Clackamas County CourthouseEast Facade and Main Entrance of the Clackamas County Courthouse
Members of the Clackamas County Planning Board announced during the summer of 1935 that the fifty-one-year old Courthouse represented a fire hazard as well as no longer being adequate for the county’s business. Citing the possibility of obtaining PWA funds for the construction of a new courthouse, they encouraged architects to submit plans for the proposed structure. By the fall, the Planning Board had selected the drawings of Francis Marion Stokes, a well-known Portland architect, requested an outright grant of $90,000 from the Public Works Administration, and proposed a means of raising the county’s fifty-five percent contribution to the project. Urged by local and national representatives to take advantage of PWA funding and reminded of the necessity of the project, Clackamas County voters approved the tax levy for the $200,000 courthouse project in November 1935. Portland contractor Glen Hord began demolition of the old courthouse in early 1936, clearing the site for the new facility and completing the project over the course of the year. The new Courthouse was occupied in early 1937.
As with many public buildings of the era, architect F. M. Stokes’ chose an Art Deco design for the three-story, brick-clad structure. The main entrance is set off by a stone surround and metal, decorated panels adjacent to the wooden doors, monumental columns topped by eagles, brick pilasters capped with winged-helmeted human figures, and a stone panel above the main doorway with the scales of justice inscribed. A belt-course of stone, with chevron detailing rings the building above the second-floor windows. Architectural historians have suggested that the Art Deco building has Egyptian overtones, perhaps because of its vertical massing and the north and south wings set back from the front entrance.
Several expansions of the 1936 structure have taken place over decades of occupancy, yet the building remains substantially the same. A description of the courthouse was submitted to the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office in 2009 that provides additional information. Caution should be used, however, since the Oregon Historic Site Record includes several errors, including the year of construction and the contractor involved in the project. It also makes reference to WPA workers involved with construction but further research is required for confirmation.
“Clackamas County Courthouse,” Oregon Historic Sites Database. Oregon State Historic Preservation Office. heritagedata.prd.state.or.us/historic/index.cfm?do=v.dsp_siteSummary&resultDisplay=30561
Hubka, Thomas (2019) Site visit with Architectural Historian, Thomas Hubka. October 27, 2019.
Oregonian (1935) “New County Courthouse For Clackamas Urged,” August 4, 1935, p. 18.
Oregonian (1935) “$1,800,000 Total of PWA Projects: Unemployed Problem to be Met in Clackamas,” November 9, 1935, p. 10.
Oregonian (1936) "Work Speeds Up on Courthouse," July 26,1936, p. 12.
Project originally submitted by Judith Kenny on November 11, 2019.
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