Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Good News in Northwest Portland


(Hartshorne-Plunkard Architecture)

One year ago, demolition of a notable landmark church in Northwest Portland loomed as a possibility as its owners looked desperately for a buyer.

One year later, the former First Church of Christ, Scientist now looms as one of Portland’s most notable preservation successes.  Under plans approved by the Portland Historical Landmarks Commission, the 1909 beaux-arts structure at 1819 NW Everett should be painstakingly restored and paired with a new five-story hotel behind it. 

 Though the two buildings will not physically touch, the three-story historic church will become an accessory of the hotel, containing a lounge, coffee shop, event space and spa for the 80-room hotel to be built on a quarter-block parking lot at the rear of the church.

 Finding adaptable uses for old landmarks that have outlived their original purposes is one of the toughest challenges in the preservation world.  That process is even tougher when the landmark is a church that once held up to 1100 parishioners for Sunday services.

Preservation of the church building will include earthquake bracing, repair or replacement of deteriorated stonework, a new roof and full renovation of large, leaded windows of opalescent glass that dominate three public facades of the building.

(Hartshorne-Plunkard Architecture)

The hotel, with its front door at the corner of NW 19th and Flanders St., will be finished in stucco with gentle does of historic European architectural details.  Chicago architect Andrew Becker said the hotel’s design was intended to be sympathetic to the era of the church without trying to be flashier than the historic building.  The final design was a toned-down version from plans submitted a few months ago for an advisory hearing.

 Both buildings will be outfitted with roof-top terraces that will give visitors outstanding views of downtown Portland.

Landmarks commission members lauded detailed plans for fixing the run-down church while finding a successful new life for it.  “I’m so thrilled this building has a future,” said Commissioner Peggy Moretti.  Adding a religious flourish, she added, “Hallelujah!”  Commissioner Matthew Roman suggested that seismic additions at the church could become a model for retrofitting many of Portland’s old, unreinforced masonry buildings.

The First Church of Christ Science left the building more than 50 years ago as its membership declined.  The building served subsequently as a community center, a home for several nom-profit agencies and later as a theatrical school for children.

Sale of the building and its parking lot to a Las Vegas development company has been held in abeyance until the development plans were approved.  After the commission’s unanimous approval, Becker, the architect, said, “We are anxious to move as quickly as we can.”

-----Fred Leeson

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