On June 1, 1905 the gates swung open at Guild’s Lake to officially kick off the Lewis and Clark Centennial American Pacific Exposition and Oriental Fair. There were exhibitions from 21 nations and 16 American states and admission was 50 cents for adults and a quarter for kids. The fair featured an amusement park, blimp rides and was the finish line for a much-anticipated transcontinental automobile race. During the fair’s fourteen-week run more than 1.5 million visitors paid the entrance fee and another million fair-goers got in gratis.
Before the Lewis and Clark Exhibition Portland had grown from a village of some 800 settlers when it was incorporated in 1851 to becoming the major port in the Northwest by the end of the 19th century. The town could have been named Boston but a coin flip between pioneers Asa Lovejoy and Francis Pettygrove landed on the latter’s hometown. Located at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers its deep water harbor helped Portland emerge from the shadow of its more established neighbor at Oregon City. But by 1900 Seattle, kickstarted by the gold rushes in the Klondike, was emerging as the Pacific Northwest port of choice since mariners didn’t have to navigate the pesky sand bar at the mouth of the Columbia River.
The world’s fair proved just the elixir the city needed. Not only was a profit realized, unusual for international expositions, but was a success as a showcase for the city as well. In the years following the Lewis and Clark Exposition the population of Portland more than doubled from 90,000 to 200,000 and the city never looked back. A building boom started that would last over 20 years, push the city core off the Willamette River and create much of the streetscape seen today.
Our walking tour of downtown Portland in the Southwest section of the city will discover small one- and two-building blocks and pedestrian-friendly streets and we will begin this exploration west of Broadway on a strip of greenspace that was provided for before Portland was officially a city and there was not town in sight...
Park Avenue at Salmon Street
This was the land of Daniel Lownsdale who claimed 640 acres on the banks of the Willamette River in 1845. At the time Portland boasted a population of 50 or so settlers and when the town’s founding fathers decided to set aside a public strip of land in 1852 from north to south a mile from the flowing waters there was nothing but fir trees here. The land was cleared for the installation of a planked wagon road in its early years and in 1876 the strip was planted with grass and began to resemble parkland with plans contributed by Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of New York’s Central Park and Father of American Landscape Architecture. As the city expanded westward the Park Blocks became prime residential fodder lined with some of Portland’s most impressive homes.
THE CENTERPIECE OF THE NORTHERNMOST OF THE SOUTH PARK BLOCKS IS...
South Park Blocks between Salmon and Main streets
Each of the twelve South Park blocks contains a work of public art. Joseph Shemanski, a 57-year old immigrant shopkeeper from Poland, donated this fountain in 1926 in appreciation “for what the city has done for me.” Carl Linde designed the memorial and Oliver L. Barrett sculpted the bronze figure known as Rebecca at the Wall.
ACROSS SALMON STREET FROM THE NORTH END OF THE PARK BLOCK IS...
811 SW Salmon Street at northwest corner of Park Avenue
In 1867, thirty-five of Portland’s most influential businessmen, led by transportation magnate Simeon Gannett Reed, formed an exclusive all-male club called the Social Club. After a peripatetic early existence the organization settled into its first clubhouse with a new name, the Arlington Club, in 1881. Membership at the time was about 100. Since 1910 the club has met in this four-story Neoclassical clubhouse designed by William M. Whidden and Ion Lewis and constructed of brick and terra cotta. In its time over 3,300 members have been funneled through the Arlington Club and since 1990 that roster has included women.
FACING THE ARLINGTON CLUB, TURN LEFT AND WALK TO THE NORTHWEST CORNER OF THE SHEMANSKI BLOCK AT THE CORNER OF SALMON STREET.
1005 SW Park Avenue at southwest corner of Salmon Street
This property was developed in 1924 by the Prudential Finance Company which sold the hotel upon completion to the Roosevelt Hotel Company, helmed by George Heathman. Heathman was already planning a million-dollar namesake hotel a block away on Broadway and he disposed of the Roosevelt after a year. Designed by brothers H. Fred and William E. Claussen, the Roosevelt served both visiting guests and residents before being converted to low income housing in the 1970s. During some of its time as a hotel the front desk was manned by Portland poet Willis Eberman. In 2000 the building was converted to condominiums as the Roosevelt Plaza Apartments.
TURN LEFT AND WALK SOUTH ON PARK AVENUE (THE PARK BLOCKS ARE ON YOUR LEFT).
