Category Archives: Events

Portland Landmarks Commission to Present Annual Report

The City of Portland’s Historic Landmarks Commission will present the 2016 “State of Historic Preservation” report to the City Council on Wednesday December 7th at 2 pm. All are invited to the one-hour presentation, which will take place at Portland City Hall, 1221 SW 4th Avenue, to show support for the work of the Commission, and for heritage conservation in the Rose City. The City Council will not take action on any elements of the report, but there will be some time devoted to public comment.

Well worth reading, the annual report covers the Commission’s watch list, priorities and goals for 2017, a discussion of current preservation issues, and 2016 accomplishments. The watch list includes several historic districts, including New Chinatown/Japantown  and East Portland/Grand Avenue – the latter home to the AHC. Several specific buildings are called out for concern, such as the Multnomah County Courthouse and Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum. AHC/BMF advocacy efforts have addressed all of these, and more, and we share the unease. Of unique note is the cast iron collection jointly held by the Portland Development Commission and the AHC. These late-nineteenth century artifacts were primarily salvaged from downtown historic districts, and are intended for re-use in both rehabilitation and new construction projects. The entire report is available at

During this 50th anniversary year of the National Historic Preservation Act, Commission Chair Kirk Ranzetta notes, “Portlanders view historic preservation as a solution rather than a problem. Even as affordable housing has reached near crisis levels, historic buildings….may hold the potential to make an important contribution to resolving the housing crunch….Historic preservation is not a policy platform that focuses just on buildings, but on enriching the lives of all Portlanders, while being economically sound, socially, just, and environmentally sustainable.” The AHC heartily concurs, and looks forward to collaboration with the Commission in the coming year. We urge all our members to continued and increased participation in helping create public policy that respects the past while shaping the future.


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Laurelhurst Booklets Shed Light on Early Days of Neighborhood

c.1912 map of the Laurelhurst neighborhood. Source: Architectural Heritage Center

c.1912 map of the Laurelhurst neighborhood and surroundings. Source: Architectural Heritage Center

With October being Archives month, plus with all the interest in Laurelhurst these days (most notably the Markham House on NE 32nd and Glisan), we thought we’d share a couple of Laurelhurst real estate booklets from the Architectural Heritage Center library.

The first, entitled Laurelhurst – The Addition with Character is from c.1912.

c.1912 image of the F. F. Meade residence. Source: Architectural Heritage Center

c.1912 image of the F. F. Meade residence. Source: Architectural Heritage Center

You can download a FREE copy of the 1912 booklet here!

The second booklet Laurelhurst and Its Park is a reprint from a booklet that dates to 1916.

Several Laurelhurst homes from the booklet Laurehurst and Its Park c.1916. Source: Architectural Heritage Center

Several Laurelhurst homes from the booklet Laurehurst and Its Park c.1916. Source: Architectural Heritage Center

You can download a FREE copy of the re-printed 1916 booklet here!

As we noted, October is Archives month. We hope you’ll support your local archives and check out the Oregon Archives Crawl this Saturday, October 18th. The Architectural Heritage Center will have a table at the Oregon Historical Society. We hope you’ll come see us!

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Coalition for Historic Resources’ Recommendations for Addressing Demolition Issue

To update our post from last week, last Thursday, members of the Portland Coalition for Historic Resources met at the Architectural Heritage Center to develop a three-pronged approach to addressing the demolition issue in Portland. This Thursday, they will propose the following emergency measures to the Portland City Council.

  1. Close loopholes by defining “demolition” as the removal of 50% or more of an existing building.
  2. Require all residential demolitions to adhere to minimum delay and notification requirements.
  3. Establish a task force to identify additional building and zoning code improvements that would ensure demolitions are appropriately managed and that replacement construction responds to neighborhood characteristics.

We hope those of you concerned about demolitions in Portland can attend the meeting this Thursday, July 31st at 2:00pm, at City Hall. There is strength in numbers and this is a opportunity to show the council that the current demolition epidemic must be addressed in a meaningful way.

