Category Archives: Modernism + The Recent Past

Breaking News: City to Host Portland Plan 2035 Meetings Focused on Historic Preservation

This news is fresh off the press. Mark your calendars now for these important meetings in May and June specifically addressing historic preservation and Portland’s efforts to plan for how the city may look in 2035.

Historic Preservation and The 2035 Portland Plan 

The Bureau of Planning & Sustainability has now scheduled the Historic Preservation-specific sessions we have all been waiting for. After many months of discussion and many Portland Plan meetings on an array of other subjects, please mark your calendars and plan to attend two VERY important symposia on Historic Resources.

#1 FRIDAY, May 20th, 9:00AM – 12:00 Noon
1900 SW 4th Avenue (City of Portland Development Services building))

#2 FRIDAY, June 17th, 9:00AM – 11:30AM
1900 SW 4th Avenue (same location)

The intent of session #1 is to identify historic preservation policy issues, from the views of important stakeholders including the Landmarks Commission, property owners and developers, preservation advocates, and others.

Session #2 will present the findings from the first session, with the objective of arriving at Historic Preservation Policy documents for inclusion in the Portland Plan.

This is our opportunity to define the future of historic preservation in Portland.

Bosco-Milligan Foundation executive Director Cathy Galbraith will be participating in these important meetings. We hope to see many more preservation advocates there so your voices can be heard.


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Filed under Events, Historic Preservation, Infill Development, Modernism + The Recent Past, Sustainability

Historic Preservation League of Oregon Seeking Nominations for Endangered Places List

A few weeks back the Historic Preservation League of Oregon sent out a call for nominations for their first ever Most Endangered Places of Oregon list. During the HPLO’s Preservation Roundtable on historic districts last summer, participants brought to the HPLO’s attention a number of threatened historic places around the state in need of additional visibility and community support. In order to learn about and actively support these properties the HPLO has assembled an endangered places list modeled after successful examples found around the country, such as those administered by the National and Washington Trusts for Historic Preservation.

The Simon Building facade and Sinnott House Building in Portland's Old Town

Like these other endangered places lists, the HPLO is asking friends of preservation to first nominate the vulnerable and valuable historic places that matter to their communities. Nominations can be prepared by anyone for any place that embodies local, state, or national history and is under some natural or man-made pressure of demolition, alteration, or neglect. Nominated places that are selected for this year’s list will then be made an integral part of the HPLO’s field programming for 2011, providing the slate of loved places with individual technical assistance and collective statewide attention.

Additional information about the Most Endangered Places program, as well as a nomination form, can be found here.

Nominations are being accepted through March 21st, with an announcement made in late May.

Demolition of the Rosefriend Apartments in 2007. Photo courtesy of Brian Libby.

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City Approves Design for East Burnside Re-Development and Demolition of the Galaxy Restaurant

It came as no surprise that the City of Portland Bureau of Development Services staff approved designs for the proposed Trio Club on East Burnside. As we reported previously, the project will mean the demolition of the Galaxy Restaurant Building – the 1963 Googie-styled Chinese restaurant, that was home to Portland’s first Denny’s. It’s unfortunate that the developer and the City could not propose something that preserved the existing building – something more compatible to the nearby Jupiter Hotel, or at least they could have included some housing in the new design. It also shows that there are flaws in the design review system.

With projects of this size ($1,865.600 or less according to the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability), so-called “Type II Design Review” is hardly more than a single staff person from the Bureau of Development Services, reviewing the project and typically approving it (perhaps with some minor changes). This essentially means that the same person who has worked with the developer throughout the application/review process, is the  same person to sign-off on the “design review.”  It calls into question whether this is really a legitimate review; is the BDS staff person really going to say “no” to a developer after having already guided them through the process? It seems there should be some sort of real review by others, even on small dollar projects.

