Several years ago, people who admire Portland’s grand old buildings were pleased that the U.S. Custom House, designed along the lines of an Italian Renaissance palace, finished in 1901, had found new life as a private office building.
Now what was once the young city’s most elegant public building finds itself a bit player in a disappointing chapter of modern venture capitalism. While no one is making predictions just yet, it is possible that the stately historic building could be headed for yet another change in service.
Stepping back, it is amazing to think that a frontier city only 50 years old could see a building such as this come to grace its neighborhood at 220 NW 8th Ave., facing on the North Park Blocks. James Knox Taylor, supervising architect for the U.S. Department of Treasury, is always listed as the primary architect. But given the fact that Taylor’s name is mentioned in connection with several dozen federal buildings, the local architect, Edgar Lazarus, no doubt played a key role.
|South facade shows Gibbs surrounds on second and third floor windows|
In 2015, WeWork, a New York-based office-sharing company with grandiose ambitions, leased the Custom House and began offing spaces as small as a single desk to freelance workers and small businesses. Since its inception in 2010, WeWork accumulated leases on more than 800 properties around the world and adapted them to the office-sharing format, including availability of meeting rooms and social spaces for internal gatherings.