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The State of Historic Preservation in Portland – 2014

The Portland City Council will hear the annual “State of the City Preservation Report” from the Portland Historic Landmarks Commission on Thursday, July 31st starting at 2:00PM. A number of historic preservation issues, successes, and challenges are included in the very thorough report. We hope you will help fill City Hall with supporters of historic preservation, especially those who are concerned about demolitions and other issues currently facing neighborhoods around the city.

Here’s a link if you want to download the 2014 PHLC report.

The City also recently announced the first draft of their 2035 Comprehensive Plan and is now accepting public comment. There is voluminous information about the plan here. Also, on September 9th, the AHC will be hosting a panel discussion on the draft Comp Plan and what it might mean for historic preservation in the city. City staff will be on hand to talk about the plan and to offer insight for those interested in giving public comment at meetings this fall. You can read more the program and register to attend here.

At the AHC, we have been specifically involved in advocating for better preservation of our Skidmore/Old Town National Historic Landmark District, and the New Chinatown/Japantown National Register Historic District (through the West Quadrant Plan’s meetings over the past 18 months), as well as the campaign to save the Portland Gas & Coke Building (as part of the “Friends of” group meetings), just to name a few. We have also been a “first responder” to the Epidemic of Demolitions of Portland’s single-family homes. There will be more to come very soon on our proposed “list of cures” for this epidemic, so please check back! We are also a founding member organization of the Portland Coalition for Historic Resources; the PCHR recently agreed on three priority steps for the city to take to start the ball rolling on addressing the Epidemic of Demolitions – – also coming very soon.


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Neighborhoods Beginning to Take Action Over Demolition Issue

Last night the Eastmoreland Neighborhood announced they would be staging a “park-in” to keep yet another demolition from occurring. Here’s the text of their announcement from their Facebook page:


The developer at 3620 SE Rural has circumvented the ENA’s 120 day delay for demolition and plans to raze the house tomorrow morning. A park-in to block the bulldozer may be the only way to prevent this violation of public trust and to prevent the work-around to our hard won delay. The park-in will be at 8am tomorrow morning at 3620 SE Rural to block the developer from tearing down this home. Cars need to be in place by 7:00am (or so). Details below:

This PM , neighbor Winky Wheeler received a door hanger demolition notice that the subject house at 3620 SE Rural will be demolished tomorrow effectively violating the 120 day delay imposed by the ENA. The details and confirmation of the delay may be found below. In conversation with Kareen Perkins who administers title 24 for the City she explained that the developer (among others) had found a work-around for the delay.

Yesterday, July 15, the applicant withdrew the demolition permit with the 120 day delay and pulled the permit applications for both houses applied for some weeks ago effectively violating the intent of the regulations. The neighborhood association was not notified of the event by the City as no notification is required. Following the withdraw of the original applications, the applicant filed for a permit for one house and received simultaneously a demolition permit with no delay.

The developer is operating within the one demolition for one permit application loophole that developers have maintained in place with the support of Commissioner Amanda Fritz and the DRAC (Development review advisory committee that is largely staffed with building owners and developers). The DRAC meets at 8 AM tomorrow-1900 SW 4th. Attendance is encouraged.

The developer previously applied to reconstitute and divide 3 substandard lots for narrow lot housing. That request has not yet been approved although other aspects of those permit applications were substantially approved. The application for the lot split challenged by the ENA was one reason for asking for a delay of the demolition. Emily Sandy at BDS is responsible for that review.
City Official emails for commenting on this and other demolitions are:

CHARLIE HALES, MAYOR, (503)823-4120

NICK FISH, (503) 823-3589 

AMANDA FRITZ, (503) 823-3008 

STEVE NOVICK, (503) 823-4682

DAN SALTZMAN, (503) 823-4151

This 1949 home at 3620 SE Rural is slated for demolition by home builder Renaissance Homes

