From the Pacific County website, www.
Captain Robert Gray landed at the an- cient Indian Village of Chinookville on the north shore of the Columbia River in 1792
on the southern edge of what was to become Pacific County. Lewis and Clark
camped in the same area and saw the Pacific Ocean from Cape Disappointment
in 1805. Pacific County was established
by the Oregon Territorial legislature on
Feb. 3, 1851. It was the third county created north of the Columbia River.
The first county seat was located at
Pacific City on Cape Disappointment.
In 1852, the Federal Government set
aside 640 acres on the cape (including
Pacific City) for a military reservation.
The occupants of the town were ordered
to vacate. The activities of the county
government were then transferred to
Chinookville in 1852. County Commissioner sessions were held there until
March. A vote of the electorate in May
1855 officially designated the settlement of Oysterville as the new county
seat. For nearly two decades the County
Commissioners held their sessions in
whatever building was available. A
courthouse was finally erected there in
1875 and served for nearly 18 years.
In the meantime, South Bend was
growing in population and demanded
a vote to move the county seat. A vote
was taken in 1892 designating South
Bend as the county seat, but it resulted
in a lawsuit which temporarily delayed
moving day. South Benders, agitated by
the apparent reluctance of county officials, took two steamers to Oysterville
and forcibly moved the records in 1893.
South Bend officially became the county seat and has remained so.
The present courthouse, dubbed
“The Gilded Palace of Extravagance,”
was designed by C. Lewis Wilson and
Company of Chehalis in 1909. The first
bids for construction were opened in
August 1909, and a local contractor bid
$87,730. He was to be given the job until
he discovered that he had made an error
of $10,000 in his estimate. Because of
the error, the total cost of the building
was found to exceed the limit the Com-
missioners had allowed for construc-
tion. The bid was withdrawn, and the
Commissioners revised the plans and
issued a call for new bids.
The new bids were based on the origi-
nal design submitted by Wilson with a
few alternations. The exterior remained
the same but interior marble and other
costly materials were eliminated. Later
in the 1940s, the Commissioners made
up for the lack of interior detail by as-
signing a county jail inmate, who hap-
pened to be an artist, the task of paint-
ing the panels in the foyer with scenes
from the early history of the county. He
Photos by Todd Timmcke
also painted the cement columns on the
second floor of the rotunda to look like
marble. At a distance, visitors still mistake the fake marbling for the real thing.
The building opened in 1911. The final cost, including the art-glass dome,
totaled $132,000. The building was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. NWL