Another issue with this particular proposal is the lack of consideration given to including housing in the new design. One would think that this location is just the sort of place where the City, County, and Metro would like to see more housing density. Adding it in a location such as 9th and East Burnside, would take some pressure off of nearby single family residential neighborhoods – including some of the east side’s oldest neighborhoods that currently have no protections against redevelopment.

The Galaxy demolition/Trio redevelopment, provides yet another example of Portland’s inability to halt needless demolitions of functional buildings – whether historic or not. Once again the City of Portland has hidden behind their veil of  “no designation – no protection.” While we should expect that “designated” buildings have some level of protection, we should also acknowledge that not every building in the city is worthy of historic designation. In the 21st century, with dwindling natural resources and the ongoing environmental impacts of building material waste, isn’t there a way we can prevent needless demolition that doesn’t throw historic preservationists under the bus?


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Bosco-Milligan Foundation/Architectural Heritage Center’s Position on the Proposed Galaxy Restaurant Redevelopment

With the deadline for comments fast approaching (1/18), the Bosco-Milligan Foundation/Architectural Heritage Center submitted a letter to the City of Portland regarding the proposed project, noting how the proposal does not meet several aspects of the Central City and Central Eastside Design Guidelines. We thought it would be good to share this letter with the public in order to draw attention to not only this proposal, but also to show how complicated it can be to argue for or against such projects. Below is the text of the letter:

January 14, 2011

To: City of Portland Land Use Services

From: Val Ballestrem, Education Manager, Bosco-Milligan Foundation

Re: LU 10-160377 DZ909 E. Burnside

Project: Proposed Trio Club Development/Galaxy Restaurant Demolition

The Bosco Milligan Foundation opposes the redevelopment of the Galaxy Restaurant. As currently proposed, the project would not meet several criteria of the Central City Fundamental Design Guidelines (CCFDG) and the policies of the Central Eastside Design Guidelines (CEDG). We request that the proposal be denied until the design is more appropriately in compliance with the applicable design guidelines for the Central City and Central Eastside.

CCFDG Goal 2 aims to “Integrate urban design and preservation of our heritage into the development process.” The project as proposed would demolish an existing building with considerable modern heritage. Although not a designated historic landmark, the Galaxy building and its sign provide a significant Portland example of mid-20th century Googie or Space-Age type architecture. The preservation of such architecture is rapidly becoming an issue in Portland and throughout the U.S., as exemplified locally by the debate over the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in 2009-2010. The renovation of the existing building and signage would better meet or exceed Goal 2 outlined above and would be compatible with the nearby renovated Jupiter Hotel, which was built the same year as the Galaxy building, and is similarly reflective of mid-20th century architectural optimism.

CCFDG Goal 4 is to “Promote the development of diversity and areas of special character within the Central City.” The project does not meet this goal as the demolition of the existing building and signage will actually remove the “special character” which is the unique existing design and replace it with something that is neither unique nor special.

CCFDG Guideline A2 supports projects that emphasize themes “unique to Portland’s culture.” The project as proposed does not emphasize Portland culture. One of Portland’s most embedded cultural tenets is that of sustainability, achieved through the reduction in consumption of energy and resources, and the reuse of resources, such as existing buildings. One way the project developer could meet this guideline is to rehabilitate the existing building. Such an effort would emphasize Portland’s unique culture, as exemplified by the success of the nearby Jupiter Hotel, the ongoing reuse of other commercial buildings along East Burnside, and the general interest in the Portland area in preserving other iconic if not designated historic landmarks like the neon signs of Interstate Avenue and other mid-20th century architecture such as the Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

CCFDG Guideline A5 states “Areas of the Central City are enhanced, embellished, and/or identified through the integration of distinct landmarks.” The project as proposed does not meet this guideline. The demolition of the existing Galaxy restaurant building and signage means the removal of a “distinct landmark” in this neighborhood. The Galaxy building and sign are iconic, rare and intact Portland examples of Space-Age or Googie style architecture. The renovation of the existing building and sign would enhance the neighborhood as already exemplified by the renovation of the nearby Jupiter Hotel. Renovation of the existing building and sign would enhance both the existing property and the surrounding neighborhood. Demolishing the existing building and sign and construction of the Trio Club, based on its current design, would detract from the district; it would isolate the distinctive Jupiter Hotel, and diminish the modernist and visually interesting intersection that exists at East Burnside and 9th Avenue.

