In Crook County, a $35 million bond measure is up for a vote to build a new courthouse, and save the previous one; a 112-year-old building that is sewn into the fabric of Prineville.
“It’s a landmark for our community,” said Steve Lent, Historian at the Bowman Museum in Prineville. “It’s just a very historic building, and I don’t think anyone wants to see that building go away.”
In the heart of Prineville, sits the old county courthouse.
The courthouse was built in 1909 before Deschutes County even existed, and was constructed from stone in the hills surrounding the valley.
But with the immense growth of Central Oregon’s population, the courthouse and its sole functioning courtroom can’t keep up with community needs.
“So currently, we’re trying cases that happened back in 2018 and 2019 and that’s solely due to the lack of available court space that we have,” said Wade L. Whiting, District Attorney for Crook County.
That’s why in August, the Crook County Court unanimously approved to bring the hefty bond to a vote.
If voters pass the bond in November, it will go into effect in 2027.
“And that will make it so there will be no increase to taxpayers in our community,” said Seth Crawford, Judge in Crook County.
The new justice center is planned for a location on Northwest Second Street.
As for the old courthouse, the space would be converted into offices, with historical tours continuing to share Central Oregon’s rich past, and even partaking in the tradition of signing the clock tower.
The bond measure would repair much-needed structural and cosmetic damage, and preserve a living time capsule for generations to come.
“We would hate to lose that building. It’s one of the grand courthouses in the state of Oregon,” said Lent.