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Second courthouse burns down (1890)

In 1881 the state legislature empowered the county commissioners to float bonds to build a new courthouse and jail. It was completed in 1883 at a cost of $44,000. Seven years later on February 25, 1890, it all went up in smoke.

It was a cold and windy night when fire broke out near midnight in the rear office of County Clerk Elwell's office and quickly spread to the front of the building and up the tower. Great pieces of burning wood fell off the building, which was consumed in less than an hour. Not even the foundation could be salvaged.

There were ten people asleep in the courthouse and five prisoners in the jail when the fire started. Luckily, all escaped harm. But a great many of the records were burned. Probate records dating back 40 years were destroyed, along with records of the Superior and District courts, Clark County Sheriff, Superintendent of Schools, and Surveyor. The loss of records, especially land claims, would make life difficult for county residents and courts for years to come.

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Street address: 1300 Franklin Street, Floor 6, Vancouver, WA 98660
Mailing address: P.O. Box 5000, Vancouver, WA 98666-5000
Main phone: (360) 397-6012 | FAX: (360) 397-6015
E-mail: pio@clark.wa.gov

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