Pioneer Courthouse, Portland
The Pioneer Courthouse is the oldest extant federal building in the Pacific Northwest. The planning phase for the building began in 1869 as architects E.B. St. John and John H. Holman worked together to design the structure. This Italianate courhouse was completed in 1875 and remains one of the most significant landmarks in the city of Portland.
Backstory and Context
The building has been home to hundreds of important decisions in federal cases involving land and other property disputes, Native American treaties, railroads, laws regarding immigration and the infamous 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, mining, timber and forestry, and banking and commerce. One of the more interesting cases of the early 20th century heard at this courthouse, the Ninth Circuit judges found that students had a constitutional right to attend a parochial school in a 1923 case where leaders of the KKK attempted to abolish Catholic schools. Ten years later, this was the court where federal cases related to the exclusion of Japanese-American citizens and immigrants were heard. The court sent two cases to the US Supreme Court, which decided that the federal government could detain and relocate Japanese-American citizens in a pair of cases that have since been overturned.
Numerous U.S. Presidents have toured the building, including Benjamin Harrison, Theodore Roosevelt, and William Howard Taft. The building was supposed to be demolished and replaced by a newer structure in the 1940s. However, owing to the outbreak of World War II, the 1939 federal law authorizing the demolition of the courthouse and construction of a new facility was delayed and residents decided to preserve the building in the interim.