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Historic Pioneer Courthouse Upgraded and Protected

Posted December 12, 2005

The Pioneer Courthouse in Portland, Oregon was rededicated on December 12, 2005.  This ceremony celebrated the completion of upgrades and restoration of the original building design.  GSA went above and beyond the minimum required codes to protect this historically significant courthouse from future earthquake damage. The restoration work also included upgrades to protect the historic nature and contents of the building for posterity.

Portions of the Pioneer Courthouse have been standing since about 1875.  If the building had not been upgraded, the structural engineering studies concluded the courthouse would probably sustain major damage, possibly even collapse during a major earthquake.

In order to provide modern seismic upgrades, base isolation of the courthouse was implemented.  Base isolation reduces the effect from ground motion of an earthquake on the building, preventing extensive rubbing of the courthouse's structure on the floors above the first floor.  The isolators and accompanying moat system will allow the building to move about 18 inches in any direction during an earthquake.

The San Francisco Airport International Terminal, U.S. Court of Appeals San Francisco and Seahawks Stadium also use base isolation for structural protection.  The Pioneer Courthouse is unique because it is the only federal building in the foreseeable future that will be base isolated.  The Pioneer Courthouse is the second oldest courthouse west of the Mississippi River and has been listed as a National Historic Landmark since 1977.

GSA has been involved with the study and planning of this project for a decade.  In November, 2001, the agency received final Congressional design and construction funding approval to proceed with the project.  On January 9, 2004, GSA awarded the construction portion of the project, which was completed in November 2005.

Regional Administrator Jon Kvistad acted as Master of Ceremonies at the rededication ceremony.  Remarks were made by Acting GSA Administrator David Bibb and 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary M. Schroeder.  Following the ceremony, the courthouse was opened for public tours.