Friday, April 19, 2024

Unwelcome Visitors and the Gates


While we might quibble about the causes of human impoverishment, there is no need to hedge about the damage done to Portland buildings and parks by the revolving assortment of homeless campers.  Sadly, some of the worst damage has occurred at valued historic buildings.

 Going back a century and longer, many commercial buildings and apartments were designed with recessed doorways that sheltered people from Portland’s damp weather as they entered or departed.   Alas, the same recessed doorways became popular places for campers to unfurl whatever they slept on and to deposit their unpleasant human droppings.

 For employees, stepping over the campers and asking them to depart was an unpleasant task with responses ranging with varying degrees of disaffection.  Stepping over – and cleaning up – the human wastes was worse.

As a result, many buildings have responded to putting up gates that close off entrances.  The gates are effective, but not necessarily welcome aesthetic additions. And for certain they are an unwelcome albeit important expense.  

Three doorways at the AHC

The Architectural Heritage Center, a non-profit whose mission is to encourage preservation of Portland’s historic buildings and public places, added three scissor gates to protect recessed entries facing on S.E. Grand Ave.  The center hoped to find a more attractive design befitting the building’s 1891 heritage, but the spaces couldn’t accommodate more attractive cast iron gates.

Besides keeping intruders out, the scissor gates substantially fold back somewhat out of sight when the building is open.

Barber Block

A block north on Grand Avenue, the 1890 Barber Block found more attractive iron gates that are less disruptive to the building’s architecture.  But some of the additions on the building's southern facade don’t have to open and close, making the design decisions much easier.

 One of the most jarring applications of fencing and gates appears at the 1890 Immaculate Heart  Catholic Church on N. Williams Avenue.  The stark application of powder-coated steel shows that even an institution that values charity, benevolence and reformation has limits on its patience.

One assumes that contemporary architects working on new buildings have a new consideration to ponder, in addition to form, function, materials and environmental concerns.  Unlike their ancestors a century ago, they need to conceive of attractive means of keeping intruders at bay.

 -----Fred Leeson

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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Reconfiguring the David Campbell Memorial


Potential renovation (David Campbell Memorial Association)

Occasionally, someone with no preservation expertise steps forward to make a huge difference is protecting an important piece of Portland’s built environment.

 For Don Porth, devoting countless hours to protecting and repairing the David P. Campbell Memorial at 18th Ave. and W. Burnside is a no-brainer.  “All I’m acting on is passion and duty.”

 A retired firefighter, Porth is president of the non-profit David P. Campbell Memorial Association, named in honor of the Portland fire chief who was killed while saving other firefighters from a terrible waterfront conflagration in 1911.  At his funeral, tens of thousands of Portlanders turned out to honor the well-known citizen and athlete.   

The memorial plaza was erected in 1928, based on the design by Paul Cret, a Pennsylvania architect who was a national master of Beaux-Arts design of that era.  Over time, the names of other fallen firefighters were added to the memorial, although many other names were not. 

 The memorial has taken a horrible beating from vandals and graffiti taggers in recent years.  Working with retired preservation architect William J. Hawkins, Porth has devised a plan to add a plaza that would include an interpretive description and honor all 76 firefighters killed in action to date.


A historic view before the triangle was enlarged in 1963

Given the attention and effort Porth has contributed, “It’s amazing what one person can do with the will and tenacity to do it,” Hawkins told the Portland Historic Landmarks Commission recently.  Porth is appreciative of Hawkins’ help, as well.  “I’m just a retired Portland firefighter,” he said.  “This is way above my pay grade, let me tell you.”

 The biggest design challenge at this point is how to protect two large bronze electrified lanterns that formerly graced each of the memorial’s two wings.  The elegant fixtures have been vandalized and their glass panels broken many times.  The lanterns have been removed and are currently being restored at a cost of $48,000.