This 1949 home at 3620 SE Rural is slated for demolition by Renaissance Homes

This morning, indeed there were several cars parked in front of the home, making it impossible for a bulldozer to access the house. This action certainly attracted the media as representatives from TV, radio, and print news were all on hand. After a brief discussion on a nearby side-street, Robert McCullough, the head of the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association and Randy Sebastian, the head of Renaissance Homes, agreed to a one week delay of the demolition. As noted in their announcement above, the primary concerns here are not about the individual demolition, but how it was approved and what the new house(s) will look like in relationship to their neighbors and the neighborhood. It is clear that the City’s recently adopted demolition delay period has some pretty serious loopholes, the biggest of which is that there is no delay if a developer wants to demolish and replace a single house with another single house. In this case, Renaissance readily admitted to the media that they will eventually build at least two houses on the property, even though their circumvention of the delay period was based on only a single house replacing the existing one. So while cooler heads have prevailed for the moment, the frustrations over demolition policy continue.

The current policy regarding demolition in Portland is not working. But beyond that the situation with this house exemplifies a disturbing trend in the city. Builders keep snatching up such homes, like this one on Rural Street, knowing that they can build something bigger and new, and then sell it for a significant profit. The result is that a house that is perfectly sound and usable (but probably in need of some refreshing), as well as somewhat affordable ($375,000 in this instance), will be replaced by a home or homes ranging from $500,000 to over $1 million. If neighbors are outraged about this sort of “change” it isn’t just because a new house is coming in, it is because the more this happens the less affordable these neighborhoods become, meaning that young families and such are completely priced out of the market and forced to look for housing elsewhere and further away from the city center.

Another issue here is the complete lack of consideration given to the existing homes. During the park-in this morning, Mr. Sebastian mentioned more than once how the house on Rural Street was “functionally obsolete”. If we are to accept the argument of functional obsolescence then we may as well tear every old house down, because what the developers really mean is that the house is just old and, since they are in the business of building new, it doesn’t fit their business model.

There is also an environmental sustainability factor here that must not be forgotten. Every time we knock down these older homes tons of building waste is sent off to our landfills. In too many instances little or none of these materials are recycled in a meaningful way. It is not enough that the news homes replacing the old ones are LEED certified. Reports have shown that older homes can be made virtually as energy efficient as the new ones and that in doing so, the river of demolition debris is greatly mitigated. It is absolutely amazing that in Portland, a city that loves to tout its sustainability work, there is continued support for the wanton destruction of the environmental and social (i.e. livability and sense of place) legs of the three-legged sustainability stool.

On July 31st at 2:00PM, the Portland Landmarks Commission will be making a presentation to the Portland City Council on the demolition issue. We hope that many of our fellow historic preservation and neighborhood livability supporters will attend this presentation at City Hall (1221 SW 4th Ave.). The City Council needs to see that people really care deeply and are upset by what is happening in Eastmoreland and many other Portland neighborhoods, so much so that they are beginning to act with park-ins and it is possible that other forms of civil disobedience may not be far behind.

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15th Annual Kitchen Revival Tour Showcases Work of Homeowners and Local Craftsmen

This Saturday, April 13th is the 15th annual Kitchen Revival Tour organized by the Architectural Heritage Center. The tour is the largest education program of the year for the AHC.

Eight homeowners are generously opening their homes for this tour showcasing some great DIY work as well as the work of local craftsmen, designers, and contractors. If you are thinking of renovating the kitchen in your older home, this tour is a great idea-generator. Of course it’s also a lot of fun just to see inside some great older Portland area homes.

This year’s tour features a fantastic 1923 home in Laurelhurst that once served as a model for a local brick and tile company. At the time the home was built, it received tremendous local press. The current homeowners recently completed their kitchen renovation and were featured in the Oregonian. The home is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

The "Brick Home Beautiful" as advertised in the January 28, 1923 Oregonian. For homeowner privacy concerns, this image was slightly edited to remove the address.

The “Brick Home Beautiful” as advertised in the January 28, 1923 Oregonian. For homeowner privacy concerns, this image was slightly edited to remove the address.

The other homes on the tour are easy to locate and offer a variety of renovation budgets and house styles, from an 1892 Queen Anne to a 1958 Mid-Century Modern Ranch. The homes are scattered mostly throughout Northeast Portland, and besides Laurelhurst are in the following neighborhoods: Irvington, Eliot,  Concordia, and Beaumont-Wilshire. Other stops are in the Portsmouth and Richmond neighborhoods.

