In Washington’s Historical Courthouses, Ray Graves (’50 Pol. Sci.) has compiled a wonderful pictorial survey of the proud cultural and architectural heritage of the state. It contains beautiful photographs by Erick Erickson, a thoughtful introduction by Chief Justice Gerry Alexander, and a very interesting discussion of the historic development of each of the state’s 39 county seats and the architectural qualities of each courthouse built before 1930.
The book makes an important contribution to the history of the state’s cultural development, and it establishes a very useful typology of this prominent building type. It is amazing to review the variety and creativity of design in these courthouses and to imagine the supportive and proud communities that built them.
Both the author, a practicing attorney with some 50 years of experience in many of these buildings, and Alexander convey a passion for these fine buildings and express regret that some—represented in the book by historical photographs—have been destroyed. In the case of the latter, it would have been thought provoking to supplement the historical photos with contemporary images of the buildings that replaced them. In a few counties that I am familiar with, the replacements are not of the same quality as their predecessors. These contrasts raise serious questions as to why county leaders decided to destroy the more elegant reminders of their past and build such modest replacements.
We must think twice, and maybe more than twice, when confronted by the need to destroy our historic resources. As J. Smigielski warns, “A city without historic buildings is like a [person] without a memory.”
In this respect, it’s good to note that many of the courthouses depicted in this book are still in use today. Many communities are trying to save these irreplaceable resources, and design professionals are finding ways to reanimate these important historic buildings. By lovingly gathering images of the structures between the covers of a single book, Ray Graves has done a great deal to advance these efforts.
— Tom Bartuska, former professor, School of Architecture and Construction Management, WSU