Portland Art Museum/Mark Building
1219 SW Park Avenue at Madison Street
In 1892 seven business and cultural leaders created the Portland Art Association and soon made its first acquisition of one hundred plaster casts of Greek and Roman sculptures with a $10,000 gift from Henry Corbett, banker and United States Senator. The Portland Art Museum is the oldest such institution on the West Coast and the seventh oldest in the United States. The museum moved its collection into its own building in 1905 and stayed until 1932 when it moved into this sleek brick gallery space designed by Pietro Belluschi. In 2005 the museum acquired its neighbor to the north, the one-time Masonic temple, and transformed it into the Mark Building with exhibits dedicated to contemporary and modern art.
TURN LEFT ON MADISON STREET.
First Congregational Church
1126 SW Park Avenue at northeast corner of Madison Street
This is the third house of worship for the congregation that was organized in 1851, making it the oldest Congregational church in the Pacific Northwest. Ground was broken in 1889 and it took six years to build the stone church trimmed in Tenino sandstone, ending with a price tag of $110,000. Henry J. Hefty, an architect from Switzerland, drew up the plans for the Italian Gothic structure whose imposing 185-foot square corner tower dominated the Portland skyline for years. Smaller towers on the northwest and southeast corners were removed back in 1940.
710 SW Madison Street at southwest corner of Broadway
Carl L. Linde was a German-born architect who made a specialty of high-rise, multi-unit Portland buildings, often with a fanciful touch. For the brick-and-stone Sovereign Hotel in 1923 Linde adopted the Georgian Revival style with pedimented windows and corner quoins. The Sovereign wasn’t a guest house for long, it was converted to apartments in 1938 and was purchased by the Oregon Historical Society in 1982. Look around back on the west side of the building to see eight-story murals depicting Oregon history. They were painted in 1989 by muralist Richard John Haas.
TURN LEFT ON BROADWAY.
Gus Solomon United States Court House
bounded by 6th Avenue and Broadway and Main and Madison streets
This Depression-era stimulus project came online in 1933 to relieve the Pioneer Courthouse from some of its duties. Portland architect Morris H. Whitehouse provided the Renaissance Revival design with splashes of Art Deco detailing. The hulking, block-swallowing edifice, dressed in Wilkerson sandstone quarried in Washington, is not as immense as it appears - it boasts a hollow center with a light court. Doors, grilles and handrails all show off brushed bronze. The Courthouse has carried the name of Gus Solomon since 1989; Solomon was a District Court judge for 37 years - longer than any other Oregon judge.
Paramount Theatre/Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
Main Street between Park Avenue and Broadway
Broadway was once lined with glitzy theaters and this is the last remaining souvenir from Portland’s “Great White Way.” The Chicago architectural firm started by brothers Cornelius and George Rapp, with over 400 theaters to their credit, contributed the Italian Renaissance design for the showplace that opened in 1928 as the Portland Publix Theatre, a vaudeville house that was the largest in the city. The marquee, punctuated by the vertical “Portland” sign, shone with some 6,000 lights. From 1930 until 1984 that marquee read “Paramount” when the owners contracted to exhibit films from that Hollywood studio. The sign lasted longer than the movie house, which went dark in 1972 after a final screening of Dr. Phibes Rises Again, a low-grade fright flick starring horror staple Vincent Price. After that the venue survived as a concert hall with a large assist from Arlene and Harold Schnitzer who picked up much of the tab for a restoration in 1983. Schnitzer started in the family scrap steel business but shifted early on into real estate development and would eventually donate $80 million to a wide range of Oregon-based projects.
712 SW Salmon Street at southwest corner of Broadway
Hotelier George Heathman built the last grand hotel of Portland’s boom times in 1927. Architects James W. DeYoung and Knud A. Roald drew up the plans for the Italian Renaissance-styled ten-story structure formed with concrete and dressed in brick. With 1,200 workmen on the job it was the largest construction project in Portland up to that time. When the Heathman opened its coffee shop was the most expansive the Pacific Northwest had ever seen. The Heathman family managed the operation until the early 1960s and in the half-century since the hotel has remained a landmark of luxury in downtown Portland.
Oregon Journal Building/Jackson Tower
806 SW Broadway at southeast corner of Yamhill Street
The Portland Evening Journal was launched in 1902 as a Democratic political mouthpiece but was foundering within a few months. C.S. “Sam” Jackson assumed publishing responsibilities and guided the newly christened Oregon Journal for 22 years as it became Portland’s daily afternoon newspaper. From 1912 until 1948 the Journal was headquartered here in this 12-story Beaux Arts tower created bythe architectural and engineering firm of brothers, James, Merritt and Watson Reid out of San Francisco. The clocktower was originally illuminated with 2,400 light bulbs that screwed directly into the facade. After the Journal moved on the building was renamed to honor Charles Samuel Jackson; the paper continued to publish until 1982.
