Monthly Archives: January 2010

Update: Portland Firefighters Memorial

Someone recently started an online petition to encourage the preservation of the memorial. You can find out more here.

One of the best ways to protect the memorial from dismantling, is to have it listed in the National Register of Historic places. It takes a bit of work to get this done, but because the site has definite historic merit and integrity, it is a good candidate for such a listing. The Oregon State Historic Preservation Office agrees that this is a good candidate for a nomination, all that is needed is someone to take up the task.

Meanwhile, we’ve been told that a professional conservator has looked at the memorial and that it is certainly restorable.

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Filed under Historic Preservation, Local History

Repair First!

A recent blog post at Green Preservationist, got me thinking once again about preservation language, and also raised the question of how to promote the repair of our older homes rather than following the well-entrenched rip out and replace model.

How do we best encourage homeowners to think repair first before climbing aboard the remodel treadmill?

Windows are the most obvious example of a house part that can, in most instances, be repaired. This is especially true of older wood-framed windows, likely made from old-growth fir. They can be re-glazed, weatherstripped and the surrounds can be caulked. Preserving these original details, preserves the original character of the home and the original designer’s intent, and let’s face it, when we’re talking about houses constructed 50-100 years ago, we know that the architects and designers had intentions that do not take well to the use of vinyl or many other modern materials.

Likewise with interior details. I recently attended an open house for a fantastic Mid-Century Modern house that retained most of its original materials, including fantastic windows with built-in pull-down screens and bathrooms that had never been altered. I was aghast at the realtor who repeatedly suggested ideas like ripping out the baths, the kitchen, and replacing the windows. All of those details that were being extolled as needing replacement, were in fact, in great condition.

We desperately need to re-think how we approach homes, and look at them with a repair first mindset. If we continue to replace first, we will diminish our architectural heritage, but more importantly, the consumptive replacement mindset will not lead us to a sustainable future.

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Filed under Historic Preservation, Sustainability

All About Modernism

Many of you might already be aware that tonight is the Rose Quarter Development Project unveiling of the 95 or so suggestions for re-use of the Memorial Coliseum. It’s not too late to attend. More info is here.

In March, the Northwest Film Center will be screening two interesting films on Modernism. March 17th they will be showing Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman and on March 21st and 24th they will be screening Rem Koolhaas: A Kind of Architect. Both films should be interesting and useful in raising awareness about the significance of what we term the architecture of the “recent past”.

Standard Plaza (1963) Architects: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Further afield, the Bosco-Milligan Foundation/Architectural Heritage Center will be hosting a program on Modernism June 19th, in collaboration with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The details of the program are still being worked out, but the goal is again to point out how modern can definitely be historic and to engage. Stay tuned for more information as we get closer to the date.

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Filed under Events, Modernism + The Recent Past

Endangered: Portland Firefighters Memorial

According to today’s Oregonian, it looks like that little sliver of land at 18th and West Burnside might soon lose its Firefighters Memorial. This space may not seem like much, but in a sea of traffic and in the shadow of the Civic, the memorial park represents the only bit of solemnity for blocks. The memorial was reportedly designed by Portland architect E.F. Tucker and Paul Philipe Cret, a graduate of the École des Beaux-Arts  and designer of several war memorials around the U.S. and in Europe. The bronze bas-relief work is attributed to Avard Fairbanks – one of the most distinguished U.S. sculptors of the 20th century. If you are interested, a

Firefighters Cleaning Memorial in 1948

local group has started a Facebook group Save Portland Firefighters Parkhas formed in hopes of raising enough support to save the memorial where it is, rather than have it relocated -  in piecemeal fashion – to the east side of the Hawthorne Bridge. Shouldn’t this memorial have already been designated a local landmark?

The Firefighters Memorial - 1935

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Goings on over on SE Ankeny or What’s in a Zone Change?

The 1903 Pacific States Telephone & Telegraph    Building at 532 SE Ankeny is a fantastic piece of architecture in Portland’s Central East Side. The former home of the Sally Mack School of Dance, is recognized as a primary resource within the East Portland Grand Avenue Historic District. To the rear of the building, on SE 6th, is a modest little wood-framed Italianate building, dating to perhaps 1871, which would make it one of the oldest buildings on the east side of town. This building too is part of the historic district. In fact, these two structures represent the northeastern corner of the district – so what’s the big deal, they’re protected, right?

Recently the property owner applied to change the zoning, that if approved, would allow them to reduce the number of required parking spaces – among other things. Seems innocuous enough, until it was discovered that the owner’s intention is to move one or  more of these buildings to maximize the redevelopment potential. As of 12/31, the Bureau of Development Services recommended approval of the zone change.

This issue gets to the heart of something we are increasingly concerned about – something we call “truth in permitting”. While the property owner admitted that the zone change was a first step toward a redevelopment of the property, the zoning change request was not put before the Portland Landmarks Commission, who typically review development that involves designated historic buildings.

In fact this was the BDS response to our concerns:  “Information regarding the potential impacts to the historic district is not relevant to this review and therefore will not be discussed in the findings of the staff report.”

In a nut shell, even though a redevelopment has been suggested, it is looked at as a completely separate issue.  Neither Landmarks – nor anyone else for that matter – are given a voice on the “historic” issue, even though it will certainly lead directly to a Landmarks review once the actual development and building move is proposed. It seems that the more appropriate response would be for the BDS to notify all entities from the outset. It is just this sort of pigeon-holed review that increases animosity between area residents, developers, and the City.

We’re keeping our eyes open for what happens next, but we certainly hope that the buildings are some day rehabilitated and that they both remain part of the historic district of which they are integral components.

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