Saturday, March 20, 2021

Harry Green House (Part 1)


Front Entrance

After years of vacancy, decline, intentional plundering and threat of demolition, one of East Portland’s largest and most luxurious mansions is undergoing what appears to be a deliberate, careful restoration.

 Originally known as the Harry and Ada Green House, this 17-room architectural confection comprises just over 10,000 square feet.  It perches on the northern edge of Laurelhurst Park on a sloping parcel seven times the size of a standard Portland residential lot.

The walls are stucco; the roof, tiled.  There are five brick chimneys and a towered dome over the central entrance, encountered after one passes through an ornate wrought iron entrance gate.  There is a semi-circular bath house and swimming pool.  The architectural style is called Mediterranean Revival or Spanish Eclectic.  Or, if you like, some combination of both. 

Completed in 1928, the impressive two-story structure with a basement ballroom is a reflection of the wealth and celebration of the Roaring 20s, which were soon to end.  As an example of the opulent era, three bedrooms were assigned to servants.

 The house was designed by Herman Brookman for Green, who was the second chief executive of Doernbecher Furniture Manufacturing Co., one of the largest furniture companies in America.  Its massive factory was located near N.E. 28th and Sandy Boulevard, less than a mile away from Green’s new home.

Brookman had been recruited to Portland from New York earlier in the decade to design a massive, English-inspired mansion for M. Lloyd Frank, which bore the name of Fir Acres.  The Lloyd mansion was an instant hit with Portland’s wealthy class; most of Brookman’s career became devoted to residential architecture.   Today the well-preserved Fir Acres is a part of the campus at Lewis & Clark College.

 Brookman’s Spanish/Mediterranean influence for Green’s mansion presumably came from the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco.  The exhibition buildings prompted new interests by architects in an era when revival of historical models motivated designs of many of the nation’s fanciest homes and buildings.

 “Every detail was carefully designed by Brookman -- from the overall form and massing of the building to the highly crafted interiors and detailed site design,” says National Register of Historic Places submission written by Carin Carlson, a Portland preservation architect, in 2013.  “Specialty craftsmen - such as metal artist Iohann Konrad Tuerck -- were commissioned for the elaborate wrought-iron work, wood carvings, stone and plaster castings, and light fixtures. Unique to this particular residence are the exotic details - including imported African faience tiles, Egyptian shell, leaf, and flower motifs, and Moorish patterns and forms.”

(National Register submission form)

 While decorative tile appears frequently both inside the Green house and on the exterior, the most memorable tiling is in the bathrooms.  The colors are dramatic, vivid and unforgettable.

 Fortunately, Brookman’s detail sketches and drawings have been preserved at the University of Oregon’s architecture library.  They will prove invaluable as the careful restoration work continues.  Fortunately, much of the bathroom tiles appear to be in good condition.

The history inside the Green house is not always pleasant.  We will speak more about that next week.  Suffice to say, after two ownerships the house in 2006 was acquired by a third owner who was not able to repair the house.  The kitchen was stripped to the studs and original light fixtures and hardware were sold.  By 2011, the ailing building became subject to foreclosure.

 The current owner is a limited liability company managed by Karla Pearlstein, a Portland historic preservation consultant with a history of careful, well-researched and detailed restoration projects.  She spent several years restoring the Italianate home of Gov. George Curry, Oregon’s last provisional governor before statehood.  Long before Pearlstein’s ownership, the house, which had been built in 1861, had been moved to the Multnomah neighborhood.

 In a subsequent major project, Pearlstein remodeled an early 20th-century firehouse in Northwest Portland into an interesting residence that attracted coverage by the Oregonian newspaper and won a restoration award from Restore Oregon in 2019.

 As with any thorough restoration, basics should be dealt with first.  City of Portland records reflect permits for mechanical, plumbing and electrical work at the Green house.  Repairs have been made to the roof. 

 The interesting work that lies ahead will be finding appropriate wall papers and lighting as Pearlstein tries to recapture the mansion’s original character.  Herman Brookman’s detailed notes and sketched likely will play an important role as that work unfolds.

Back door facing Laurelhurst Park


  1. Brookman added so much beauty to Portland’s housing stock.

  2. If I'm not mistaken, this house was on an AHC house tour...or perhaps Restore Oregon?. I KNOW I have been in that bathroom before. Also, if I'm not mistaken there is a "built-in" scales in the bathroom floor. I remember too that the kitchen was undergoing a complete "to the studs" remodel. I peaked behind the closed barrier (don't tell anyone) and saw the destroyed kitchen and thought what-a-shame. But who knows? Maybe what they eventually put in was more appropriate than what was removed...I was pleased to learn that Karla Pearlstein is tackling this project. If anyone can pull this magnificent house together it is her.