 Porth’s idea is to raise them on three-foot pedestals to make them less accessible to harm.  Hawkins isn’t keen on altering Cret’s original design.  He said Cret was one of the nation’s most highly-regarded architects at the time, and that “Portland was lucky to get him.”  As for the lanterns, Hawkins said, “There is no easy solution,” he said.  “All of them are problematic.”

 Ultimately, the Landmarks Commission will be asked to approve a final design.  At an informal hearing, Commissioner Kimberly Moreland offered another potential solution for the lanterns.  She suggested that they should be retired to the Fire Bureau’s museum where they could be protected but still be available for public viewing.  “They are so beautiful it would be great to see them saved and preserved.”

Indeed, one solution might be to craft bronze lanterns similar to the originals, but without lights or glass panels, while the originals retire to a secure setting.    

After more than two years of work and planning, Porth will return with a final proposal sometime in the next few months. In the meantime, this devoted preservationist will be thinking….and thinking... about  lanterns.  The rest of us can ponder the famous quotation from C.E.S. Wood: "Good citizens are the riches of the city." 

 ----Fred Leeson

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Friday, April 5, 2024

A Life-Saving Design Challenge


In its latest annual chat with the City Council, the Portland Historic Landmarks Commission urged the city to find suicide prevention devices that are more compatible with the elegant design of the historic Vista Avenue Bridge.

 Incredible views from 120 feet above Canyon Road attract many tourists to take pictures.  Alas, the height and beauty also attracted many people using it to end their lives -- sometimes as many as three a year -- giving it informal moniker of Suicide Bridge. The consequences were grotesque for nearby residents and for anyone else unfortunate enough to encounter them.

 The current “dropper stoppers,” added in 2013, were intended to be temporary while a permanent solution came into being.  Now, more than a decade later, the same heavy black chain-link fencing and poles that stand nine feet tall remain firmly bolted in place and no other solution is anywhere on the horizon.

After the Landmarks Commission’s presentation seeking a more attractive solution, Commissioner Mingus Mapps, who is in charge of the Portland Bureau of Transportation, said, “I’ll make sure my team works on it.” But that doesn’t mean anything will happen soon.

 First, a new city government takes control next January, and there is no guarantee that a prospective project will be carried over into the new administration.  Second, Mapps is currently wrestling with a major transportation budget shortfall ranging into tens of millions of dollars. As city streets continue to deteriorate – as many motorists already realize – Mapps faces a deficit that likely takes anything “new” off the table.

Design and construction of the Vista Avenue Viaduct, as it was originally called, was an impressive feat for Portland.  The arched concrete structure was designed by Fred T. Fowler, who graduated from the University of Oregon in 1912 and became Portland’s bridge engineer in 1921.  The city government paid half of the $197,000 construction costs, with Southwest residents taxing themselves for one fourth of the bill.  Portland Electric Power Co., which operated the Council Crest streetcar line, added the remaining fourth.

 The new bridge replaced the steel Ford Street Bridge had carried pedestrians and streetcars since 1903.  Rather than scrap it, the city moved it to Terwilliger Boulevard where it served for several decades before being replaced by a "modern" concrete overpass over Interstate 5.

Creating suicide barriers that would be compatible with the classical detailing on the Vista Avenue Bridge would be a challenging assignment, indeed.  Someday, perhaps motorists and pedestrians high above Canyon Lane (as it was first known) will be able to enjoy a more attractive solution created by bright minds.

 ----- Fred Leeson

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Friday, March 29, 2024

An Interesting New Spin at Troy Laundry

One vital tool for saving historic buildings is finding new uses when their original functions no longer survive. The shorthand term is “adaptive re-use.”

An interesting new example of adaptive re-use is at 1025 SE Pine Street, where a 1913 brick structure that once housed Troy Laundry, home of the Pacific Northwest’s largest laundry businesses before the advent of convenient home washing machines, has been converted to into an upscale private athletic and social club called Soho House of Portland.

