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Pioneer Courthouse gets needed makeover

September 5, 2017

Pioneer Courthouse, Portland, OR, with exterior scaffolding and construction fencing partially around the building

GSA Northwest/Arctic Region began construction on an exterior restoration project of the 142-year-old Pioneer Courthouse located in downtown Portland, Oregon.

The exterior improvement project will help preserve the oldest existing federal building in the Pacific Northwest and second oldest west of the Mississippi.

“GSA is eager to complete this important restoration project to one of the most significant historic buildings on the West Coast,” said GSA Northwest/Arctic Region Acting Regional Commissioner, Lisa Pearson.

The work on this important historic Portland building includes restoration, repair, and replacement of the stone belt course and parapet. A restoration of more than 1,000 linear feet of wrought-iron fencing, replacement of fence parts such as capstone, piers, and the rebuilding of sections of the perimeter stone wall is also part of the $1.7 million project.

Additionally, this project will preserve areas of the facade where degradation has occurred because of water seepage.

For some of GSA’s staff, this project represents more than just fixing fencing and repairing stonework.

“Pioneer Courthouse is certainly important to GSA and nationally as a National Historic Landmark, but it is important to Portland on a whole other level, “ said Rebecca Nielsen, Historic Preservation Specialist for Region 10.

“It's the center of town and one side of Portland's living room, Pioneer Square. I know, I was born in Portland and lived there many years, so it's important to maintain our heritage and landmarks that remind us of who we are and from where we have come,” Nielsen added.

Crews are expected to complete the work by the fall of 2017. GSA installed perimeter fencing around the entire building for security and safety purposes.

Individuals interested in information about the project’s progress or the history of the courthouse can go to

The Pioneer Courthouse, built in 1875, experienced its first major rehabilitation in 1973, when it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Pioneer Courthouse was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977.

In 2002, the Courthouse went through a major modernization rehabilitation including building systems, a seismic retrofit, and extensive restoration and maintenance of the building’s design. In 2005, the exterior of the courthouse underwent a major stone patching project. Additional patching and work on the fencing is now necessary.

Nielsen noted this type of restoration project has one simple goal: Restore as close to original as possible.

“The facade and the fence will look spruced up and maintained, but not different. It will just look right and last for another 100 years,” she said.

The courthouse is one of four primary locations where the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit hears oral arguments. It also houses the chambers of the Portland-based judges on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Last Reviewed: 2021-11-22