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Home arrow Working with Section 106 arrow ACHP Case Digest arrow Fall 2002 arrow Oregon: Rehabilitation of the Pioneer Square U.S. Courthouse and U.S. Post Office, Portland
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Oregon: Rehabilitation of the Pioneer Square U.S. Courthouse and U.S. Post Office, Portland

Agency: General Services Administration

Oregonís Pioneer Square Courthouse and Post Office is the oldest Federal building in the Pacific Northwest, and has served as a focal point of local, civic, and cultural activity in Portland for more than a century.

Designed by Alfred B. Mullet and completed in 1875, the Italianate-style National Historic Landmark is currently slated for rehabilitation and seismic upgrade. Plans are underway for the court to occupy the entire building, thus displacing the post office.

Preservation partners are discussing details of the rehabilitation, the proposed addition of parking space in the basement, and ways to ensure that the building that is a fixture of “Portland’s living room” remains accessible to the public.

The General Services Administration (GSA) proposes to rehabilitate the 127-year-old Pioneer Building in Portland, Oregon, which is the oldest Federal facility in the Pacific Northwest.

Pioneer Square, with the U.S. Courthouse and U.S. Post Office in the background, Portland, Oregon


Pioneer Square U.S. Courthouse and U.S. Post Office, Portland, OR
(photo courtesy of GSA)

 

The Italianate-style National Historic Landmark was designed by architect Alfred B. Mullet, who is noted for other post-Civil War Federal buildings including the Old Executive Office Building in Washington, DC, and the San Francisco Mint.

Since 1875, Portland’s Federal courthouse has shared the Pioneer Building with the U.S. Postal Service, which established its main office there as a more efficient and reliable alternative to the Pony Express and other mail services. Among other rehabilitation plans, GSA currently intends to shut down the post office to accommodate the Ninth Circuit Court’s expansion.

Since the Pioneer Building will no longer serve postal service customers, citizens are concerned about the consequent lack of access to the structure that sits next to “Portland’s living room,” Pioneer Square. Also disputed are the effects on the historic building from a proposed ramped driveway and garage door that will lead to a new basement parking lot.

As part of the Section 106 process, GSA considered the effects of its proposal on the National Historic Landmark, and, after initially concluding that the plan would have no adverse effect, subsequently changed its finding to an “adverse effect” determination.

Based on the national significance of the building—and the advanced state of the rehabilitation plan—ACHP notified GSA that it would participate in Section 106 consultation to resolve the plan’s adverse effects.

ACHP has attended several meetings with GSA, the Oregon State Historic Preservation Officer, the National Park Service, the City of Portland, the Ninth Circuit Court, and the U.S. Postal Service. Staff from GSA’s Center for Historic Buildings in DC and its regional office are responding to a number of questions about the rehabilitation.

Staff contact: Margie Nowick


Updated December 17, 2002

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