Multnomah County Courthouse

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Multnomah County Courthouse
Multnomah County Courthouse
General information
Architectural style Neoclassical
Location 1021 SW 4th Ave., Portland, Oregon, USA
Current tenants County Courts, Sheriff’s Office, District Attorney's Office[1]
Cost $1.6 million
Design and construction
Architect Whidden & Lewis
Multnomah County Courthouse
Portland Historic Landmark[2]
Coordinates 45°30′59″N 122°40′42″W / 45.516328°N 122.678319°W / 45.516328; -122.678319Coordinates: 45°30′59″N 122°40′42″W / 45.516328°N 122.678319°W / 45.516328; -122.678319
Built 1911/1914
Visitation 3000/day[1] (2011)
NRHP Reference # 79002136
Added to NRHP June 11, 1979[3]

Multnomah County Courthouse serves as the courthouse for Multnomah County, Oregon and its Sheriff's Office. It is located in downtown, Portland, Oregon, the county seat. It currently includes 39 courtrooms, 36 of which are district courts, two are traffic courts, and one used for forced eviction detainment.[1] Due to concerns over the structural deficiency of the 100-year-old building, which was determined to need a costly seismic retrofit, the county board of commissioners decided in 2013 to launch plans to construct a new courthouse in a different location, to replace the existing building. Construction began in October 2016, and the new courthouse is projected to open in 2020.[4]


Multnomah County Courthouse was built in two phases between 1909 and 1914 at a total cost of $1.6 million; to make it fire-resistant, it was constructed of concrete-encased steel, with concrete slab floors and walls of terra-cotta brick, covered with plaster.[1] At the time, it was the largest courthouse on the west coast and served also as county seat and county jail.[1]

Originally, the building had a central courtyard, where prohibition-era confiscated alcohol was poured down a drain; over time, this courtyard was filled in to make room for more offices and a jury room.[5] The courthouse has four two-story courtrooms which feature most of the courthouse's original design; some two-story courtrooms were split horizontally during the 1950s, expanding capacity and resulting in new floors.[1]

Further renovation of the courthouse has been under consideration since at least 1970,[6] with studies starting in the 1990s also considering building a new courthouse.[1] It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.[1][6][7]

Planned replacement[edit]

A February 2001 earthquake exposed weaknesses in the building's structure.[5] Plans for the addition of a new floor, the infill of the light well and a major seismic retrofit were considered, with costs estimated in 2011 to be between $176 million and $220 million.[6] However, in March 2013, the county board of commissioners decided instead to work toward planning for the construction of a new courthouse building in a different location, to replace the existing building.[8] A search for suitable sites for the new courthouse followed, and in April 2015 the county commission chose a site at the west end of the Hawthorne Bridge as the location for the planned new courthouse.[9]

Construction began in October 2016, and opening to the public is projected for 2020.[4] The new building will be 17 stories tall and have 44 courtrooms.[4] It will be located in the block bounded by First Avenue, Madison Street, Naito Parkway, and Jefferson Street, and the main entrance will be at the intersection of First and Madison. What will be done with the existing courthouse when the new one opens has not yet been decided.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Multnomah County Courthouse Renovation Study" (PDF). Final Report. Multnomah County. April 13, 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-25. 
  2. ^ Portland Historic Landmarks Commission (July 2010), Historic Landmarks -- Portland, Oregon (XLS), retrieved November 13, 2013 .
  3. ^ Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Oregon Historic Sites Database, retrieved November 14, 2013 .
  4. ^ a b c d Rogers, Jules (October 4, 2016). "Multnomah County breaks ground on 'tremendous' $300 million courthouse project". Portland Tribune. Retrieved 2016-10-04. 
  5. ^ a b King, Bart (2001). An Architectural Guidebook to Portland. Gibbs Smith. pp. 100–101. 
  6. ^ a b c Webber, Angela (April 20, 2011). "Multnomah County Courthouse, deteriorating, needs upgrade". Daily Journal of Commerce. Retrieved 2011-04-25. 
  7. ^ "National Register of Historic Places: Oregon, Multnomah County, pg. 7". Retrieved 2007-07-06. 
  8. ^ Tims, Dana (July 11, 2013). "Multnomah County Courthouse replacement project gets $15 million legislative shot in the arm". The Oregonian. Retrieved 2014-12-18. 
  9. ^ Hernandez, Tony (April 17, 2015). "Multnomah County settles on bridge site for new courthouse". The Oregonian. p. A4. Retrieved 2015-04-17. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Multnomah County Courthouse at Wikimedia Commons