Monthly Archives: December 2010

Is Portland’s First Denny’s Worthy of Preservation?

Burnside Elevation of Proposed new restaurant to replace the Galaxy. Image from BDS Public Notice for the project.

According to the Portland Bureau of Development Services (BDS), the owners of the Galaxy Restaurant at 909 E. Burnside plan to demolish the exiting building and replace it with another single story restaurant. This raises a couple of interesting questions.

The Galaxy Restaurant - 909 E Burnside - Home of Portland's First Denny's Restaurant. Image from

First of all, unless there are irreversible structural issues, why demolish a building only to replace it with something that will serve the same essential purpose and will do nothing to add housing density or other social benefits to the community? Such a demolition is a waste of resources and energy. Even if a large portion of the building is “recycled” that doesn’t take into account that those materials will need to be re-manufactured in some way in order to be useful again – meaning the consumption of additional energy on top of what it will take to tear the place down. And even with best practices a large amount of demolition waste would also still be generated. Then of course, you have all of the new building materials, which would require even more energy and resource consumption…

Secondly, is something like Portland’s first Dennys even worthy of preservation? After a little research, it appears that this location was indeed Portland’s first Denny’s Restaurant, opening in June 1963. It was used to promote franchise possibilities for the Denny’s chain, and was modeled after the prototype Denny’s Restaurants founded in Southern California a decade earlier. The “check mark” design is one of those trademark patterns from the era of “Googie” architecture – something that we don’t have a lot of (remaining and intact) here in Portland. Not far away at NE Grand and Hassalo, is another early Portland Denny’s. If Oregonian employment ads are correct, that location seems to have opened within a year after the Burnside location.

Denny's Grand Opening Advertisement from The Oregonian, June 8, 1963

So what do you think? Is Portland’s first Denny’s worthy of preservation?

Let’s start the new year with a healthy discussion on this topic.

Happy New Year!



Filed under Historic Preservation, Modernism + The Recent Past, Sustainability

2010 Review: A Year of Portland Preservation

It’s been a little more than a year since we started this blog and readership is continuing to rise. Thanks to everyone who’s read or commented on the blog over the past 13 months. We hope to keep things going in 2011 and beyond and welcome your comments about what you like (and what you dislike) about Portland Preservation.

With that said, we’d like to take this opportunity to point out some of the highlights from 2010. After all, many of our preservation issues are ongoing and deserve your (and our) continued attention. Thanks again for your support of Portland Preservation. If you haven’t already, we hope you’ll consider becoming a member of the Bosco-Milligan Foundation/Architectural Heritage Center, so that we may continue to grow and expand our historic preservation efforts. Thanks!

David Campbell Firefighters Memorial

We learned of plans in early 2010, to possibly disassemble this 1928 memorial, with some components targeted for reuse in a potential new memorial at the east end of the Hawthorne Bridge. Thankfully, it now looks like that option is off the table. First, the efforts of local preservationists brought attention to the fragile memorial, designed by world renowned memorial architect Paul Cret. Then, with the support of the Bosco-Milligan Foundation/Architectural Heritage Center, a volunteer was able to draft a nomination for the memorial to the National Register of Historic Places. In late September, the memorial was formally listed in the National Register.

Dirty Duck

In February, the Portland City Council voted to approve demolition of the former Dirty Duck Tavern Building (aka the Kiernan Building), a contributing structure in the New Chinatown/Japantown Historic District. This was a precedent setting moment as the council’s decision went against recommendations by both the Portland Landmarks Commission and their own Bureau of Development Services. It also was a bad moment in Portland’s sustainability efforts.  This building could have been rehabilitated or integrated in some fashion into the replacement building. In fact, the neighboring parking lot could have been used for a new Blanchet House instead of sacrificing the Dirty Duck, but that option never seemed to be given even the slightest consideration by the City or the Portland Development Commission. This issue is ongoing as the replacement building designs will be reviewed by the Portland landmarks Commission in February.

Portland State University Expansion

The endless expansion of  the PSU campus continued in 2010, all without the guidance of a city approved master plan. The result was the loss of more historic urban fabric in the southern end of downtown.  First, they demolished a late 19th century house on southwest 11th owned by the school since the 1960s – during which time they could have easily renovated it into campus offices – much as they have the Simon Benson House. More recently, their College Station project, a huge student housing project, led to the demolition of an early 20th century apartment building and other adjacent structures near the intersection of 5th and College.


