, Faget collaborated on the improvements. The Washington Trust is an administrative partner for the Courthouse Grant program.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places individually in 1974, Garfield County’s seat of justice is also part of the Downtown Pomeroy Historic District, listed in 2003. The courthouse received the Valerie Sivinski Award for Outstanding Achievement in Historic Preservation Rehabilitation Projects in 2012 from the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation.

Historic Courthouse Rehabilitation Program: Overall, there have been eight rounds of state funding since the program began in the 2005-2007 biennium, with 56 grants made statewide to 26 counties. Collectively, grant funds have worked to leverage nearly $45 million in overall capital improvement projects to historic county courthouses statewide.

This story is part of a series celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. Please consider making a special gift to the Washington Trust in honor of our accomplishments as we celebrate this year together! Continuous stewardship is needed to protect that irreplaceable legacy for future generations – we appreciate and look forward to your ongoing participation and support.

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