Saturday, April 29, 2023

Remembering Bosco and Milligan


You are probably too late to buy the grand, 138-year old High Victorian Italianate residence on NW Hoyt St., even if you were willing to pay more than the $1.125 million asking price.

 The well-preserved architectural gem is one of Portland’s last grand Italianate houses, many of which flourished in the city’s most elegant turn-of-the-century neighborhoods.  Portland’s wet weather and development trends eventually spelled doom for these carefully-crafted wooden marvels.

 This house is notable aside from its architectural charm and its lengthy home for a pioneer Portland butcher turned stockman, Joseph Bergman.  It was also the last home of Ben Milligan and Jerry Bosco, two of Portland’s early architectural preservation activists and artifact collectors.


From the late 1950s to their deaths in the late 1980s, Bosco and Milligan bought old houses and restored them in Southeast Portland, and spent countless hours retrieving more than 20,000 architectural artifacts from houses and buildings being torn down during those years.

 One of their last real estate purchases included the badly-deteriorated, two-story West’s Block at 701 SE  Grand Ave.   Built in 1883 as a store with housing on the second floor, the building had devolved to a strip club on the ground floor and uninhabitable space above a hundred years later.

 Thanks to a bequest in their wills and long, hard work from many friends, the West Block eventually was restored as the Architectural Heritage Center, which is owned by the Bosco-Milligan Foundation.  The center now houses a small fraction of their artifact collection, including dozens of historic pieces of stained glass.  The building also houses exhibits and offers lectures aimed at Portland’s architectural history and preservation.

 Philip Austin knew Milligan and Bosco during their collecting days and their final years at the Hoyt Street house.  “I was in there a lot, especially after they died,” he said.  “When I was working on cleaning out the house they had two of the bedrooms for storage, a front bedroom was the trunk room full of old trunks full of stuff, and a back bedroom had shelving with boxes filled with things.  In the basement were stain-glass windows and other stuff.  They had put in some ceiling medallions that they made and installed in the front parlors.

 Austin has looked at the photographs in the recent realty listings.  “It has been upgraded a lot since they were there,” he says.  While the interior shows many tasteful 21st Century changes, the exterior has been beautifully preserved. 

 As well it should have.  Having been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1983, any changes to the exterior would have been carefully regulated.

 ----Fred Leeson

Join Building on History’s email list by writing “add me” to


Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Progress on Restoring the Elk Fountain and Statue


Despite a unanimous Portland City Council decision 11 months ago, there has been little public discussion about restoring the historic David P. Thompson elk statue and fountain that was damaged and then removed after public protests in 2020.

Obviously, however, there has been talk and activity in the background aimed at rebuilding the fountain and elk pedestal at its historic location on S.W. Main Street.

 The evidence became clear at a City Council work session on April 10 for the 2023-2024 municipal budget.  The non-profit Portland Park Foundation proposed to raise funds to pay for construction drawings for the restoration project, if the city promises to allocate $1.5 million for construction costs.

 The $1.5 million presumably would come from Water Bureau revenues, given that the Water Bureau is charged with rebuilding the fountain.  The Parks Bureau will be in charge of replacing the elk statue.

 Mary Ruble, the foundation’s treasurer, said $70,000 in commitments already has been raised.  Randy Gragg, the foundation’s executive director, said a crowd-funding campaign would begin if the City Council assures construction costs. “We anticipate widespread approval” by citizens, he said.  The total estimated cost of design and construction drawings is $156,000. 

If the plan comes to fruition, the elk and its fountain would be restored sometime in 2024. 

 Timing is critical.   A new form of city government takes power in 2025, and there is no guarantee that a new, 12-member City Council would carry out a resolution adopted by the five-member council in May, 2022.

The fountain and statue were given to the city in 1900 by David P. Thompson, an early pioneer and one-time Portland mayor who also was a founder of the Oregon Humane Society.

 While it would be inappropriate to assume that City Council reconstruction funding is assured, three of the five council members ---Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioners Mingus Mapps and Dan Ryan -- referred favorably to the fountain in their comments during the budget session.  Wheeler said the elk “symbolically has a great deal of importance to the people of the city.” He said its restoration be a welcome sign of downtown recovery.

 Mayor Ted Wheeler is expected to produce a final proposed budget in mid-May, when it will be sent to the City Council for final approval in June.

---Fred Leeson

 Join Building on History’s mailing list by writing “add me” to