Oregon State UniversitySpecial Collections & Archives Research Center

Oral Histories of the Benton County (Or.) Courthouse, 1987-1991

Historical Note:

The Benton County Courthouse is located at 120 NW 4th Street in downtown Corvallis on land originally donated to the city by its founders, Joseph Avery and William Dixon. Designed by Portland architect Delos D. Neer, the courthouse project was dedicated on July 4, 1888 and completed in Fall 1889, thus replacing the county's first courthouse building, which had been erected in 1854. The new building was constructed using local stone and brick, and was meant, in Neer's words, to evoke "an Italian villa with a military influence." Total costs for the construction, including furnishings, ran to about $70,000, which reputedly made Benton County's courthouse project the second most expensive in Oregon's history to that point.

From 1977-1979, the facility was the focus of a major restoration and renovation project, overseen by local architect Cy Stadsvold. For his efforts, Stadsvold received the American Institute of Architect's "Significant Building Award" in 1979. Stadsvold's work also contributed to the building's nomination, in 1977, to the National Register of Historic Places. An icon of the mid-Willamette Valley, Benton County's courthouse remains the oldest in operation anywhere in the state of Oregon.

Richard Mengler (1911-2001) served as City Attorney of Corvallis from 1952-1954, District Court Judge from 1954-1959 and Circuit Court Judge from 1965 to his retirement in 1981. Mengler also served three temporary terms on the Oregon Supreme Court. Born in Nebraska to impoverished itinerant farmers, Mengler earned a bachelor's degree in English from Kearney State College in 1933 and, in 1939, a master's in Education from the University of Oregon. Following a two-year stint as vice-principal at Corvallis High School and another two years of service in the Pacific theatre during World War II, Mengler worked toward a law degree, which he received from the University of Oregon in 1952. For the better part of the next thirty years, Mengler pursued a career in law throughout the Pacific Northwest, though Corvallis always remained his home. Mengler's close association with the Benton County Courthouse stemmed both from decades working in the building as well as his many years' service as chair of its Preservation Committee.

Twin brothers Edmund Gravelle (1913-2005) and Elroy Gravelle (1913-1991) were grandchildren of Odina Gravel, a carpenter who helped to build the Benton County Courthouse.

Gladys (Mack) Hunt (1909-2004) was the daughter of Herschel Mack, Benton County Clerk from 1926-1932. As a teenager, Gladys spent a summer working for her father in the Benton County Courthouse.

Dorothy Moore (b. 1901) and Louise (Moore) Forland (b. 1913) were daughters of A.J. (Albert Jordan) Moore, Benton County Clerk from 1932-1948.

Magdalen (Mann) Schultze (1912-2005) was the daughter of Thomas Mann, a contractor who helped to build the Benton County Courthouse.

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