Northwestern National Bank Building/American Bank Building
621 SW Morrison Street at northeast corner of Broadway
When it was completed in 1913 this 207-foot office tower was the tallest in the city and remained Portland Sky King until 1927. Although Albert Ernest Doyle lived only 51 years and maintained his own architectural practice for less than twenty, he left his mark in the Northwest with Italian Renaissance buildings designed from his base in Portland. For this early commission, however, Doyle outfitted his tower with Corinthian columns on a granite base. The client was the Northwestern National Bank, established in 1912 by Frederick Leadbetter and his father-in-law Henry Lewis Pittock. Englishman Pittock arrived penniless in Oregon in 1853 where he found work as a typesetter for the nascent Oregonian in exchange for room and board, the room being space under the front counter to spread a few blankets. He eventuallybecame manager and editor of the then-weekly newspaper. Pittock was a partner in the first paper mill in the Northwest, set up at Oregon City in 1866 that would become the foundation of the Georgia Pacific Company. His business interests would expand to include real estate, transportation, and logging in addition to banking. When Henry Pittock died in 1919 at the age of 83 his estate was valued at $7,894,778.33, the largest yet probated in Oregon. His wealth did not save his Northwestern Bank, however, which was liquidated after a run by depositors in 1927.
Broadway Building/Pioneer Park Building
715 SW Morrison Street at northwest corner of Broadway
This property was developed in 1911 by the Multnomah Security Company that erected a ten- story mixed-use building on land leased from the estate of Jacob Risley. Risley was an Ohioan who had come to Oregon back in 1845 and bought this lot in 1858. Earnest Boyd MacNaughton designed the classically flavored building with two large showrooms on the ground floor and office suites above. In its century of service the Broadway Building has hosted a platoon of different businesses and undergone numerous alterations. Nothing on the first two floors is original but look above and see essentially the same building from the time of its completion in 1913.
Charles F. Berg Building
615 SW Broadway
The two-decade building boom following the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition was essentially over in Portland when Art Deco had its run of popularity in American downtowns. So there are not many examples of commercial Deco in the city but here is one, from a 1930 makeover of a 1902 store for Charles F. Berg, a clothier for ladies of means. In addition to the upscale interior furnishings, Berg had his facade inlaid with 14-karat gold.
621 SW Alder Street at northeast corner of Broadway
This was the original home of the Portland Railway Light and Power Company, back in 1910 when it was necessary to work to sell consumers on the idea of electricity. To that end the exterior of the building was once alive with 1,100 light bulbs to promote home electrical service. This building was constructed in response to the explosive growth of Portland in the aftermath of the Lewis & Clark Exposition in 1905; in 1900 the company employed 450 workers and ten years later with the track system having grown eight-fold there were 2,900 employees. At this time the electric company removed overhead wiring from 180 downtown Portland blocks and put the system underground. Carl L. Linde, a Portland architect for four decades beginning in 1906, drew up the plans for the nine-story Chicago Style commercial building.
720 Washington Street at southwest corner of Broadway
William L. Morgan left the family farm in Tennessee to become an insurance man in Portland. By 1904 he was developing real estate and is credited with raising the town’s first apartment building. He would self-finance over 40 multi-family structures and was the money man behind this office building in 1913. Go-to Portland architect A.E. Doyle drew up the Beaux Arts-style plans that were executed in red tapestry brick and cream-colored glazed terra cotta. The Portland Oregonian gushed abut the Morgan Building, “People of Portland: Accept herewith your newest toy, your newest treasure.” All ten storefronts of the nine-story building were quickly rented after completion but Morgan shortly ran into financial reversals, declared bankruptcy and left Portland in 1917. Occupancy was much spottier after that and in 1938 a new Art Deco entrance was fabricated by Oregon Brass Works. The building has received regular renovations and in 2010 became Portland’s first historic structure to be certified as an LEED green-rated building.
Imperial Hotel/Hotel Vintage
422-426 SW Broadway at northeast corner of Washington Street
The stretch of Broadway from Taylor Street to Oak Street is filled with large hotels, representing at one time a third of all downtown Portland guest rooms. The Imperial Hotel, developed by George F. Wells, a contractor, led the way. In 1892 when ground for this Romanesque-styled structure of rough-cut stone, brick and terra-cotta was broken this was the western edge of town. The Imperial opened in 1894 and five years later the lease was acquired by Phil Metshan who had first appeared in Portland in 1862 when the 22-year old German immigrant opened the town’s second bakery. He left for Canyon City and the promise of gold where he became a force in Oregon Republican politics. Upon his return to Portland as a hotel man, Metschan transformed the Imperial into a hub of state political wrangling. After Metshan’s death in 1920 his son, Phil, Jr., ran the Imperial in much the same style until he sold the “unoffical Oregon capital” in 1949 when he was 74.
