Monthly Archives: November 2009

A Question of Character

Last night, the Portland City-Wide Land Use Group, a group predominately made up of land-use representatives from Portland’s 95 neighborhood associations, met to discuss the issue of Neighborhood Character and how it might be better defined in the Portland Plan. This is certainly a great issue to have on the table and it is our hope that many people will contribute to the discussion in the coming months.

For its part, the City has a definition for “desired character” already written into the thick volume of zoning code language also known as Title 33.

Here’s that definition:  “The preferred and envisioned character (usually of an area) based on the purpose statement or character statement of the base zone, overlay zone, or plan district. It also includes the preferred and envisioned character based upon any adopted area plans or design guidelines for an area.”

The first thing one might notice is that there does not appear to be any consideration of existing conditions in a given area. Instead, the emphasis is on “preferred and envisioned” or what folks at the City might want an area to be, whether it has any of those characteristics to begin with or not.

So here’s where you can help us help the City. If you have a personal take on what neighborhood character means to you or how you would define it, please post your comment to this blog post or email it to me: .

There’s no need to share your name if you don’t want to, but please do let us know what neighborhood you live in, so we have some point of reference when we relay your comments.

Thanks and have a Happy Thanksgiving!




Filed under Historic Preservation, Infill Development, Local History, Modernism + The Recent Past, Sacred Spaces, Schools, Sustainability

Storm Windows, Tax Credits, and Why You Should Keep Your Original Windows

Lost in all of the hype tossed around by the multi-paned vinyl window industry is the fact that storm windows may also qualify for federal tax credits. According to the Energy Star folks, storm windows may qualify for up to a $1,500 federal tax credit.  What better way to preserve one of the most character-defining features on most homes?

Ok, so a tax credit sounds good, but why should I keep my old windows in the first place?

First of all, a properly maintained single pane wood window combined with weatherstripping and a storm window can achieve energy efficiency similar to that of new windows – likely for less cost too.

Older wood windows can also be repaired in most instances, whereas replacement windows for the most part cannot. What a huge waste of materials if you have to throw a whole sash away for what should be a minor repair.  In addition, older wood windows were often constructed of old-growth timber, meaning the wood is denser and more durable than modern materials.

A final thought is that of appearance. Original windows are one of the most defining components in any style of architecture.  Once those originals are gone, it is difficult to recapture that feeling and integrity.

There is a wealth of window and other energy-saving information in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Weatherization Guide.

Check it out!

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Filed under Historic Preservation, Sustainability

Historic Preservation and the Portland Plan

Starting this evening, the City of Portland is launching a series of new Portland Plan workshops and they want your input. Our hope is that all of these conversations include the issue of historic preservation and how preserving the fabric and character of our traditional neighborhoods is one component of a sustainable future. We will certainly be adding our 2 cents to the discussions, but we certainly encourage other preservation-minded people to participate as well.

It is also important that these discussions acknowledge the many areas on the outskirts of the city, both on the east and west sides, that deserve recognition as  important to the history of the city. This includes post World War II housing in the Parkrose, David Douglas, and the Hillsdale areas.

The Bosco-Milligan Foundation/Architectural Heritage Center is planning a panel discussion for late March on Historic Preservation and the Portland Plan, to hopefully compile ideas and suggestions for supporting preservation as the Portland Plan process moves forward.  Stay tuned for more details.

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Filed under Events, Historic Preservation, Infill Development, Sustainability

Portland Public Schools Releases Historic Building Assessment & Marysville School Burns

As I was preparing a post about Portland Public Schools and their recent Historic Building Assessment, I found out that Marysville School at SE 77th & Raymond was on fire. According to preliminary reports, the school was badly damaged if not entirely gutted. Not exactly the way I wanted to start our new blog. A sad day indeed.

The good news is that Portland Public Schools has recently completed the survey of all of their school buildings district-wide. So if you are interested in school building in your neighborhood or anywhere else in the city for that matter, we encourage you to check out the PPS website.

It is clear from this report that a number of school buildings are eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Schools that met this standard, include Winterhaven (Brooklyn), James John, Franklin High School and, much to my dismay, Marysville. A number of schools however, were seen as either  not significant enough or not retaining enough of their historic integrity for designation.

The Historic Building Assessment is useful and informative, but one thing it is lacking is consideration of what these buildings actually mean to the community. It is hard to define social and cultural connections in such a study and that wasn’t really the purpose of the project anyway. But this is why it is important to be proactive in preserving our neighborhood schools. The time to pursue preservation and ongoing use of our historic school buildings should come long before calls for demolition even begin.


Filed under Historic Preservation

Welcome to Portland Preservation!

AHC Dusk Exterior

The Architectural Heritage Center located at 701 SE Grand. Photograph by Lincoln Barber

With this inaugural post, the Bosco-Milligan Foundation / Architectural Heritage Center has significantly expanded our historic preservation technical assistance and advocacy work. Thanks to a matching grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, we have created this blog to keep people better informed and to expand participation in historic preservation issues and events around the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area.

We will use this site to update you about emerging preservation issues in communities including the City of Portland, and Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington counties. If you are aware of a preservation issue in your neighborhood or community and want to share your interest or concerns with us, please contact Val Ballestrem or Cathy Galbraith. Click on the Contact Us tab above for more information.

Our goal is to update this site regularly and to demonstrate that historic preservation is not just about preserving the past, it is also about conserving our traditional communities and neighborhoods for all of us and for future generations.  Thanks for reading and we hope to hear from you!


Val Ballestrem, Education Manager, Bosco-Milligan Foundation

Cathy Galbraith, Executive Director, Bosco-Milligan Foundation


Filed under Historic Preservation, Infill Development, Local History, Modernism + The Recent Past, Sacred Spaces, Schools, Sustainability