Structure Type: built works - public buildings - courthouses

Designers: Ritchie, Willis, A., Architect (firm); Willis Alexander Ritchie (architect)

Dates: constructed 1890-1891

4 stories

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1820 Jefferson Street
Port Townsend, WA 98368-6951

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Building History

According to a newspaper report published in the Seattle Post-Intelligenceron 06/30/1890, Willis A. Ritchie's design for the Jefferson County Courthouse was one of eight considered by the Board of County Commissioners. Of these eight submissions, two semi-finalists were selected, one by the Port Townsend architectural firm of Whiteway and Schroeder and one by Ritchie. The article stated: "The board of county commissioners has been in session the past four days, examining plans for the new courthouse it is proposed to build here, at a cost of $100,000. Of the eight sets of plans submitted, two are still under consideration by the board. These are the plans drawn by Whiteway & Schroeder, of this city, and W. A. Ritchie, of Seattle, A selection will be made tomorrow." (See "Port Townsend's New Courthouse," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 06/30/1890, p. 1.) County officials went with the latter architect, who was experiencing wide success in contemporary governmental building competitions.

Willis Ritchie also designed, at about the same time, the Thurston County Courthouse in Olympia, WA, which housed the state legislature from 1905-1927. This building for Port Townsend, then beginning an economic slide that would not abate until the late 1920s, was done in an economical way. The building had a large scale and monumental bell tower, but costs were cut on cladding materials. Instead of the Richardsonian Romanesque's usual rusticated ashlar walls, the Jefferson County Court House had brick walls with only foundation work and trim--lintels, arches and courses--picked out in rough-faced stone.

Building Notes

At the time that the Richardsonian Romanesque Jefferson County Courthouse was being built, architect Willis A. Ritchie rented an office in Seattle's Union Block. He operated in this building from 1889-1894, when he, like a number of other opportunistic architects, pulled up stakes and moved elsewhere during the economic downturn that followed the 1893 financial collapse of the railroad industry.

PCAD id: 14012