New Imperial Hotel/Hotel Lucia
400 SW Broadway at southeast corner of Stark Street
This nine-story, steel-framed building was shepherded into existence by Phil Metschan, Jr. in 1909 as an adjunct to his family’s Imperial Hotel next door. Like its ancestor, the New Imperial became a center of Oregon politics, especially for eastern Oregonians to stay and mingle when visiting Portland. The architectual firm of William Marcy Whidden & Ion Lewis outfitted the outside of the hotel in cream-colored terra cotta and filled the interior with rich mahogany and Moravian tile from the Mercer kilns of Pennsylvania. The Imperial closed in 2001 but has since been resuscitated as a boutique hotel.
United States National Bank
321–331 SW 6th Avenue at northeast corner of Broadway
Another creation of Albert E. Doyle, this Neoclassical vault was formed with reinforced concrete and steel on a granite base and dressed in terra cotta, including the full height Corinthian columns and pilasters. Marble was imported from across Europe to create the lavish interior. The massive bronze entrance doors on Sixth Avenue are the handiwork of Arvard Fairbanks, a one time professor of sculpture at the University of Oregon. The recipient of this fine banking house when it was completed in 1917 was the United States National Bank that had incorporated in 1890. Within a few years the bank decided to expand, bought out the neighboring Elks Club and marched their building down Stark Street, calling in the original artisans to extend their design.
The Benson Hotel
309 SW Broadway at southwest corner of Oak Street
Architect Albert E. Doyle dialed back a generation for the French Second Empire style used for this 12-story hotel capped by a dormered mansard roof. Lumber baron Simon Benson sold off most of his vast landholdings in 1910 for $4.5 million and plowed a million of his proceeds into his grand hostelry. Glazed terra cotta and dark brick cover the outside and the interior is composed of Paonazzo marble and Circassian walnut, a wood from the ancient forests of Russia so rare it is now extinct. Opened as the New Oregon Hotel in 1913, the 200-room guest house was not profitable until Benson took over the operation after 16 months and put his name on the marquee. A century later, through myriad owners and renovations, the Benson still functions as a hotel.
southwest corner of SW Broadway and Oak Street
Norway-born Simon Berger Iverson immigrated to the Upper Midwest at the age of 17 in 1868 where he learned the lumber business. In 1879 with an Americanized surname, Benson was in the Pacific Northwest where he began acquiring lowlands along the Columbia River from homesteaders unable to coax crops to grow there. Benson mechanized logging operations with steam railroads and floated his logs down to California on open-sea log rafts to his sawmill in San Diego where his lumber was gobbled up for the exploding Southern California building market. By 1912 Benson was divesting most of his interests and spreading his wealth around Portland. Never happy to see loggers dispose of their wages in local saloons, he donated $10,000 to the town to construct 20 bronze, four-bowl drinking fountains. Today those original 20 have become 52 “Benson Bubblers” in downtown Portland, most constructed in local foundries.
TURN LEFT ON OAK STREET.
733 SW Oak Street at northeast corner of Park Avenue
This two-story sandstone building from 1913 is an early effort by Morris Whitehouse who would go on to design many significant buildings in Salem and his native Portland during a 36-year practice. Its unique trapezoidal footprint is the product of the clashing of two mismatched sections of the city street grid. The client was the venerable Scottish trading company, Balfour-Guthrie, which stayed until 1957.
TURN LEFT ON PARK AVENUE. TURN RIGHT ON STARK STREET.
Clyde Hotel/ Ace Hotel
1022 SW Stark Street at southwest corner of 10th Avenue
This commercial-style hotel dates to 1912 when it was known as the Clyde Hotel, a product of the architectural partnership of Ernest Boyd MacNaughton and Herbert E. Raymond. The hotel took a star turn in Gus Van Sant’s Drugstore Cowboy, supporting the award-worthy performance of Matt Dillon.
TURN LEFT ON 11TH AVENUE.
