Absalom Hallock and Portland’s Oldest (Known) Building – UPDATED

A.B. Hallock and Z.H. Webber ad from the very first issue of the Oregonian, December 4, 1850. Courtesy of University of Oregon Historic Oregon Newspapers program.

Tonight, the Architectural Heritage Centerwill be hosting a special event at Portland’s oldest known building – The Hallock-McMillan Building on SW Naito at Oak Street. The circa 1857 building is in the midst of renovations under the new ownership of John Russell, who also owns the adjacent historic buildings. Program attendees will get a chance to see inside the building and the neighboring Dielschneider building, as well as have the chance to take a 30 minute walking tour of the immediate area. Refreshments will be served and there are even door-prizes. You can still purchase tickets for the event at the AHC’s website or call them 503-231-7264. Tickets can also be purchased at the door (cash or check only).

So who was Absalom Hallock?

Hallock has often been touted as Portland’s first professional architect. That is to say, he called himself an architect, during a time when there were no licensing requirements for architects in Portland. He has been attributed with designing Portland’s first brick building, constructed in 1853 for Portland pioneer William S. Ladd.

A.B. Hallock ad from the Umpqua Weekly Gazette, May 12, 1855 - courtesy of University of Oregon Historic Oregon Newspaper program.

As with many of Portland’s early power brokers, Hallock was also a local politician, serving on Portland’s city council from 1857 until 1873. During this time he also acted as street commissioner, city surveyor, council president, and even volunteer firefighter. A December 4, 1900 Oregonian article, refers to Hallock as a “political boss” who “came near running the city.” After retiring in 1874, Hallock moved to the Tillamook area where he lived until his death in November 1892. He was buried at Lone Fir Cemetery.

Hallock and McMillan Building circa 1858

To date, little else has been written about Hallock’s work as an architect. He is said to have designed at least 18 early Portland brick buildings, as well as the second Washington County Courthouse, in Hillsboro (1852). Perhaps some earnest Portland historian will recognize the opportunity to further research Hallock’s career, because clearly he was a significant player in the development of early Portland.

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3 Comments

Filed under Events, Historic Preservation

3 responses to “Absalom Hallock and Portland’s Oldest (Known) Building – UPDATED

  1. Cat

    I did find a small bio piece on him, though you may have seen it, in a book called “Porland OR, Its History and builders…Vol. 3″ by Joseph Gaston. It did mention one other building by name, though I didn’t take it down so it may be the Ladd building that you have. Fascinating information! If I come across anything more, will pass it on.

  2. Cat

    In “Classic Houses of Portland, 1850-1950″, there is a house built for The Ainsworth family in Mt. Pleasant, listed as being “probably planned by Hallock” and that when the family moved to Portland in 1859, Hallock designed a new home for them, finished in 1862, though it didn’t give an address. Hope this helps!

  3. Pingback: 2011 in Review – and in Rhyme | Portland Preservation

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