 The target clientele for membership is “young creatives” – or at least creative young people with the financial means to support dues that many of us couldn’t countenance. Amenities include a roof-top swimming pool, which one presumes could lead to jokes about getting soaked in a historic laundry, a 4,400 square-foot exercise space and upscale eating and drinking facilities. 

We’ll let social media debate whether Portland can support this financial trendiness.  Membership also entitles visitation to scores of other Soho locations around the world. You can learn more about the organization and see pictures of the completely revamped interior at Soho House Portland | Soho House.


Pine Street frontage

For Portland architecture buffs, the Troy building was an early work by prolific architect Ellis F. Lawrence, who later commuted by train on a regular basis to Eugene where he was dean of the University of Oregon’s architecture school. 

 Lawrence’s client in 1913 was James F. Tait, a Scottish immigrant, who opened his Portland laundry service in 1889.  In the following decades, Tait pioneered technological and managerial innovations to make Troy Laundry the biggest residential and commercial laundry company in the Pacific Northwest.

Lawrence’s colonial revival design reflected an era when even muscular industrial buildings could include attractive materials and architectural details. 

It is said that Troy Laundry served as many 10,000 customers on a regular basis.  In the following decade, Tait also built a major laundry building in Seattle.  The Troy Laundry building as added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

 Renovations to the 1913 building included seismic bracing, all-new mechanical systems and removal of awnings and a main-door canopy that were not original to the building. 

New apartments on SE Ash Street; Troy building to the rear

The Portland Historic Landmarks Commission approved plans for the Troy project in August, 2020.  The commission also had jurisdiction over the other half of the block because a proposed six-story apartment building planned by the same Chicago developer encroached on some of the Troy building’s lot.

 The new apartment with 132 units facing on SE Ash St. is nearing completion.  Its dark brick facades are a welcome addition to the neighborhood and should be pleasing to those who have grown tired of metal panels and faux wood paneling so common in contemporary apartment construction. 

---Fred Leeson

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Saturday, March 23, 2024

Welcome to the 'New' Central Library


The red brick bones of architect A.E. Doyle’s stately Georgian-style Central Library that have graced downtown Portland since 1909 remain largely intact after an extensive renovation, but the gran dame’s cosmetics and accessories are substantially different.

For instance:

 -- The lobby now includes a bright white unisex (multisex?) restroom with 10 stalls complete with full-length doors.

-- Nearby, a kiosk offers 48 laptop computers than can be signed out with a library card for up to two hours of use in the building.

-- Dozens of soft easy chairs dot the main reading rooms.

-- Scores of sit-down computer portals offer internet and library reference access.

-- More open spaces are available for community gatherings or meetings.

-- New carpets and brighter colors are found throughout.

-- A small, closed space is “reserved for writers,” in case anyone does that sort of thing anymore.

-- Tall bookshelves are gone, except for those backed up to walls.

-- The non-profit Friends of the Library organization has a glass-enclosed lobby space for selling library-related mementos.

-- New landscaping allowing for outdoor seating and gathering spaces.

-- A new, gentler weheelchair ramp.

-- Men roving slowly with identity badges hanging from their necks appear to be plain-clothes security, who, in the absence of the old tall shelves, have largely unobstructed views of patrons sitting or standing.

Brighter color, fewer shelves

And something else that’s different?  “There seem to be fewer books,” I said to a kindly librarian.  “About half,” he replied.  Presumably the other half are in storage and can be recaptured as needed.

In essence, the changes tell us that a modern library is as much a social service agency as it is a place to read books, magazines and newspapers.  The renovation acknowledges that people from all walks of life need computers not only for entertainment but for survival, even if they cannot afford to own one.

 Anyone in recent years who has been in the crowd waiting for the Central Library’s doors to open in the morning recognizes that many of those waiting made headlong rushes to the restrooms, not the reference desk.  It is a benefit that a library that is “free to all,” according to an inscription on the fa├žade, can provide in a time of increasing need.

