History of Jefferson County Courthouses
The newly appointed County Court (one County Judge and two County Commissioners) needed to select which city would become the interim County Seat until a permanent one could be selected by general vote. The County Court held over 280 votes over a two-day period with each County Court member individually voting for Culver, Madras, and Metolius, until Culver was selected. The courthouse in Culver was occupied in April of 1915. In the November 1916 election, county voters established Madras as the permanent seat of county government.
On January 1, 1917, after District Judge Duffy denied an injunction filed by Culver to block the results of the 1916 election, Madras officials and partisans moved the courthouse records to Madras. The transfer was legal, but protested by Culver. The first courthouse in Madras, built in 1917, was actually intended to be the Madras City Hall. After renting the building from the City for several years, the County purchased it in 1925. The building was designed by architect O.B. Brubaker (Bend, OR) in the Classical Revival style with a red brick exterior laid in an English-bond pattern. The winning bid for the construction of the building was awarded to Guy Herman Wilson. The walls are three bricks thick and header courses are alternated with stretcher courses. Brick quoins embellish the corners of the building, and a cornice runs beneath the parapet. The two-story building had about 5,200 square feet of office space with the single courtroom located on the second floor. The. Located on the same parcel to the north is the first county jail. The Jail was constructed entirely of concrete around an iron “cage” structure that was built for the original location in Culver. It had two jail cells, a wood stove and a toilet. The jail cells included two folding beds attached to the exterior walls. The jail was operational until 1961, when the courthouse on Southeast “C” Street was opened and housed a new jail.
In later years, the “1917 Courthouse” housed OSU’s County Extension Services offices and the Jefferson County Historical Museum. Starting in the 1990s, Jefferson County became concerned about the deterioration of the building’s foundation. Structural engineers determined that the original one foot wide foundation was severely disintegrating and spalled with some areas eroded up to six inches. They observed the cement was easily loosened and crumbled when scraped. The engineers blamed early 1900s concrete mix standards as the cause of the foundation’s apparent deterioration from combination of low cement quantity, poor water to cement ratio, and/or improper mixing. In 2011, OSU moved into the newly constructed Central Oregon Community College Madras campus building. In 2013, the Jefferson County Historical Society moved into space provided by the 509-J School District in the Westside School Building leaving the courthouse empty. In January 2014 the County sold the building to a private individual. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in September 2015.
In 1961, the County moved all government functions to a new 20,000 square foot courthouse. The two-story building included space in the basement for the Sheriff’s office and jail. One large courtroom was included on the second floor. A second small courtroom was added in the 1990s by converting office space. Built in the middle of the Willow Creek floodway, the building suffered structural deficiencies soon after it was completed. The floors required additional bracing in 1984 and 2002. When the county built a new Sheriff’s office and jail near the airport, the basement was remodeled by removing the jail cells and adding office space and file storage. In 2008, structural engineers reported that the building was likely to fail in a large seismic event. In 2015 and 2016, the state legislature awarded the county a grant to replace the courthouse due to its structural deficiencies and an inability to expand the structure in the floodway.
July 2016 -
In 2013 the Oregon Legislature established The Oregon Courthouse Capital Construction Improvement Fund (OCCCIF). In July 2016 the State’s first courthouse using OCCIF funds was completed in Jefferson County. The City of Madras’ gracious land donation helped set the stage for the initial requests for funding in 2014.
State Funding: $6.5 Million
County Funding: $8.5 Million