Saturday, December 23, 2023

Looking Back on 2023


Theater of Tomorrow

While some encouraging architectural preservation projects are currently in progress, 2023 was more notable for its losses than for completed successes.

 On the bright side, the former Oregon Theater, erected in 1926, has been returned to productive cultural use – after decades as a porn theater – as the new home of the Northwest Film Study Center.  It now bears the unwieldy name of PAM-CUT, with an associated title of Theater of Tomorrow.  (At least the latter makes sense.)

The thoroughly cleaned and brightened 376-seat theater will be the home of movies and live cultural entertainment, sponsored in conjunction with its corporate parent, the Portland Art Museum.  Saving the historic theater also preserves retail spaces fronting on the 3500 block of SE Division.  The best possible result in the preservation world is to restore an old building successfully to its original use.

The late Parkway Manor

On the downside, 2024 marked the demolition of the Parkway Manor, a charming Art Deco apartment building, later owned by Portland State University for student housing that faced the South Park Blocks.  PSU chose to let the building deteriorate over the years, until it could make the case that rehabilitation was too expensive.  The university has nothing in mind so far to replace it.  Thanks for the chain-link fence, PSU.

 Another loss was the closure of U.S. Bank’s historic and elegant banking floor in the historic building that once served as the bank’s headquarters.  At least the building designed by A.E. Doyle is still in good condition, and one hopes that a successful use can be found for the ornate main floor without compromising its aesthetic integrity.  One wonders that if the bank had not fled to Minneapolis many years ago whether management would have decided on closure. 

In its glory...

Back on the plus side, the owner of the magnificent but badly run-down neon sign marking The Palms motor hotel agreed to remove the sign, restore it and return it to the site when the motel is replaced with an apartment building.  The sign is a great example of 1950s exuberance when N. Interstate Avenue served as the main highway to and from Seattle.

 We finish with a win-loss scenario.  Heroic efforts by the Restore Oregon preservation organization to restore and find a new home for the former Jantzen Beach carousel finally met with success after several years.  Alas, the new home will be in The Dalles, not Portland.  It is unfortunate that Portland could not or would not find a location for it.

When a new building is completed to house the carousel, it will be another reason to visit the National Neon Sign Museum where it will reside.

 -----Fred Leeson

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you Fred for all you do year round to keep us informed. You are an important and insightful voice alerting us about historic preservation issues. We appreciate the time you take to share this information with all of us. Merry Christmas to you and may 2024 be a strong new era in preserving our precious cultural and architectural history.