Saturday, August 26, 2023

What's Next?

By the time wealthy entrepreneurs can afford to build their mansions, they often don’t have many years left to enjoy them.  

 That certainly was the case of the Pittock Mansion, completed in 1914 for Oregonian newspaper publisher Henry Pittock, who died in 1919.  Same with the imposing Robert F. Lytle house, built in Irvington in 1912 as a summer residence for the wealthy Washington state timber owner, who died only four years later.

Then what happens?

After years of decline, the Pittock Mansion eventually was acquired by the City of Portland as a museum and event space.  What’s to become of the Irvington mansion, often called Portland’s White House, remains to be seen.

It is now for sale with an asking price of nearly $3 million, should you be interested.  You’d be buying a two-story Colonial Revival/Mediterranean style house with 14 rooms, oodles of excellent original interior details, a separate remodeled carriage house and lots of interesting history.

One answered puzzle is why the uber-wealthy Lytle chose the flatlands of Irvington for his mansion, when Portland’s upper crust residents were dotting the Southwest and Northwest Portland hills and Northeast Portland’s Alameda ridge with mansions that featured glorious views from on high.  While Irvington grew into a stable, middle-class neighborhood, nothing among its 2,800 properties rivals the Lytle house.

The Lytle design is the only known work of David L. Williams, a son of the much more historically prominent Warren H. Williams.  The elder Williams designed two Italianate houses that survive for Morris Marks, a 19th century shoe merchant, and the carpenter-gothic Old Church that survives as a concert venue.

 After Lytle’s death, the house was owned by William P. Hawley, a paper-making consultant who built the huge (and now gone) Hawley Pulp and Paper Co. at the Willamette Falls in Oregon City.  Another subsequent owner was Harvey Dick, who is well-remembered for turning the old Hoyt Hotel into a rollicking restaurant and nightclub venue in the 1960s.

 The Lytle house’s history then became more muddled.  One prospective owner wanted to turn it into a wedding venue, but neighbors objected.  It is said to have operated for at least a few years as a women’s dress shop, apparently without benefit of a city permit.

 Starting in the early 1980s, successive owners made sensitive improvements and operated it as the Portland White House Bed & Breakfast, but a third owner got clobbered by the pandemic and decided to sell.

 In 2021, a high-tech person from Berkeley bought it for $2.58 million and returned it to a single-family residence.  Maintenance still appears to be good. Now, however, the owner is moving to Europe and put the house on the market a few months ago for $3 million.  Hot as Portland’s housing market is said to be, nobody was lining up to offer $3 million.  The asking price is now $2.895 million.

 Pictures of the interior are available here:

 Using the property as a business requires a conditional use permit from the City of Portland.  The local neighborhood association will pay close attention to any conditional use application.

 ----Fred Leeson

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



  1. David Williams may have done more notable architectural work than you give him credit for here. Perhaps the work closest in spirit to the Lytle House is a mansion which replicated the Lytle House almost exactly. It was commissioned by Clarissa Inman who bought this house soon after Lytle died. In the 1920s, looking to join her well-heeled compatriots in the West Hills, she had David Williams design what was nearly an exact copy of this house up on Cumberland Drive. The main difference from the original was the somewhat abbreviated copy of the Roman Spanish Steps leading up to the front door of her new house which sits proudly on the uphill side of the street.

  2. Your knowledge no doubt exceeds mine. I relied on the "Architects of Oregon" volume that lists only the Lytle house as an identifiable achievement of David Williams. .

  3. Just wanted to add a couple of other owners of the Lytle House to the list. Robert Lytle transferred ownership of the house to developer/architect/builder Richard Wassell in December 1914 as part of his payment for the purchase of Wassell's Royal Arms Apartments at NW 19th and Lovejoy. Lytle bought the Royal Arms as a $165,000 surprise Christmas gift to his wife. Wassell quickly flipped the house to another timber owner, R. D. Inman, so he could fund his next project--Tudor Arms Apartments.