Check out a laptop here

There are those among us who see a public library as one of society’s greatest agencies for its ability to provide information, truth, pleasure and entertainment all at once to everyone with no admission fee.  Let’s hope that all who use it will enjoy it, respect its advantages and protect it.

 ---Fred Leeson

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Friday, March 15, 2024

Another Hit on the Public Weal


Recent years have been tough on Portland’s works of public art.  Protests of one sort or another toppled statues of Presidents and damaged (seemingly permanently, at first) the beloved Elk statue and fountain.

 The latest victim is the smaller Shemanski Fountain located in the South Park Blocks between S.W. Main and Salmon Streets.  The attractive monument with the bronze statue of “Rebecca at the Well” is now surrounded by temporary chain-link fencing.

 “The fountain has been vandalized and has damage to the stonework – plus two of the three dog bowls are missing,” reports Mark Ross, a Parks Bureau spokesman.  “Portland Parks & Recreation is currently exploring restoration options with our partners at the Water Bureau and Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC).”

The monument was given to the city in 1926 by Joseph Shemanski, a Polish immigrant who founded the Eastern Outfitters store that served as a major Portland clothing and department store for more than 40 years.  The store closed about 1953, a few years after Shemanski’s death. 

In better days (Regional Arts & Culture Council)

Portland architect Carl Linde designed the trefoil stonework, and the sculpture by Oliver Lawrence Barrett, an art professor at the University of Oregon, was added in 1928.  Rebecca, shown with a water jug on her shoulder, was a Biblical character noted for her kindness to strangers and animals.

The monument has two layers of three fountains with bronze bowls, the lower three being at ground level intended for dogs or small animals.  Water service has been sporadic over the years as the Water Bureau places more importance on revenue-generating service than on public fountains.  The bronze bowls likely were stolen by people wanting to sell the metal as scrap.  The monument has been vandalized on earlier occasions and was substantially renovated in 2007.

Ross said figuring out a restoration plan might take a few weeks.  How long the repairs take after that is yet unknown.


Should you stop by in the near future, take a moment to remember how irresponsible behavior of the few can impair the beauty of the city and the enjoyment of all -- in a world of supposedly intelligent creatures. 

----Fred Leeson

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Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Everything Will Be New at Jefferson High


Heading for the dumpster

The people spoke.  The Portland School Board listened.

  As a result, a brand new Jefferson High School will rise somewhere on the school’s 14-acre North Portland campus, and the welter of existing old buildings dating as early as 1909 will be scraped off.

 Jefferson community members didn’t like the idea of their 700 students being shipped off to the old Marshall High School deep in Southeast Portland for three years while the historic Jefferson building was being remodeled – as well as possible – with historic architectural standards in mind.

The change in plans was all the more dramatic since architects and planners had already spent many weeks trying to figure the best means of preserving the historic 1909 building and adding new additions to the south of it.

“What was more important was keeping the Jefferson community intact,” Chandra Robinson, a principal of Lever Architecture, told the Portland Historic Landmarks Commission. 

There are some other factors to keep in mind, as well.  A new building is expected to be less expensive than restoring the old school and adding new elements it would need.    Further a detailed study by the Architectural Resources Group found that Craftsman-era architectural details of the 1909 that had been plastered over during a 1950s renovation were too damaged to be restored.  The unfortunate 1950s work also destroyed much of Jefferson High’s original roofline.

Original Jefferson High

Attempts were made to see if Jefferson students could be housed on or near the Jefferson site while the original restoration plans unfolded. Options were studied for using portable classrooms and spaces at the old Kenton School and Portland Community College, but no combination of options proved feasible, Robinson said. 

There is adequate space on the Jefferson campus to complete a new building before demolishing the old structures.   But the switch in planning poses a puzzle for the landmarks commission, which had jurisdiction over the project because the school sits in the Piedmont Conservation District.

