West Linn's former city hall and police department building, now known as "Historic City Hall," is slated to be added to the National Register of Historic Places. The National Parks Service added the building to a "pending list" in September and will review additional comments and information before making an official decision.
The register comprises over 90,000 historical sites across the nation, including 2,000 in Oregon.
Built in 1936, Historic City Hall sits along Highway 43 at the foot of the Arch Bridge on the West Linn side of the Willamette River.
Kristen Minor, an architectural historian and consultant hired by the city to submit Historic City Hall's application for the register, said she hoped to hear back from the National Parks Service regarding the application sometime this month.
"The building is such a symbol of the start of the city as its own functioning government and its own little community," Minor said. "West Linn has a pretty cool story unto itself, and this building is about the only remnant left of what used to be a little downtown community."
The city also has a financial incentive for the building's inclusion on the register. Such a distinction means West Linn could be eligible for tax credits that could help finance planned renovations at the building.
In addition to serving as city hall and police station, the building also housed the West Linn Public Library, West Linn Post Office and even a Thriftway store, according to the National Register of Historic Places application.
"The building represented a pride of achievement and growth for a community of only 2000 people in 1936," the application stated.
The Public Works Administration, an agency created by the New Deal in 1933, constructed the building.
When the building opened in October 1936, the city government occupied the top floor and Heath's Grocery, Oregon City Meat Market and the post office used the downstairs space. The West Linn Police Department did not make use of the building until the 1950s or '60s, according to the application.
In 1939, the West Linn Public Library opened with 300 books. The second floor also became home to Claco Credit Union and a dentist office. In 1954, Heath's Grocery was sold and became a Thriftway.
These offices and businesses eventually left. In 1999, city hall operations left the building and WLPD became its sole occupant. WLPD left the building in 2014 after the completion of a new station on 8th Avenue.
While the city and local nonprofit Willamette Falls and Landings Heritage Area Coalition have plans to revitalize the building and reopen it as a multi-cultural center, the area around it over the past several years is one of neglect.
"While the overall sense of past time and place is evident in the existing building, it also suffers from an appearance of neglect and disuse, with window shades down or film over glass, weeds around the building, and big tractor-trailers parked within a few feet of the back of the building," the historic places application stated.
However, the West Linn Lions would like to change that. The Lions recently took on the responsibility of cleaning and maintaining the area in front of the building until a tenant is selected. The Lions and a local Scout troop recently spent a weekend spiffing up the area.
"The really cool thing about this building and about putting something on the historic register that's part of the public trust is that it gives people a sense of belonging to a place … as something that is representative of a whole community," Minor said.
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