CCFDG Guideline A6 focuses on the reuse, rehabilitation, or restoration of buildings. The proposal to demolish the existing Galaxy building and signage ignores this guideline altogether. As noted in the guideline, financial incentives are available for the rehabilitation of older buildings. We encourage the project developer to investigate such incentives further. The demolition of the existing building is also a tremendous waste of resources and energy. The amount of energy and resources consumed and wasted to demolish, and then dispose of the existing building materials – even if materials are recycled – would be greatly reduced through a building rehabilitation.

CCFDG Guideline C4 “Complement the context of existing buildings by using and adding to the local design vocabulary.” The project proposal does not meet this guideline, because the demolition of the existing building and signage will detract, by removal, rather than complement the nearby design vocabulary. The existing Galaxy building is highly complementary of the Jupiter Hotel. The building design for the Trio Club only seems to mimic the massing and scale of the building across 9th avenue at 835 E. Burnside. Guideline C4 calls for complementary building design, not just the mimicry of other nearby buildings. If the existing building were rehabilitated – maintaining its complementary design to the nearby Jupiter Hotel – the project would meet and exceed guideline C4. It is possible, and we suggest, that if the developer feels a larger building is necessary, a complementary addition to the existing Galaxy building would better meet this design guideline than the demolition and new construction as proposed.

CEDG policies support the design guidelines of the CCFDG. They also support mixed use development that includes housing. The Trio Club project as proposed, does not meet this policy objective, because it simply replaces a one story strictly commercial use building with another. This policy would be better met if the project developer included a mixed-use component – with housing – in the design. Such a project would also be more in line with Portland’s comprehensive plan goals of adding density where possible. In addition, the project proposal does not preserve the significant architecture of the Galaxy building or its signage and therefore it does not meet another of the CEDG policies.

The Galaxy building and its signage present a meaningful and feasible opportunity for rehabilitation with a possible complementary building expansion that would better meet and exceed the Central City and Central Eastside design guidelines, goals, and objectives. The Bosco-Milligan Foundation is supportive of such a project. The current proposal for the Trio Club does not meet these guidelines and the project should be denied at this time.

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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!


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Firefighters Memorial and Yeon Visitors Center Receive National Register Recognition

It is now official, the David Campbell Memorial, also known as the Portland Firefighters Memorial, has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places. This is wonderful news and hopefully puts to rest any concerns that the memorial will be dismantled and parts used in a new memorial on the east bank of the Willamette.

The 1948 John Yeon designed Portland Visitors Information Center was also listed in the National Register. It is good to see post-war architecture gaining more recognition as part of our architectural heritage.

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Memorial Coliseum in the Headlines Again

Memorial Coliseum c.1961

Once again the Memorial Coliseum is getting headlines. This time, in an interview with the Vancouver Columbian, Commissioner Leonard re-asserted his desire to demolish the mid-century icon. Apparently its status in the National Register of Historic Places doesn’t matter.  Of course such status will mean that any attempts at demolition will lead to quite a battle involving not only local preservationists, but those from the state and national level as well.

Current conditions aside, to demolish this building would mean a tremendous waste of embodied energy. Maybe this is a good time to remind folks that studies have shown how historic preservation is an economic driver and job creator.

You can read the National Register nomination here. You can also read more about this at the Portland Architecture blog.

