Monthly Archives: June 2010

Remember the Past – and Have Fun While You’re at It

Too often we get caught up in the day to day trappings of what is being lost in Portland, so it’s refreshing from time to time to be able to take a breath and explore Portland’s rich history in ways that are interesting and fun.

If you aren’t familiar with them, there are a number of interesting Portland (and Oregon) web-based history sites that are fun to read and include lots of great images and historic information.  Check out these sites below, you might just be reminded of some nugget of local history forgotten long ago.

Cafe Unknown – local historian Dan Haneckow’s great blog dedicated to little-known Portland histories.

Vintage Portland – Daily images of Portland from days gone by.

Lost Oregon – Documents the recent past of Portland and Oregon.

Dead Memories Portland – Facebook Group – A very fun Facebook page that invites everyone to share their memories and photos of bygone Portland. Lots of fun if you are a longtime Portland area resident.

The Oregon Encyclopedia – A great general information site about Oregon’s rich history and culture. The site is growing all the time, so there is always something new to read.


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PSU Gets Demolition Permit for Apartment Buildings

Last month PSU dismantled one of the few remaining Victorian era houses in the path of their so-called “progress”. Now the City recently issued demolition permits for the apartment buildings at 506-518 SW College. Coming soon will be a 16 story student housing building that will erase the entire block except for the small  privately owned house on the Jackson side of the block.

As with the previous demolition of the old System Science building, these buildings are not and never were major examples of a particular architectural style, nor do they (apparently) have any major historical significance, but there are other issues at play here that are being given little or no consideration by the school, and for that matter, the City.

First of all, there are very few buildings in this part of the city that reflect the original flavor of the neighborhood. No one is suggesting to preserve everything, but when there are only a few vintage buildings left, perhaps they should be given some sort of protection as they represent the last vestiges (in this part of town) of early Portland history. When it’s all gone, it’s gone.

Secondly, in this era of such  strong focus on sustainability, it is peculiar that PSU – which touts its sustainable efforts ad nauseam – should take the approach of clearing out anything that stands in the path of their expansion. Couldn’t at least the 4-story apartment building at 5th and College be integrated into the new building project? After all the greenest building is the one that is already built, and that apartment building has been there for around 100 years. Such a project would provide a fine example of mixing the old with the new, something that future generations of university students – some who may even be part of  PSU’s architecture program – could appreciate.

Metro has been promoting the concept of making use of what we already have. Perhaps it’s time PSU took note of this. All it takes is a little creativity and the will to do what is right to preserve the architectural history of our fine city.

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Church of Scientology purchases Sherlock Building

The Church of Scientology recently purchased the historic Sherlock Building, located at the corner of SW 3rd and Oak. The building sold for $6.4 million and was purchased from the Seattle-based Urban Renaissance Group. This is the second historic structure acquired by the Church of Scientology in Portland. In 2008, the church purchased the Stevens Building, but the interior of the historic structure proved too difficult to work with. The church planned to build a chapel in the Stevens Building, but the interior walls could not be knocked down. The open floor plan of the Sherlock Building, however, would accommodate such a chapel. The church listed the Stevens Building for sale this year with an asking price of $4.95 million, down from its purchase cost of $5.38 million.

Construction of the Sherlock Building began in 1893 by the Northwest Loan & Trust Company for the Forbes & Breeden Co., a furniture business. When Northwest Loan & Trust Company went out of business, William Sherlock, an Irish-born Portland businessman, acquired the building and oversaw the completion of its construction.

The building was designed by F. Manson White, an English-born architect who first came to Portland in 1888 to work with the firm McCaw & Martin. By 1892 White established his own practice, which continued until his retirement in 1933. In addition to the Sherlock Building, White also designed the Imperial Hotel (1894), the Auditorium Building (1895), Seaside’s City Hall (1914) and the Flatiron Building (1917).

The Sherlock Building stands as one of Portland’s most noteworthy late 19th Century structures and one of the first Chicago-style buildings in the city. The building contains both Romanesque and Chicago School architectural elements. Over the years, tenants of the Sherlock Building have included the popular nightclub the Embassy Club, various retail and service businesses, and currently Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.

The Sherlock Building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. In 1980, the edifice was saved from possible demolition when the architectural firm ZGF Partnership moved its office into the building.

The Church of Scientology plans to renovate the building and undertake major seismic upgrades to the structure.

Source: Daily Journal of Commerce, “Church of Scientology buys Sherlock Building,” 8 June 2010

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Irvington Moving Forward with Historic District Nomination

The nomination of the Irvington Historic District is moving closer to submission to the National Register of Historic Places. According to Fred Leeson’s article in today’s Oregonian, only a few changes are expected in the nomination, including minor boundary revisions and additional historic context. The proposed historic district includes approximately 2,800 buildings, mainly homes constructed in the first half of the twentieth century. Irvington is recognized as an early suburban neighborhood, built along streetcar routes. The neighborhood’s original design is attributed to Elizabeth Irving, wife of a boat captain and owner of half the original donation land claim.

The Portland Historic Landmarks Commission has recommended that newer buildings along the northern stretches of NE Broadway be omitted from the district. The commission also suggested the National Register nomination include historic plat maps and the addition of information pertaining the streetcars that once serviced Irvington.

The boundaries of the proposed historic district lie between NE Broadway and Fremont Streets and 7th and 27th Avenues. It is possible that the district will be placed on the National Register before 2011.

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Historic Chaucer Apartments Will Undergo Renovation

The Chaucer Apartments, located at SW 10th Avenue, will soon receive a $1.5 million renovation, restoring much of its historic character. Originally known at the Order of Odd Fellows Building, the structure was designed by German-born architect Ernest Kroner in 1924. The Odd Fellows sold the building in 1980 and it was converted to apartments the following year.

According to Fred Leeson’s recent Oregonian article, renovation plans include replacing rusted steel-framed windows with new ones that resemble the originals; repairing and cleaning brick and terra cotta on the exterior; and repairing the entrance’s terra cotta marquee.

The terra cotta marquee is the only such example in all of Portland. Also unique is the use of terra cotta baldachins along the roofline, an architectural feature typically found on religious buildings. Designers are currently researching whether exterior lights can be returned to the baldachins, as they once illuminated the facade.

For more examples of Portland’s rich terra cotta architecture, sign up for the Architectural Heritage Center’s downtown walking tour on June 10th.

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