One option for the commission would be to recommend revision of the historic district boundaries so that the school no long sat within it.  However, doing so would remove the landmarks commission as a body to hold public hearings over the new design that the community likely would want to attend.

 Another option is to leave the boundaries alone and declare the old Jefferson building to be “non-contributing” as a historic resource because its condition has been extensively changed from the original.  This strategy would let the commission continue to have a public review of the new plans, whatever they turn out to be.

 A key challenge to the new design will be what to do about the football field and running track that faces on N. Killingsworth Street.  Locating the school on the athletic site would put it close to the North Portland Public Library and Portland Community College.  The athletic filed could be moved farther south on the campus, but the field was funded years ago with a public fund drive. 

 One assumes that the Jefferson community will offer some opinions. Firmly, perhaps.

 ---Fred Leeson

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Saturday, March 2, 2024

Rebuilding Keller Auditorium


(Henneberry Eddy Architects)

A citizen’s group blessed with resources, determination and clout hopes to convince the Portland City Council this summer that rebuilding an impressive new Keller Auditorium and adding a public plaza are vital keys to reinvigorating downtown Portland.

 The push to rebuild the city’s largest performing arts venue is headed by the Halprin Land Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that strives to preserve four Halprin fountains in Portland – including the large and famed Keller (nee Forecourt) Fountain that sits directly west of the auditorium.

 Under the conservancy’s plan, the auditorium would be structurally braced and enhanced with a bold new lobby, more restrooms and eating opportunities.  In addition, S.W. Third Avenue in front would be closed into a pedestrian plaza offering opportunities for outdoor events more direct involvement with the big – and sometimes roaring --fountain.

Scott Andrews, co-chair of the Halprin Conservancy, said the new Keller would be “a world class performing arts destination” – a destination, he said, “Portland desperately needs to get back on track.”

 Presentations will be made to the City Council next month about two other potential sites owned by Portland State University or within Lloyd Center’s boundaries.  Either the PSU or Lloyd Center options could be constructed while tenants such as Portland’s ballet and opera companies could continue operating at the Keller.


View from above Keller Fountain (Henneberry Eddy Architects)

Reconstructing the Keller would take 19 months, according to the conservancy’s estimates.  The Keller’s estimated construction budget of approximately $250 million would be less than building a new structure at one of the competing sites, and would be more environmentally friendly, Andrews said.  The City Council is expected to select a site possibly by late June.

The Halprin Conservancy has invested several years of time and money on the planning.  It hosted a design competition in 2018 that led the preferred new design with a bold, cantilevered addition in front.   The conservancy also partnered with the city on a seismic study to determine the best means of securing the building that dates to 1917.  It was remodeled most recently in 1967-68.

 So far, there appears to have been little discussion about what would happen to the Keller Auditorium block if one of the other sites is selected.  The dramatic Keller Fountain nearby was hailed as one of America’s greatest urban designs when it opened when it opened in 1970.

 From preservation perspective, it's important to recognize the context of the original fountain design.  It was intended to be a grand front door to the (then) Civic Auditorium, and to be a delight for viewers at almost all hours of the day.  It makes complete sense to keep the auditorium coupled with the dramatic fountain that was designed specifically to sit on the block facing the auditorium's frontage.  The Architectural Heritage Center’s advocacy committee has unanimously endorsed the “new Keller” plan.

 Sadly, the Portland Water Bureau and Bureau of Parks have had difficulty repairing a pump that circulates water at the fountain.  One hopes that the city can get it figured out.  Combined with the "new" Keller, the fountain would be an absolute "must" for visitors to enjoy.  

 ----Fred Leeson

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Sunday, February 25, 2024

Hard Times Come Again

Montgomery Park (nee Ward) circa 1927

Portland’s urban core clearly isn’t what it used to be.  A recent consultant’s report suggested that office vacancies will hit 40 percent this year, and it might be higher already with unexpired leases going unused.  Fewer workers downtown mean fewer business opportunities for others.

