Not having a job does have its perks. Today, for example, I was able to take off in the middle of the day to go to an open house at a historic courthouse downtown. Would have probably missed it if I’d had to work.
I like old stuff. I especially like old buildings. Many of you know I worked at an old hotel a while back, one that once housed the Multnomah County Poor Farm. It was pretty awesome.
I love old buildings because they impart a sense of history, perhaps even a sense of immortality that only architecture can. This building was here before I was and, with a little luck, it will still stand when I’m long gone.
So, I drug myself out of the recliner before noon today and headed downtown.
The Gus J. Solomon Courthouse was built before I was born, before my mom was born. I’ve been there twice before: once when Judge Solomon was still on the bench and once just a few years ago at a reception for Greil Marcus after a reading he gave at the Schnitz.
They’ve done quite a bit of renovation since, mostly in the form of putting it back the way it should have always been. If I’m to believe the tour guide, they used 50 lbs. of carnauba wax to restore the wood in Judge Solomon’s courtroom alone.
Of course, neither he nor I am completely sure if that was the Judge’s actual courtroom, but we agreed to pretend it was just for the day. This is the influence I can exert over tour guides when I ask questions for which they’re not prepared. I can make them believe what I tell them. It’s my superpower. It’s not terribly useful on a daily basis.
It’s a beautiful space with incredible oak paneling and high, arched windows that let in more light than you’d get from any silly light fixture. If you want to get a glimpse at it, it’s been featured in a number of movies. The one they tout on the tour was the Tommy Lee Jones/Benicio del Toro vehicle “The Hunted.”
Anyway, while I was there, standing there like an idiot, staring up at the incredibly detailed ceiling, another woman came in.
“Let me ask you this,” she said to the tour guide. “These courtrooms aren’t used anymore, right? Why did you bother to restore them?”
She asked in such a way that, I kid you not, I wanted to knock her teeth out. I mean, why bother to come see them if you doubt their necessity as a part of keeping our shared history alive? You didn’t have to come into the building. You didn’t have to pick up the self-guided tour map. You didn’t have to get in the elevator and ascend six floors and then walk all the way to the end of the hall. And you didn’t have to come into the Honorable late Judge Gus J. Solomon’s very courtroom to ask such an asinine question.
The tour guide said simply,”Look around you.”
I didn’t stay to see what the woman’s reaction was. I just thanked the tour guide and left.
The Solomon Courthouse is available to rent for private events starting at $75 an hour depending on the space you need. I’ve got the info if you need it and I’m sure there’ a website somewhere that can help you book it.