Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Natrona County Townsend Justice Center


This set of photographs is a bit unusual, as you can see the courthouse actually being built, or rather rebuilt.

This is the Townsend Justice Center in Casper, Natrona County, Wyoming. The courthouse houses the state district and circuit courts for the county, those being the courts of the Seventh Judicial District.

This courthouse was the subject of a great deal of controversy. The old Natrona County Courthouse stands across the street, and was much admired by residents of the county. The district court, however, had outgrown the courthouse, and the circuit courts were located in yet another building. There was, therefore, a need to add a courthouse or revise the existing one, particularly after the addition of a third judge. Early efforts proved unpopular with the county's voters, but ultimately the state took the unusual step of funding reconstruction at this structure.

The building itself had been a downtown hotel built in the 1920s, in the golden era of tall hotels. The building had served in this capacity for many years, but entered a slow period of decline in the 1960s. By the late 1970s, the hotel was principally the residence of those down and out on their luck, or of street walkers, but the restaurant remained popular with downtown businessmen. The Petroleum Club, a long time popular club, was attached to it, but was actually in a neighboring building but with access through the Townsend.

After the Petroleum Club moved, the owners of the Townsend finally closed it and it remained vacant for over two decades. When the court needed to move, however, a deal was struck whereby the building was acquired for a nominal fee, and re construction began.

Today, the new and old parts of the building house an ultra modern courthouse, but some of the old signs remain, a written record of its origin as a hotel.

For what it is worth, if you are summoned to jury duty in the District Court for the 7th Judicial District, or the Circuit Court for the 7th Judicial District, this is where you want to go.

The photos added immediately above were taken quite some time after the originals, and were taken while I was waiting for a Circuit Court hearing.  This depicts one of the Circuit Court, courtrooms. The District Court courtrooms are quite a bit bigger.

The courtrooms in this courthouse are quite modern in the District Court, and perhaps when I get he opportunity I'll add a photograph of one. They were designed to be high tech and are.


  1. As an aside, the 7th Judicial District was established by the Legislature on March 2, 1915.

  2. For those who track these matters, the recent result of the Natrona County School District No. 1 bond election bring back some old memories. The voters of Natrona County turned down a bond issue which sought funds for certain school improvements.

    In recent years, Natrona County has had a history of defeating bond issues. The first place this became evident was when the bond issue for proposed renovations to the old County Courthouse failed, after a campaign against it was launched. Subsequent to that bond issues for a new library and a performing arts center also failed. The only one that's recently passed has been one for the community college, which has undertaken some significant construction.

    The failure of the courthouse proposal has had some sad results, in my view, as I frankly just like the old courthouse better. It had an enormous main courtroom. The problem was that it only had two courtrooms, and the second one was a tiny courtroom, so it was no longer adequate. The new construction, in the very old Townsend Building, has resulted in a very nice facility, but I don't like the courtrooms in the new courthouse as much as the big courtroom in the old courthouse. The main problem is that while the new ones are very high tech, lawyer space is actually quite constricted. But something had to be done, and that's what was done.