Thursday, December 30, 2021

Our Very Own Preservation Awards!

 After careful thought, the brain trust at Building on History is ending 2021 by announcing three Preservation Awards recognizing excellent work in the categories of private enterprise, public service and residential rehabilitation.

The purpose of the awards to honor good work of the people involved, and to celebrate the architectural and social advantages that preservation brings to our city.  Idealists among us also might hope that the recognition will inspire others faced with destroying a vintage building to consider finding new life for it, instead.  

 These are the first annual awards from Building on History because the brain trust was too dumb to think of it last year.  All three of these projects were completed during the COVID-19 pandemic that added additional burdens on restoration work.   Herewith the honorees:

Steeplejack Brewing


This project in the Sullivan’s Gulch neighborhood transformed a historic vacant church into a vibrant brewpub offering a creative food menu and a big variety of beers, many brewed on-site.  This outstanding effort checked several boxes showing why preservation is important:

--It saved a neighborhood landmark from demolition;

--It found a creative alternative use to provide new life for the building;

--It exemplified excellent work in faithfully restoring the façade, replacing the roof and creating an interesting interior while saving many of the interior design elements;

 From its inception, the building served four different congregations before the last one departed in 2019.  President William H. Taft attended cornerstone ceremonies in 1911, attracting a crowd of 20,000 to the neighborhood.  Dustin Harder and Brody Day, two beer-loving former college classmates who had dreamed of brewing their own someday, saved this building at virtually the last moment from being demolished to make way for a housing project.

It took amazing dedication and a substantial investment to pull off this daring enterprise in the midst of a pandemic that still shows no indication of a permanent end. 

 Henry Building

Central City Concern, a non-profit that provides housing and access to medical and other services to low-income tenants, housing, completed renovation of the six-story Henry Building, adding 20 more housing units – to 173 – and upgrading mechanical systems, respecting historic elements and adding pleasant communal space for tenants.

 Built in 1909, the Henry is Portland’s only structure in which “Tiffany-enameled” bricks were used on the façade.  The bright white bricks went through two stages of being enameled and then fired, no doubt adding to the expense but leaving an indelible impression.

 The building originally housed a bank and offices.  Central City took over the building in 1990.  The agency has an excellent reputation for saving and restoring a number of vintage Portland buildings for its social services mission.  It took true dedication and skill from a social service organization to cobble together multiple funding sources that made this project happen.

The Henry Building literally will be a bright spot in Portland's downtown for many years to come. 

 1923 English Cottage


This two-story Irvington home was the proverbial “fixer upper” when John McCulloch, one of Portland’s leading residential restoration experts, acquired it.  The upstairs had never been finished and many original elements of the main floor had been removed.

McCulloch used his expert eye for historical interior details to replace some that had been moved and to recreate others.  He revamped the second floor so that it could be used as a separate residence and filled it with innovative cupboards and closets.  He refashioned the yard to include an outdoor video screen and sunken fire pit.

The rolled eaves are a nod to thatched roofs on the original English cottages.  McCulloch went to far as to consider applying a thatched roof, but backed off considering the hassles of importing thatch from England and squabbling with Portland building inspectors.  Instead, he used cedar shingles; the curved ones were soaked in water and hand-formed.  Overall, the house gleams inside and out like never before. 

 ---Fred Leeson

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  1. For those of us suffering from sticker shock at the cost of post-pandemic restaurant meals, please note that Steeplejack Brewery has an extensive happy hour menu where you can experience the delights of this magnificently restored building without breaking the bank. The food is quite good too!

  2. photographed the Henry often in the 70's as as an undiscovered gem. Worried about it's survival.

  3. This should be an annual award from the "smart" folk who write 'Building on History' (Fred). Perhaps Janet Eastman, Oregonian'Oregon Live might write an article to acknowledge this first annual award for these good works that benefit our community. Excellent choices for acknowledgement which give great hope for future restoration projects in 2022. Happy New Year.