The Wallowa County Courthouse
It's a Humdinger!
The Wallowa County Courthouse built in 1909 is the anchor for the unique Central Business District of the City of Enterprise. Many of the buildings in downtown Enterprise are more than 100 years old and reflect the community pride and the "enterprising" nature of the Enterprise townspeople in the early 20th century. This uniqueness comes from the use of Bowlby Stone, a locally quarried volcanic tuff.
The Wallowa County Courthouse is one of the oldest and certainly the most prominent Bowlby Stone building in Enterprise. It is a harmonious blend of Bowlby stone with high Victorian Style; its stone construction, emphasizing the building's mass is accented by wood trim in the gables, fan lights and tower. The courthouse is one of only a few original Oregon courthouses still in service today.
Reflecting the community's deep pride, a May 5, 1910 Wallowa County Chieftain article states:
"The new courthouse is enough to make anybody happy. She is what the parlance of the day would call a "humdinger" – a humdinger being everything that could be desired in a new courthouse. And everybody is glad to note that state in Wallowa County's development which is marked by so substantial a public building as this new courthouse. Moreover, the building itself, showing in concrete form the progressive spirit of Wallowa County, will be one of the biggest advertisements Enterprise and Wallowa County could have. It will simply verify in the visiting mind that slogan "Watch Enterprise Grow".
A sentiment that is still true today. The Courthouse is a major asset to the town of Enterprise and Wallowa County.
The Wallowa County Courthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in July, 2000. This national recognition and honor was long overdue, according to Everett Roberts, the long time maintenance staff for the Courthouse.
Being on the National Register has also helped the County access funding to preserve the building by helping with the cost of repointing the large Bowlby Stone blocks, installing gutters and downspouts and repairing windows.
The use of Bowlby Stone in so many buildings in Enterprise can be credited to the Architect Calvin Thornton and his partner S.R. Haworth and is recognized as a trademark of Enterprise. So many of the buildings built in the early 20th Century were built of Bowlby Stone, that the May 14, 1910 News Record describes Enterprise as a "Stone City"
Bowlby Stone got its name from an early pioneer in Wallowa County, Enoch Ross Bowlby, who owned the stone quarry of volcanic tuff in the Swamp Creek area. Now known as Bowlby Stone this tuff is soft enough to cut with a saw when wet but hard enough after exposure to air to be used as building material.
The Wallowa County Courthouse square serves as the symbolic center of Enterprise. The far-sighted town founders who donated the land on which the Courthouse stands are honored by a granite bench carved with their names on the south side of the courthouse square.
Can you imagine Enterprise without the Courthouse? It is such a treasure. As Marjorie Martin, long time former County Clerk and Recorder commented in the January 4th, 1996 Chieftain "It's wonderfully historical. I thought it was delightful to work in...It's like a church without a steeple."
Much of the information in this article comes from the National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the Courthouse prepared by Wendy Hansen and the book Exploring Oregon's Historic Courthouses by Kathleen M. Wiederhold.