Future Uncertain for Now Closed University Station Post Office Building

According to the Portland Business Journal,  St.  Mary’s Academy has purchased the building that, until recently, was home to the University Station Post Office. As yet we don’t know what will become of the building that was once a showroom for the Francis Motor Co. auto dealership.

We do know, however, that the building was designed by architect Richard Sundeleaf in 1946 and constructed in 1948.  Later alterations have taken away some of the International Style flavor of the building but the distinctive exterior columns – a trademark of Sundeleaf’s industrial designs – remain intact. Perhaps St. Mary’s will consider returning the building to its former glory. Given that the building was very solidly constructed, it should be adaptable to new uses.

Francis Auto Sales at 1505 SW 6th Avenue in Portland c.1956. University of Oregon Photograph.

Francis Auto Sales at 1505 SW 6th Avenue in Portland c.1956.  University of Oregon Photograph.

To put this building in context – at the same time it was being constructed,  Pietro Belluschi’s Equitable Building, now the Commonwealth Bldg., was being built at the other end of SW 6th Avenue.  Together these two buildings marked Portland’s entry into post-war commercial architecture and the modern age of glass and aluminum building construction. New uses for aluminum became popular in post-war America as factories shifted away from military applications toward other uses in order to sustain corporate income and employment levels.

Pietro Belluschi's Equitable Building (Commonwealth Bldg.) at 421 SW 6th Avenue. University of Oregon Photo.

Pietro Belluschi’s Equitable Building (Commonwealth Bldg.) at 421 SW 6th Avenue. University of Oregon Photo.

The old Francis Auto Sales building may not be as architecturally significant as the Equitable Bldg., but nonetheless it should not be forgotten for the new age of building construction and the Golden Age of the automobile that it represents.



Filed under Historic Preservation, Modernism + The Recent Past

3 responses to “Future Uncertain for Now Closed University Station Post Office Building

  1. It’s not really related to your great story but I do just have to vent: Why did they open the new post office is such a god awful location? The new Waterfront Station (101 SW Madison) is at the base of the Morrison Bridge and is so damn out of the way, I can’t see it ever being relevant to most people’s daily business. What a failure of leadership!

  2. I agree that the new downtown post office location is neither central nor convenient. As for the Francis Ford/ Smiles for Niles building, I was unaware of its international style heritage, and as a car dealership building it is not that bad, but I would not recommend expending resources to save it.

  3. investorspropertyservices

    Great then and now photos of the Post Office/Francis Motor building. Many of the historic buildings now occupied by the post office are going on the block and their futures unknown. The many varied architectural styles involved will truly be a loss if they are not restored

    Another beauty threatened with extinction is the historic landmarked Skykomish Hotel in WA state, which may well be lost without some assistance.

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