Ferry County Courthouse

National Register of Historic Places

Ferry County Courthouse

Ferry County Courthouse in 1939

The present Ferry County Courthouse in about 1939. It still has the fence shown in the 1935 architect’s drawings. By 1950 the fence was gone. The jail, built with PWA funding in 1939 is not there yet.

Ferry County’s first courthouse was apparently built in 1899, the same year that the county separated from Stevens County. Early photographs show a handsome two- story building with a wide porch supporting a second floor balcony. A brick jail, located behind the court house was added several years later.

These served the county until February of 1935, when both structures burned to the ground. This left Ferry County with no home for its administrative functions in the midst of the Great Depression. The insurance payment on the building was not enough to fund construction of a new one and the county had few other resources.

Even today, less than 20% of the county is taxable land, the rest being either part of the Colville National Forest or the Colville Indian Reservation. This lack of revenue was made even worse by the Depression. Although other Washington counties were operating with obsolete or inadequate court houses, Ferry County was the only county in the state operating totally without a courthouse. County departments were operating wherever there was space: the Auditor, Treasurer, County Nurse and County Agent were squeezed into the City Hall. The Sheriff was to operate out of his own residence and the Engineer and School Superintendent shared a “small stone building” near the north end of the main street.

With the help of Washington State Governor Clarence Martin and one of the New Deal’s federal funding programs the county found a solution to the problem. The Public Works Administration (PWA) agreed to handle 50% of the estimated $50,000 required for construction, while the State of Washington and Ferry County, using the insurance money, split the remaining half.

That is how the Ferry County Court House became the only courthouse in the state to be partially funded by the Public Works Administration (PWA). That distinction and the characteristic architectural style of the resulting building are the factors that put it on the National Register of Historic Places. It is Ferry County’s most visible reminder of the New Deal programs that contributed so much to the county’s economy during the Depression.

Ferry County Courthouse in 1915

The original Ferry County Courthouse built around 1899 on the same site as the present Courthouse, burned in February 1935. The brick jail behind it also burned.

Plaque in the Ferry County COurthouse

The plaque in the courthouse foyer provides clues to its story.

Many buildings funded by New Deal agencies share a common architectural style called “Art Deco” or “Art Moderne”. This style was used so often for PWA-funded buildings that it is sometimes called “PWA Moderne”. The style features straight lines, use of reinforced concrete, stucco exteriors, flat roofs and continuous bands of windows. Outside decoration tends to be minimal and incorporated in structural surfaces. The Ferry County Courthouse still displays all these characteristics and many original decorative elements are still visible inside.

The involvement of the building’s architect is an additional qualification for National Register status. The National Register criteria include buildings that are “The work of a master” Spokane architect George M. Rasque, who designed the Ferry County Court House certainly qualifies as a “master”. He was active from the 1920s to the 1960s in designing everything from a prison warehouse to a county parking garage and the Spokane Veterans Administration hospital. He is best known for his design of public buildings, particularly schools.

Ferry County Courthouse Address350 E Delaware Ave, Republic

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