 A dramatic example is the nine-story Montgomery Park building in Norwest Portland, which sold for $255 million in 2019..It was flipped recently back to the lender for $37.7 million.  “The bargain price points to the woeful state of Portland’s commercial real estate market,” wrote Jeff Manning, an outstanding “Oregonian” business reporter.

Montgomery Park joins Jackson Tower, the J.K. Gill Building and the Loyalty Building as prominent office sites that have been turned back to their lenders without winning any alternative bids.  Clearly, big-money investors currently are keeping their wallets in their pockets..

The new entry won't happen

Swept way with the pandemic was a plan approved by the Portland Historic Landmarks Commission to revitalize the old Montgomery Ward building by adding a glassy new western entrance and several new retail and restaurant spaces.  Plans once approved by the commission for renovating four other historic sites in or near downtown also appear to be dead or on hold. (Notable examples include re-use proposals for the former Multnomah County Courthouse and First Church of Christ Scientist.)

For the most part, central cities evolve organically.  Offices bring workers downtown who eat lunch, drink coffee, go to bars and restaurants after work, and frequent nearby retail shops.  All those ancillary enterprises suffer and close when workers and shoppers disappear.

What also is lost is the communal experience Portlanders used to feel by shopping downtown at the major department stores, going to movie theaters and concerts.  As people become more entrenched and isolated on their cell phones and computers what Portland – and other cities – lose is a “sense of place” that makes a city feel different and special.   

What does the future hold?  The “pandemic-induced deterioration” described by one analyst does not appear to have speedy solutions.  Substantial numbers of workers have found it preferable to work from home, and internet-based shopping shows no signs of ebbing.   Downtown and its important historic buildings could take on much more of a “ghost town” feel unless smart minds can conceive of new ways to make the urban core vibrant again.

 Faced with the glut of new shopping opportunities in the suburbs, Portland more than 50 years ago launched a wide-ranging “Downtown Plan” aimed at retaining its urban importance.  Its major conclusions at the time led to the creation of Waterfront Park, the downtown transit malls and development regulations that sought to place taller buildings in the heart of the core – all good ideas at the time.

 Now it might be time to gather concerned citizens and smart minds from many specialties to undertake a new long-range plan, taking into consideration the unavoidable consequences of the current trends.

 What’s at stake is the loss of urban reputation that could lead someone speaking of Portland to borrow the famous line from Gertrude Stein:  “There is no there there.”  It would be a communal loss ranging beyond our pocketbooks. .    

 ---Fred Leeson

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Monday, February 19, 2024

Is this the 'Long Goodbye?'


Gone...soon to be forgotten?

Thousands of residents apparently responded when Portland officials asked late last year for responses to an internet survey  about whether to return historic statutes that had been illegally removed from city parks in 2020.

 Alas, now that the survey deadline has passed, the survey results evidently never will be disclosed.  Many people apparently objected to the bias they believed they saw and independent number-crunchers found that none of the answers met the standards of statistical significance.

 Thus the City Council is expected on Feb. 28 to wade into public review of a proposed two-page policy that clearly makes public impressions about diversity, inclusion and equity more important than someone’s historical significance.

 On the face of it, that means goodbye, Abe Lincoln; adios, Teddy Roosevelt; and farewell, George Washington.   You can review the proposed policy here:

 The policy tries to include some other options, like expanding the historical context for public figures who have come under attack for views that were not publicly prominent in their own eras.   There are people who think the issue of “presentism” of modern political correctness, so to speak, should not outweigh the historical significance of an important person.   The proposed policy includes a cumbersome review process for artworks that have been called into question by residents who feel offended by them, ultimately leading to a recommendation to the Portland City Council.

