Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Square one...again

 The subject of a heroic Portland architectural preservation “save” finds itself in limbo again thanks to the pandemic and disarray downtown.

The 1883 Ladd Carriage House, one of downtown’s last and most artistic wooden buildings, is now up for sale following the closure of the upscale Raven & Rose restaurant and bar near the end of 2021.  While its landmark status likely will save it from demolition, there is now way of knowing what its future holds until a new buyer takes control. 

Though its windows are now boarded up for protection, the building is still turn-key ready for use as a restaurant and bar.  But in its many earlier decades, the one-time horse and carriage barn also housed retail shops, a dance hall, architectural office, construction office and a law office.

The historic three-story building was threatened with demolition starting in 2004.  After considerable hand-wringing and advocacy by preservation advocates, the building was jacked up and moved three blocks where it sat in a parking lot in 2007 and 2008 while underground parking was constructed on its original site.   

Upon its return, the building needed a lot of restorative help.  A tremendous amount of time and treasure went into saving the building and converting it into a first rate restaurant,” said Paul Falsetto, an architect deeply involved in the project.  “I can only hope the eventual new ownership would continue with that use.”

Among old-building lovers, the carriage house is significant for its interesting design and exterior craftsmanship, as well as for its historic connections to downtown and to William S. Ladd, a pioneer businessman, banker, developer and early Portland mayor.  The glorified horse barn as built across what was then S.W. 7th Ave. (now Broadway) from Ladd’s 30-room mansion that was demolished in the 1920s.

Falsetto said the carriage house “displays its historic value to the city through its elaborate exterior visage, and the advantage of a restaurant use is that people can experience its interior as well. The second floor ‘hayloft’ is one of the great historic spaces of its era, with its original and unique truss work in full display.”

 Unlike the long-departed Ladd mansion, the carriage house was designed in the English Stick Style by architect Joseph Sherwin, a native of England.  It is Sherwin’s only known work in Portland. In its original guise, the structure included space for twelve horses, Ladd’s personal carriages, a hayloft, and residential quarters for the estate’s coachman and gardener. 

The Raven & Rose restaurant, which opened in 2011, was hurt economically by the pandemic and by homeless campers who set up tents along the Columbia Street frontage.  While Portland has made efforts to clean up the tent sites, downtown remains less populated during daytime and evening hours because many employees continue working from home instead of downtown offices.

Those of us who believe that vibrant urban centers mark a pinnacle of civilization have to wonder how downtown Portland and urban centers will survive in the years ahead.

 “For downtown Portland to regain its stature after a challenging past few years, we need our important buildings to return back to full life,” Falsetto says.  “A reenergized Ladd Carriage House would be a shining example of this, and show yet again that reinvigorated historic properties link past civic pride with positive hope for our city’s future.”

 By the way, the asking price is $3.5 million, should you be interested. Is it negotiable?  Likely so. You can see more images of the building at the real estate listing site here: https://www.loopnet.com/Listing/1331-SW-Broadway-St-Portland-OR/28306478/

 ----Fred Leeson

 Join Building on History’s email list by writing “add me” to fredleeson@hotmail.com


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