Friday, July 1, 2022

Going, Going...Soon to be Gone


Portland State University has filed its intention to tear down the Parkway Manor, a 90-year-old former apartment building, now used for student housing,  that faces the South Park Blocks at 1609 S.W. Park.

 Likewise, the university plans to demolish the Harder House, a one-time residence long ago converted  to offices that sits to the rear of Parkway Manor.  The demolitions will open a half block for future development.  “We have not released any plans for this 1/2 block, but it would likely be a new academic or residential building, depending on future need,” said Jason Franklin, director of the campus planning office.

The quarter-block Parkway Manor site is important because it is a public face on one of Portland’s most scenic, peaceful, charming urban spaces.  The Parkway is not a designated landmark, but is listed on the city’s historic resources inventory.  As a result, PSU must provide a 120-day window before demolition in case a buyer or someone comes up with a plan to save the building or move it.  Since the land is owned by the state university system, any option besides demolition is moot.

 Parkway Manor was one of two apartments facing the South Park Blocks designed by the Portland firm of Bennes and Herzog in 1931.  The other is the Jeanne Manor two blocks north at 1431 SW Park.

A PSU framework plan adopted in 2010 suggests that new buildings on the Park Blocks will be smaller than in other parts of the campus in deference to its park setting.  In past decades, the Portland Design Commission has paid rigorous attention to new buildings facing the Park Blocks, in an attempt to retain their calm, green, pedestrian-friendly ambiance.  One hopes the same close scrutiny will be given to whatever new building PSU proposes. 

PSU has served preservation in the past by restoring and finding new uses for Shattuck Hall, a former elementary school, and Lincoln Hall, which started life as Lincoln High School.  The framework plan makes a reference to historic buildings when it states, “While substantial new development will occur within the expanded University District, Portland State recognizes that historic resources are valuable cultural assets that contribute to the University District and, as such, should be protected.”

 That was not the case at Parkway Manor, which contains 41 apartments and 13 single rooms.  It has been victimized by deferred maintenance, including decommissioning of the elevator serving a five-story building.


 Both the Parkway Manor and Jeanne Manor were designed in a Zig Zag Moderne style, which falls into the larger Art Deco realm.  These buildings replaced grander mansions that earlier lined the South Park Blocks.  Their brick facades, attractive entrances and human scale helped create the atmosphere of gentle urbanity that has remained along the South Park Blocks for the intervening decades.  These graceful older buildings set the context for newer ones -- also heavily relying on complimentary brick facades – added in the 1980s with Design Commission scrutiny.

 Whatever firm designs the new PSU building, or buildings as the case may be, faces a heavy challenge.  People who care about Portland’s urban environment need to be watching carefully and speaking out, if necessary.

 Meanwhile, it is a shame that a building erected with quality design and materials lasts only 90 years in our modern throw-away society. We should know better – and so should PSU.

----Fred Leeson

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  1. Not every building needs to be saved. I'm ok with turning into an academic building. It's a college campus and most of the other buildings have already been removed. We need to support and grow our local university. So sorry, I disagree with you on this one.

  2. So sad these lovely buildings arent saved. My grandmother lived at the Jeanne Manor for years, it had beautiful fixtures and amazing walk in closets, everything was trimmed with wood finishes. Nothing like the low quality builder grade finishes used in modern construction. Once they are gone they will never be recreated. Very sad indeed.