Historic iron gates to be reinstalled at Spokane County Courthouse
Tue., Aug. 16, 2016
Ron Oscarson, Spokane County facilities director, right, shows Chuck King the location for courthouse iron gates restoration project on Tuesday. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)Buy a print of this photo
If it weren’t for a pair of history buffs, the iron gates of the old Spokane County Jail might have been lost to the ages.
But now, 46 years after the old jail was torn down, plans are underway to refurbish the gates and install them near their original location. During a ceremony Tuesday, county workers unveiled the site and described the curious journey that kept the gates from becoming scrap metal.
“I think they just fell in the hands of the right people,” said Don Secor, a Spokane County Parks Department employee. “I think everyone involved agreed that these need to be preserved.”
The gates were designed more than 120 years ago by W.A. Ritchie. They once occupied stone arches that connected the old jail to the north side of the Spokane County Courthouse.
In early 2008, Secor and his friend Chuck King, of the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum, spotted the rusted gates leaning against a fence in Plantes Ferry Park. The gates had been moved around and neglected by Parks Department employees since 1970, when the old jail was razed to make room for the Public Safety Building.
Discussing their historical significance, Susan Walker, the secretary-treasurer of the Law Enforcement Museum, noted that the last three hangings sanctioned by the county took place behind the gates.
They were on course to be melted down and forgotten, but Secor and King had another idea: Donate them to the Spokane Law Enforcement Museum and figure out a way to restore them to their original beauty.
Ron Oscarson became the courthouse facilities manager around the same time. It was his idea to reinstall the gates in public view.
Their plans came to fruition with a $3,200 grant from the Spokane Preservation Advocates, bricks donated from Mutual Materials and a steel frame built by Haskins Steel.
Said Oscarson, “It was truly a community effort.”
The gates now are being refurbished by Rick Nelson, a local metal worker. They will be installed sometime this year.
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