Rehabilitating Historic County Courthouses
The Historic County Courthouse Rehabilitation Grant Program provides matching grants to assist counties in preserving their courthouses. Since 2005, the program has provided 66 grant awards to 26 county courthouses statewide, totaling $19 million in grant funds that have leveraged more than $50 million in overall capital improvements. These grants support local economies and help preserve these diverse and valuable local landmarks.
In the wake of the COVID-19 public health crisis, historic places across Washington State— including our county courthouses— need support now more than ever. In acknowledgment of this, the Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation (DAHP) has requested $2.932 million to fund four county courthouse rehabilitation projects under the Historic County Courthouse Rehabilitation Program. The Washington Trust is in strong support of DAHP’s request and will work across the coming months to advocate for continued funding for this important program.
If you care for our state’s historic county courthouses and want to see this grant program continue, you can help us advocate for its renewed funding! Learn more about our advocacy of this and other important capital grant programs (barns, cemeteries, historic theaters and Main Streets) and how you can help encourage Governor Inslee and your legislators to support them:
The idea for the Historic County Courthouse Grant Program arose from a study sponsored by the then Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (OAHP) in 2003. Artifacts, Inc. surveyed Washington’s 39 county courthouses and determined that 29 met National Register standards. They assessed the existing condition of those courthouses and estimated costs for rehabilitation, uncovering over $90 million in needs. Since completion of the survey, an additional four county courthouses have been deemed eligible for the program.
Because of the size of these structures, the cost of maintenance, and the lack of good information on appropriate rehabilitation methods, many historic county courthouses are in danger from neglect or from inappropriate alterations. This program provides an incentive for county governments to save these local landmarks and to do it the right way. In addition to supporting rehabilitation of historic features, the fund can be used for seismic and accessibility upgrades that meet accepted historic preservation standards.
The Historic County Courthouse Grant Program also provides a shot in the arm for the local economy. Historic rehabilitation creates more jobs than new construction. It relies on local suppliers and contractors for materials and manpower, assisting both local businesses and the local tax base. Rehabilitation spurs other private investment in downtown properties, which attracts more businesses, shoppers, and visitors. Dayton, in Columbia County, is a good example of what can occur in even the smallest rural communities when the courthouse – the center of community life – is returned to its original glory. That rehabilitation effort touched off a wave of reinvestment in this small southeast Washington community. Today, Dayton is a must-see stop for dining, lodging, and shopping in the Walla Walla wine region.
For more information about the program, please also see DAHP’s website.
Administered by DAHP and the Washington Trust
The top priority of the Washington Trust’s 2005 State Legislative Agenda was the passage of an historic county courthouse rehabilitation fund. Working in partnership with the Washington State Association of Counties (WSAC), the Washington Trust was successful in its efforts to create a $5 million pool in matching funds to aid in the rehabilitation of the 33 historic county courthouses in the state. The Washington State Legislature allocated $5 million in the state’s 2005-07 Biennium capital budget and targeted $450,000 of the total for stabilization of the Jefferson County Courthouse clock tower. The Historic County Courthouse Grant Program is a program of the Washington State Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation (DAHP). Management of the grant portion of the program is provided by the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation under contract with DAHP. The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation is Washington’s only statewide non-profit advocacy organization dedicated to historic preservation.
Current State of the Program
Applications for the 2021-23 eleventh grant round of the Historic County Courthouse Rehabilitation Grant Program have now closed.
Since 2005, the program has provided 66 grant awards to 26 county courthouses statewide, totaling $19 million in grant funds that have leveraged more than $50 million in overall capital improvements.
Specifically, the program works to achieve the following results:
- Assist counties, especially smaller, more rural counties, with much needed capital projects to improve infrastructure and preserve historic features;
- Work to create local jobs;
- Majority of expenditures pays for labor as opposed to materials – given that rehabilitation work deals largely with repairs to existing building fabric, comparatively little is spent on purchase of materials;
- Assist in preserving Washington’s civic legacy and heritage!
For more information about this program, please contact Chris Moore of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation at 206-624-9449 or via email.