FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 18, 2020 Courthouse doors returned to original, historical design just in time for Christmas

(Columbia County, Oregon) – Thanks to the efforts of two local men who donated their time and skill, the Columbia County Courthouse has a brand-new set of doors designed to harken back to the building’s original, historic splendor – just in time for Christmas.

The discussion to replace the doors began two years ago when Director of General Services, Casey Garrett, had local Bob Ekstrom of The Door Works, come down to look at the aluminum doors that had been in place at the courthouse for some time, but did not fit the building aesthetically.

“We thought, ‘why don’t we just get rid of this stuff that’s really inappropriate for the building and get the doors back on here that are more historically accurate,’” Ekstrom said.

They then tapped local builder Jim Mask, of Storyline Fabrication, and with the help of the Columbia County Historical Society and Museum Association, set about determining what the original courthouse doors would have looked like when the building was first constructed. According to Garrett, the museum unearthed some old photos to send to Mask so he could get started on the designs.

“We couldn’t tell from the pictures if the doors were made from fir or oak, so we actually went and looked at some of the older buildings that were original around town and found that oak was not abnormal,” Garrett said. “It’s a much stronger material, so we decided to go with the oak.”

Mask and Esktrom said they mimicked the old photos to the best of their ability. They wanted to ensure the hardware looked as close to the photos as possible, and Mask was able to locate door handles from a building in Portland constructed during the same time period. Additionally, the shelf on the door and the weather strips on the front are from a tree Mask cut down himself.

“The current requirements for security and access control, you know, the fob card and the door locks release electronically – that all had to be set into the door pretty much to the ultimate capacity of what the door even allowed,” Mask said. “So, we have something that looks like it’s back in 1906 and works for 2020 with access control. They’re pretty high-end locks.”

For his part, Mask said he’d visited the building six or seven years prior and thought the doors didn’t fit the building and it had been bothering him ever since. So, the endeavor became a true passion project for each of them. Mask and Ekstrom donated all of the manhours they contributed to the project, and Ekstrom was able to spec out the hardware so that the County didn’t have to pay a markup, which Garrett said saved the County thousands of dollars.

“They’re highly skilled craftsman,” Garrett said. “The main cost was the technology for the locks. There are four magnets now that keep the door locked, and when you walk down the stairs, a censor recognizes you and unlocks the door.”

Garrett said when the County returns to normal operating hours, the doors are designed to automatically lock and unlock for business hours.

When Ekstrom and Mask were asked why the doors became such a passion project for them, and why they would go through so much trouble, essentially, for free, Ekstrom said, “We live in Columbia County, and we think the county should have first-rate everything and those doors were definitely not first-rate. Now things are as good as we can see they should be.”

In the future, Garrett said there are more plans to restore the Columbia County Courthouse to a more authentic, historically accurate design. The next project will be to open the original ceiling back up in the main lobby of the courthouse, where the original millwork will be restored to look as it did when the building was first constructed.

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