The onslaught against original wood windows seems to be never ending. However, more and more the concepts of fixing what we have, putting a stop to air infiltration, adding additional insulation in attics and walls, and installing storm windows  – seems to be gaining interest. We expect that this struggle won’t end anytime soon, given the size of the replacement window industry, but if ever there was a city that understood the value of reuse, it should be Portland.

Proposed Development NE 6th and Couch

Detail of Area Near NE 6th and Couch c. 1920s - Photo Courtesy of Doug Magedanz

This ongoing project would lead to the loss of two of the few remaining vintage residential buildings on NE Couch – along the newly opened Burnside-Couch Couplet. It seems that at least initially, residents of the building weren’t even notified of the building owners intentions to demolish these two buildings – buildings that could be likely candidates for National Register listing and potential tax credits. We continue to monitor this proposed project and have suggested the developer consider integrating the existing buildings into the new development. Historically, these two apartment buildings had a much taller building behind them facing Davis Street. Why not do the same with the new project?

This certainly is not a comprehensive list of the various preservation issues around the city, but we hope this gives new readers and current followers alike some insight into our work. We look forward to your continued support.

Best Wishes for 2011!

Val Ballestrem

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Accessory Dwelling Units: Meeting Density Goals While Preserving Neighborhood Character

In March 2010, the Portland City Council voted to waive the system development fees for three years associated with constructing so-called “mother-in-law apartments” otherwise known as accessory dwelling units (ADU). This was an important decision as it has made it easier for homeowners in the city to add extra living space at a much reduced cost. Whether the creation of a finished basement, a garage conversion or even a small free-standing building,   ADU’s are an important tool for adding density in our older neighborhoods – one home at a time. the result is far less impact on the existing character that makes our older neighborhoods so attractive to begin with.  Their small stature also ensures a lower impact on the environment and given the confines of the Urban Growth Boundary, should be a tool for adding density that is put to use for many years to come.

A recent article in Northwest Renovation Magazine, points out a number of  the positive benefits to ADU construction. In addition to the environmental and neighborhood character benefits noted above, they also provide flexible space, whether for family members or other tenants; they’re affordable and can actually provide a solid return on your investment as well. You can pick up a copy of the NW Renovation magazine with the article on ADU’s at the Architectural Heritage Center which – by the way – is offering free  admission for the month of December.

You can also learn more about the rules and regulations governing ADU’s by clicking here.

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Filed under Historic Preservation, Infill Development, Sustainability

UPDATE Re: New Development at NE 6th and Couch

Lot at NE 6th and Davis - Behind the existing apartment buildings

It seems that the folks at the BDS are having trouble with the link to the meeting notice regarding this development. For the third time the link has changed in the past week or so. Here it is as of this afternoon:

The meeting on 12/16 is for “Design Advice” only. For those interested in saving the building,  if you intend to speak at this meeting, you must couch (no pun intended) your arguments within the subject of “design advice”. You could, for example, suggest that the design should retain the Couch side facade, integrating the existing buildings into new construction on the vacant portion of the block.  That would be a win-win for everyone – and be wonderfully sustainable.

Once again the City and/or the developer, appear to be trying to pre-empt opposition to the new building by touting all of the “green” features it will have and also noting how the existing buildings will be deconstructed. This sort of argument has been used repeatedly in Portland in recent years – but it leaves out important points:

Just because materials are recycled or deconstructed does not mean they will all be re-used.  It should also be noted that it takes energy to turn recycled materials into something else.  Meanwhile, energy is consumed in the deconstruction and recycling processes – energy that could just as easily be applied to the renovation of the existing buildings. In a nutshell, regardless of all the “green” bells and whistles a project such as this may include, it still means the consumption of untold tons of materials for new construction. As the National Trust for Historic Preservation states, “We can’t build our way out of climate change.”

Isn’t it time we got more creative in figuring ways to integrate existing buildings into new developments?

Beyond energy consumption and the environment, we should also remember that many people consider the existing apartments home. Is it really the most socially sustainable option to cause the relocation of dozens of residents or is gentrification (as in out with the old and in with the new) the real purpose at work here? We certainly hope the developer will consider alternatives to this project other than the complete removal of the existing buildings.

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Filed under Historic Preservation, Infill Development, Sustainability