One of the earliest manuscript documents in the county archives is the lease for the original courthouse. Multnomah County was formed by the Territorial Legislature on December 22, 1854 and needed space to comnduct official business. Signed on January 29th, 1855, this document leased the second floor of the Robinson Building, located on Front Avenue (now Naito Parkway) between Salmon and Taylor. If the building still existed, this would be its view, familiar to most Portlanders.
The lease was for two years at $200 dollars per year. This was for a 1200sqft courtroom and adjacent offices. In today's dollars, this would be about $4600 per year. This would be a great deal in today's market -- less than half of what it costs to rent my little 500sqft apartment just across the river.
The owner of the building was Colburn Barrell, a Portland businessman who also owned Lone Fir Cemetery and the steamboat Gazelle. The Board of County Commissioners who leased the room consisted of George W. Vaughn (who served a couple terms as Portland Mayor soon after); Elmsly Scott (a Portland merchant who left for the southern Oregon gold fields in 1860); and James Bybee (whose 1856 house is still one of the area's most loved attractions).