Tickets are still on sale – Follow this link for more information about the 2013 Kitchen Revival Tour.

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Libraries Are Powerful

You know how it is. You hear a story about where you live and you think, “Hey – that’s pretty interesting,” and you tell someone else. Eventually the story comes back to you and you think, ‘Wait – that’s not what my aunt/neighbor/friend told me.” You resolve to find out what really happened with your house/block/region. Truth. Wow. A very big idea that probably involves History. Primary documents. Maps. Plans. Books. Wi-fi.

One of the places you can find all these things and answers about building and neighborhood history is the library at the Architectural Heritage Center. Named after Rejuvenation, its founding donor from when the Center opened in 2005, the library contains a wealth of architectural and local history resources. Staff, members, and scholars use the library for program creation, to research for the media, to help neighborhoods document their past and preserve their future, and more. Cataloging goes on and on, and there are literally thousands of research documents already available. And yes, there is wi-fi, so you can research on-line at the same time.

This Saturday’s library open house from 10 am to 3 pm is a great time to learn more. Staff and volunteers will be on hand to help answer your house history questions, and show you our recently-completed seismic upgrade measures. Items from the collection that are not normally on display will be available for viewing and you can see some things that are just cool whether you need them for a research project or not.

Two short courses on preserving personal archives will be offered at 11 am and 1 pm by Richard Engeman, historian, archivist, and author.

History is powerful. Recent news reports about rebels in Mali attacking Timbuktu’s Ahmed Baba library, a repository of unique and rare manuscripts dating as far back as the early 1200s, remind us to take care of our own libraries. Why would retreating rebels take time under fire to destroy a collection of documents? Because they know that culture and history are powerful forces and the destruction of them is a punch to the heart and soul of a people. Why did Stalin order photographs altered to remove the images of those he had killed? Because he knew that by manipulating the physical record, he could exercise control over not only his own time, but the historical interpretation of it. The historical record is influenced by who manages the story line and the documents that support it. As Churchill wrote, “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.”

In the world of our own library here at the AHC, our members and staff are careful stewards of what was collected by founders Jerry Bosco and Ben Milligan, and given to us later by other thoughtful donors. Our repository of history doesn’t date as far back as Ahmed Baba’s, but we have many unique and rare items of local import and usefulness to share and preserve.

And there’s the ongoing query and challenge. What do we save, and how do we pay for saving it? What will best tell the story of our own time and what do we infer from the past by what items people “back then” felt were important enough to save, or saved randomly? What resources are most useful for architectural history researchers now, and how do we predict which ones will be of most import in the future? One solution today is to make digital versions that can be accessed online from anywhere, and the AHC has done some of that. But, that process, too, costs money, and we must balance the accounting books as well as the importance of the research books. In a digital era, there is still worth in preserving the originals, while at the same time making wise decisions about what best belongs online.

As a Facebook meme tells us, a certain subset of people, including me, still regret the destruction of the great library of Alexandria. In our time, we must not take the libraries in our lives for granted. Use them, support them financially, donate documents to them, and tell other people why they are important. For all of us here, and, yes, for the world.

Fiction is great and stories are powerful ways to transfer culture and teach people about life and how to live it with meaning and understanding. However, primary documents set the story straight when we need culture to be history, instead of folklore.

Come see us on Saturday. Truth can be stranger than fiction. Find out.

Written by Holly Chamberlain, Deputy Director, Bosco-Milligan Foundation/Architectural Heritage Center


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Update on Endangered Hawthorne Houses – Public Meeting

Back in August we reported on two endangered historic homes on SE Hawthorne at 27th. Redevelopment at this site is moving forward and now it appears that one of the homes may be saved from deconstruction and moved to a nearby lot.

If you are concerned about these homes or have questions about the development, the Buckman Community Association will be discussing the issue at their monthly board meeting tomorrow evening.

Here are the meeting details:

Location:  Multnomah County Boardroom – 501 SE Hawthorne

Time: 7:00 PM

For more information about the Buckman neighborhood click here.

