Now that we are in the throes of the holiday shopping
season, the chief executive here at Building on History figured it was a good
time to recommend books that should interest anyone who cares about
architecture and Portland history.
You will note that one author is common to all of them,
William J. Hawkins III. A native of
Portland who is now into his eighth decade, Hawkins is an architect and
architectural historian who knows more Portland history in his pinky than most
of us will ever attain. For several
decades, including this very day, he has been the conscience of efforts to
preserve the best of Portland’s vintage buildings and city parks.
Classic Houses of
Portland, Oregon, 1850-1950. William
J. Hawkins III and William F. Willingham, 1999. 591 pages.
This large volume contains photographs and architectural
details of some 200 houses in the Portland region, including some grand old
mansions that fell to wreckers along the way.
Many interior photographs are included.
This is far more than a picture book, however. People
interested in learning about the many historical styles of residential
architecture will find descriptions photographs and drawings of 22 different
design categories, including lists of characteristics that lay people can use
to evaluate houses that interest them.
If nothing else, a reader must stand in awe of the incredible array of amazing houses that still grace out city.
The Legacy of Olmsted
Brothers in Portland Oregon. William
J. Hawkins, III. 2014. 198 pages.
While this book is
more about landscape design and parks, visits by the renowned Olmsted landscape
architecture firm to Portland starting in 1903 had a lasting impact on Portland
neighborhoods and the city park system.
Hawkins’ great uncle, Lester Leander Hawkins, helped escort John
Olmstead about the city in 1903 in a horse-drawn wagon, and served as a
prominent member of the Portland Park Board that implemented many of the
suggestions outlined by the 1903 Olmsted report.
The Olmsted firm laid out plans for the 1905 Lewis &
Clark Centennial Exposition, as well as mapping out a whole series of proposed
city parks and arterials that would connect them. The scenic Terwilliger Parkway also was an
element of the Olmsted plan, as well as another scenic route along Willamette
Boulevard that never received much formal attention.
On a later trip to Portland, the Olmsted firm laid out
streets in the Laurelhurst neighborhood and initiated plans Laurelhurst Park,
long considered one of the city’s most attractive public spaces. Several other park locations identified by the
Olmsteds were developed by the city in succeeding years. The
book also spells out direct and indirect influence of Olmstead street layouts
in several other Portland neighborhoods.
The Grand Era of
Cast-Iron Architecture in Portland. William
J. Hawkins III, 1976. 211 pages.
This heavily-illustrated book is an exhaustive inventory of
cast-iron buildings erected during a roughly 40-year span beginning slowly in
the 1850s and accelerating rapidly in the 1880s. For a time, Portland had the most outstanding
collection of cast-iron buildings on the West Coast and the largest collection
outside of New York City.
Hawkins’ research explains in detail the rise and fall of
the iron-fronted buildings, which can be considered in some ways as forerunners
of prefabricated buildings. The saddest
part of the book is an extensive number of photographs showing these
interesting buildings being demolished after World War II, mostly for the
creation of parking lots for automobiles.
If Portland still had these rows of early buildings, they
would be a foremost tourist attraction on the West Coast. This book helped start Portland’s interest in
architectural preservation that continues to this day.
Oregon. Richard Ellison Ritz,
2002. 462 pages.
This book is an alphabetized, biographical listing of
deceased architects who practiced in Oregon in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Ritz died before this historical resource was
finished, and William J. Hawkins III stepped in to complete this extensive
project and shepherd it to publication..
It is an excellent reference that lists notable buildings
whenever possible. Listings may run from
a mere few sentences to a few pages, depending on the importance of the
architect and amount of historical references left behind.
For better or worse,
the most viable way to find any of these books for purchase is through the
Seattle-based internet seller that starts with the capital “A.” You know, the company that makes billions but doesn't pay taxes.
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