AKA: Washington Supreme Court Courthouse, Olympia, WA

Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - office buildings; built works - public buildings - capitols

Designers: Moen Company, Gilbert H., Company, Building Contractors (firm); Wilder and White, Architects (firm); Donald Moen (building contractor); Gilbert H. Moen (building contractor); Harry Keith White (architect); Walter Robb Wilder (architect)

Dates: constructed 1912-1920

2 stories

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Olympia, WA

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The competition for the Washington State Capitol group in Olympia, WA, occurred in 1911, its first prize given to the relatively unknown New York architectural firm, Wilder and White. Wilder and White began to supervise construction on the Temple of Justice in 1912, but construction progress proved slow. The parsimonious Washington State Legislature, always careful with a dollar, grudgingly and gradually passed bills paying for what it considered excessive building costs. When construction began in 1912, the legislature and its supervising body, the State Capitol Commission, had authorized money to erect quarters for the State Supreme Court, the Law Library, and Attorney General's Office, but limited money for decoration of common interior spaces. Additionally, money was not appropriated before World War I for completing the exterior. A two-story, brick structure, the Temple of Justice did not get faced in stone until the early 1920s. A great deal of interior and exterior finishing happened in 1919-1920; in 1919, the Washington Legislature appropriated $2.5 million to finish construction of the Temple of Justice, a general governmental administration building (also called the "Temple of Insurance"), a Capitol Campus Powerhouse and a complex utilities infrastructure, including a network of tunnels carrying steam heating pipes, water pipes and electrical wiring. All other expenditures for construction of state buildings totaled $772,130 for that year (1919). The State of Washington formally concluded construction in 08/1920. The Temple of Justice's total cost came to $942,230, a modest sum at the time.

Architectural historian Norman Johnston, in his study of the Washington State Capitol ensemble, described the Temple of Justice: "Matching the longitudinal dimensions of the [central] Legislative Building, toward which its main entrance faced in the group plan, the Temple of Justice was shown as a long rectangular building with shallow extended wings at either end. Its proportions were horizontal, with an almost uninterrupted skyline and subdued ornamentation that would dampen any competition with the authority of the Legislative Building. The only challenges to this restraint were the use of the Corinthian order along the full length of both the north and south elevations and some sculptural emphasis at the main entrance. The interior plan mirrored the exterior symmetry with almost total balance of spaces on either side of the transverse axis." (See Norman J. Johnston, Washington's Audacious State Capitol and Its Builders, [Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1988], p. 30.) Due to concerns over money and extravagance, the WA State Legislature altered the capitals of the temple's colonnade, from expensive-to-carve, leafy Corinthian order to the plainer and less labor-intensive Doric.

The Gilbert H. Moen Company of Yakima, WA, performed some renovation work to the Temple of Justice.

PCAD id: 18274