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The Short Significant Career of Architect Rolph H. Miller

Rolph H. Miller
Source: Oregonian March 12, 1901

Numerous architects who once worked in the Portland, OR area have been forgotten or simply lost to the passage of time. One such architect was Rolph H. Miller, who died in 1901, just as his architectural career was hitting its stride. He was only 41 years old when he died – the result of complications from an appendicitis.

According to his obituary, Miller attended school at Washington University in St. Louis. He was then hired by the University of Toledo (OH) where he became an instructor and administrator for the Scott Manual Training School. Later he took courses in architecture in the Boston area, possibly at what is now the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  It remains unknown how he became connected with them, but in the early 1890s, Miller came to Portland and was hired by the architectural firm of Whidden & Lewis to assist with their designs for the new Portland City Hall.

By 1895, Miller had joined the Portland Sketch Club and started his own architectural firm. From his offices in the Sherlock Building on Southwest Third Avenue,  he designed buildings for the Boys & Girls Aid Society and for Portland Public Schools. He also started designing homes.

Holladay School, designed by Miller, once stood on NE 9th Avenue, where the Lloyd Center is today.
Source: Oregonian May 12, 1900

In 1899, Miller designed a wonderful Classical Revival style home for Julius and Delia Durkheimer in northwest Portland. That home, with its fantastic interior woodwork, is one of the few projects completed by Miller that is still standing. On July 28th, the Durkheimer home will be featured on the Architectural Heritage Center’s third annual Heritage Home Tour.

The Durkheimer House in northwest Portland

Miller died on March 11, 1901, with several projects still in development. One of those was a home he designed for his own family, at NE 21st and Hancock, in the Irvington neighborhood. Miller’s widow never moved into the house, which was then sold later in 1901. It has since been demolished.

Another of  Miller’s incomplete projects was that of the Portland Crematorium in Sellwood. That project was taken over by architect Joesph Jacobberger, opening in September 1901. Miller actually became one of the first to be interred there.

Like Portland architect Warren H. Williams before him and A.E. Doyle  a few decades later, Miller’s career was sadly cut short. In Miller’s case however, he apparently had no business partners or family member to take over his business, so his projects were taken over by others within the local architecture community. This has led to a dearth of information about Miller. Thankfully, we still have a few places like the Durkheimer home, the Portland Crematorium (now Wilhelm’s), and City Hall to remind us all of the quality of his work.

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The Barnes Residence: A History Revised

The Frank C. Barnes residence in the Alameda neighborhood of NE Portland (OR).
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In 1913,  a notable Portland businessman by the name of Frank C. Barnes, had a home built on Alameda Ridge. The home was filled with amazing details like a mahogany stairway and wonderful stained glass windows.  In many ways it rivaled the Pittock Mansion, which was under construction at about the same time.

For decades the home was thought to be the work of architect David Lockheed Williams. Williams was an important architect in early 20th century Portland and the son of Warren H. Williams, architect of many of Portland’s fantastic cast-iron fronted buildings. Indeed D.L. Williams may have been involved in early plans for the home, but recent research has identified the firm of Stokes & Zeller as the architects of the home as it was constructed. Stokes & Zeller were a prolific firm, designing homes all over the east side of Portland – including many in the Sullivan’s Gulch, Irvington, and Buckman neighborhoods.

The discovery of the connection between Stokes & Zeller and the Barnes residence points out how helpful some research tools that weren’t around 20, 10, or even 5 years ago, can be.  In the past couple of years, one of the most helpful tools in researching buildings in Portland has become the Oregonian Historical Archive. Available online through Multnomah County Library, this word-searchable archive has uncovered all sorts of evidence connecting some (until now) little known architects to some very significant projects. The Barnes residence is but one example.

Over the years the Barnes residence has seen several ownership changes and at one time it was almost demolished and replaced with a synagogue, but today it has been lovingly renovated and on July 28th, the home will be part of the Architectural Heritage Center’s  Heritage Home Tour.

So now the question remains, as we continue our efforts to ensure that those interested in Portland’s past have access to the most complete and accurate building histories, what will we uncover next?


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