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Historic Preservation buried in latest Portland Plan draft objectives

It’s good that Historic Preservation “made the cut” and is included in the latest draft objectives for the Portland Plan. However, the subject is buried rather deep within the nine so-called “Action Areas” of the plan. It is clear that if preservation is going to gain any teeth, we’ll need to draw more attention to the cause.

If you look at the Portland Plan Action Areas, you’ll see that one is called Design, Planning, and Public Spaces. The only mention of historic preservation is located in this category under Direction 2, Objective C.

Here is what that objective says:  “Today, historic resources contribute to the identity of Portland. But, large areas of the city lack historic preservation strategies and have also not benefitted from energy retrofits or other efforts that link preservation and sustainability.

By 2035, preservation and reuse of historic buildings is integrated into Portland’s sustainable development strategies. The city has implemented strategies that promote the preservation of historic resources and energy retrofits throughout the city.”

The City also has another Community Survey that they are asking folks to fill out by June 1st. There are NO questions that ask about historic resources or neighborhood character in this survey.

If you have not already filled out the survey, here are some of the questions where you might add comments to raise the issue of historic preservation:

Question #8 – Housing Choices – The housing choices should be distributed throughout the entire city, not only in established traditional neighborhoods.

Question # 16 – Neighborhood satisfaction – We want to preserve our existing neighborhood character.

Question #18 – Household Energy – Do not support the removal/replacement of old-growth wood windows, this is not effective energy conservation.

Question # 22 – Backlog on Facilities Repairs – We should maintain and repair historic schools, parks, and other public buildings.

The last question (#23) asks “Are there any Missing Priorities?” – We need to raise the profile and visibility of our Historic Resources; the greenest buildings are those already built and they also define who we are.

Please take a few minutes and fill out the survey – comments about Historic Resources are very important!

If you are interested in seeing preservation gain more standing in the Portland Plan process, we urge you to let the City know and also consider attending one of the remaining public workshops on May 15th or 18th.

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Preservation and Sustainability: Could the Concept of Using What We Have Be Gaining Traction?

This Oregonian editorial draws attention once again to the connections between sustainability and historic preservation: “Use what we have”. In recent months Metro has begun talking about this concept, albeit more broadly. Last September, Metro COO Michael Jordan announced his Strategies for a Sustainable and Prosperous Region. We can only hope that these actions lead to positive results in the preservation of our communities and traditional neighborhoods.


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Portland’s Historic Resources Inventory

When conducted in the early 1980s, Portland’s Historic Resources Inventory primarily looked at buildings that were at least 50 years old at that time. Parts of the city were also missed or only partially examined. In addition,  Portland has annexed new areas into the City since the time the inventory was conducted. The net result is that there are likely thousands of structures in the city that have never been considered as potentially historic or architecturally significant. The Daily Journal of Commerce published a nice article on the need for a new inventory just today.

The recent listing of the Memorial Coliseum in the National Register of Historic Places helped draw attention to the potential historic resources of what we call “the recent past”, but are also often termed Mid-Century Modern” buildings. It is time that the City determine a method to update the aging inventory and this inventory must include and examination of post 1935 buildings, including housing. There was tremendous growth in the Portland area, especially after World War II, but it was predominately in areas that were outside the city at the time. Many of those areas are now part of Portland. It’s time they were given consideration for their potential historic resources.

We’re not naïve enough to believe that a new inventory will offer real protection against the loss of significant buildings. Buildings still need to be designated as historic to gain a level of protection, and that requires owner consent. Nonetheless, an inventory is vital for creating the framework from which neighborhoods can better understand, among other things, their architectural heritage. There would, perhaps, be no better way to engage the 95 neighborhoods across the city, than by working with them to organize and conduct their own inventories. This would connect residents to their neighborhoods in ways many have never thought of, especially residents that are new to the area. And that would help reinvigorate Portland’s Neighborhood system. Let’s hope the City recognizes this potential as well.


Filed under Historic Preservation, Local History, Modernism + The Recent Past, Schools