 But the overriding reason for disqualifying a work of public art is this: “The subject or impact of a piece of artwork is significantly at odds with (the) City’s values of antiracism and equity. 

 Compromises may be possible.  One idea being explored informally is the “president’s exception” that would allow the return of Lincoln and Roosevelt to their historic bases in the South Park Blocks, and moving George Washington to Washington Park.  (The Thomas Jefferson statue belongs to Portland Public Schools, so the school board would have jurisdiction.)

Experts who have studied the proposed city policy say it contradicts some other codified city planning regulations.  One requirement is that statues listed on the city’s own historic inventory would have to be reviewed by the Portland Historic Landmarks Commission.  The landmarks commission is scheduled to discuss this point at a meeting on Feb. 26.  Anyone interested in testifying at the Zoom meeting can sign up here:

 Just two days later, the City Council is scheduled to consider the proposed policy submitted by Commissioner Dan Ryan.  One can imagine that no speedy or lasting answer can be expected quickly.

 ----Fred Leeson

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Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Square one...again

 The subject of a heroic Portland architectural preservation “save” finds itself in limbo again thanks to the pandemic and disarray downtown.

The 1883 Ladd Carriage House, one of downtown’s last and most artistic wooden buildings, is now up for sale following the closure of the upscale Raven & Rose restaurant and bar near the end of 2021.  While its landmark status likely will save it from demolition, there is now way of knowing what its future holds until a new buyer takes control. 

Though its windows are now boarded up for protection, the building is still turn-key ready for use as a restaurant and bar.  But in its many earlier decades, the one-time horse and carriage barn also housed retail shops, a dance hall, architectural office, construction office and a law office.

The historic three-story building was threatened with demolition starting in 2004.  After considerable hand-wringing and advocacy by preservation advocates, the building was jacked up and moved three blocks where it sat in a parking lot in 2007 and 2008 while underground parking was constructed on its original site.   

Upon its return, the building needed a lot of restorative help.  A tremendous amount of time and treasure went into saving the building and converting it into a first rate restaurant,” said Paul Falsetto, an architect deeply involved in the project.  “I can only hope the eventual new ownership would continue with that use.”

Among old-building lovers, the carriage house is significant for its interesting design and exterior craftsmanship, as well as for its historic connections to downtown and to William S. Ladd, a pioneer businessman, banker, developer and early Portland mayor.  The glorified horse barn as built across what was then S.W. 7th Ave. (now Broadway) from Ladd’s 30-room mansion that was demolished in the 1920s.

Falsetto said the carriage house “displays its historic value to the city through its elaborate exterior visage, and the advantage of a restaurant use is that people can experience its interior as well. The second floor ‘hayloft’ is one of the great historic spaces of its era, with its original and unique truss work in full display.”

 Unlike the long-departed Ladd mansion, the carriage house was designed in the English Stick Style by architect Joseph Sherwin, a native of England.  It is Sherwin’s only known work in Portland. In its original guise, the structure included space for twelve horses, Ladd’s personal carriages, a hayloft, and residential quarters for the estate’s coachman and gardener. 

The Raven & Rose restaurant, which opened in 2011, was hurt economically by the pandemic and by homeless campers who set up tents along the Columbia Street frontage.  While Portland has made efforts to clean up the tent sites, downtown remains less populated during daytime and evening hours because many employees continue working from home instead of downtown offices.

Those of us who believe that vibrant urban centers mark a pinnacle of civilization have to wonder how downtown Portland and urban centers will survive in the years ahead.

 “For downtown Portland to regain its stature after a challenging past few years, we need our important buildings to return back to full life,” Falsetto says.  “A reenergized Ladd Carriage House would be a shining example of this, and show yet again that reinvigorated historic properties link past civic pride with positive hope for our city’s future.”

 By the way, the asking price is $3.5 million, should you be interested. Is it negotiable?  Likely so. You can see more images of the building at the real estate listing site here:

 ----Fred Leeson

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