Mark Spencer Hotel
409 SW 11th Avenue at southwest corner of Stark Street
This was the heart of Portland’s Theatre District when this brick hotel opened as the Nortonia in 1907. For many decades it was the resting place of choice for performers coming through town. A 1966 makeover brought with it a new name - intended to honor Philip Spencer, the only United States midshipman hung for mutiny in the Navy, in an 1842 for an incident in which he was later exonerated. Materials ordered for the re-opening were wrongly inscribed with the name “Mark Spencer.” And so it has been for nearly fifty years.
1117 SW Washington Street at northwest corner of 11th Avenue
This red brick an terra cotta structure that looks like it escaped from colonial Philadelphia was built in 1922 to house the offices of the Portland Telegram, the newspaper founded in 1877 by Henry L. Pittock. The Telegram merged in 1931 with the Portland News, creating the Portland News-Telegram, which staggered to the end of the decade before stopping publication. After that tenants lining up to fill the Georgian Revival office building with three-stage corner tower were few and far between until a rehabilitation of the property took place in 2003.
TURN LEFT ON WASHINGTON STREET.
921 SW Washington Street between 9th and 10th avenues
Henry Lewis Pittock lived on this block until 1914 and when he moved to a newly constructed 22-room chateau in the West Hills he leased the block to a California developer, requiring only that a “worthy” edifice be erected and that it carry his name. The suitably elegant structure orchestrated by the firm of Doyle and Patterson, boasting a balustrade and decorative urns, fills the entire block.
812 SW Washington Street at southeast corner of 9th Avenue
Theodore Burney Wilcox was born in Massachusetts in 1856 but was lured to the Pacific Northwest to work in Ladd & Tilton’s Bank. In 1884 he bought an old-fashioned, bankrupt mill on the Willamette River and turned the Portland Flouring Mills Company into one the great enterprises of Oregon. Wilcox spent the twilight days of his career investing heavily in downtown Portland development using prominent Portland architects William M. Whidden and Ion Lewis as his design team. The 12-story Stevens Building was one of their last major commissions after twenty years of doing much to shape the Portland skyline. You will have to look up to see the classically flavored building that features a brownish brick veneer capped with a terra cotta cornice and upper floors.
TURN RIGHT ON PARK AVENUE.
525 SW Park Avenue at northwest corner of Alder Street
Thomas R. Cornelius came out of Missouri to become one of Oregon’s pioneers, fighting in the Indian Wars, serving in the Oregon Territorial Legislature, building a key mountain pass and founding a namesake town. His brother Charles named this hotel for him when it was constructed in 1907. Cornelius called his hostelry the “House of Welcome.” Architect John V. Bennes, who had a bit of a specialty with mid-size inns around Portland, provided the exuberant Baroque design, rendered in brick and still evident above the compromised ground floor. The building has persevered through many years of abandonment and fire damage.
TURN RIGHT ON ALDER STREET.
Olds, Wortman and King Department Store
bounded by 9th and 10th avenues and Alder and Morrison streets
Olds, Wortman & King was one of the three department store pillars of Portland’s historic retail core along with and Meier & Frank and Lipman’s. In 1878 William Parker Olds and his stepfather Samuel Willard King scraped together enough money to buy the dry goods store where Olds had been clerking since 1869, a business that traced its roots to the Portland waterfront in 1851. John and Hardy C. Wortman came along in the 1890s as the business expanded to the point that the owners set out to construct the first building in the Northwest to occupy an entire city block in 1910. At the time the Portland business district was still huddled close to the Willamette River but Olds, Wortman and King’s gamble paid off as an estimated crowd of 25,000 shoppers showed up on opening day and the town expanded westward at a rapid pace. The company changed hands several times after the principals sold out in 1925 and since 1976 the five-story shopping palace emerged as The Galleria, heralded as downtown Portland’s first shopping mall.
TURN LEFT ON 10TH AVENUE.
Seward Hotel/Hotel Governor
614 SW 10th Avenue at southwest corner of Alder Street
William Christmas Knighton was named Oregon’s first State Architect in 1913. Among the buildings on his résumé at that time was this stylish terra cotta hotel that opened in 1909. Knighton worked in the Arts and Crafts style here, incorporating American Indian designs into the décor. The building still functions as a hotel although the name changed from Seward to Governor in 1932; a 1992 remodeling welded the adjoining Princeton Building into Knighton’s original design.
1022-1038 SW Morrison at northwest corner of 10th Avenue
This brick building was erected in 1904 by the General German Aid Society as shelter for German-speaking immigrants and also a money-making venture. The architect was Otto Kleeman, German-born and trained, who had been working in Portland since 1880. The beneficent society formed in 1871 with eight members and named their hotel after a Teutonic tribal chief who bested the invading Roman army 2000 years ago.The lower and upper floors have been compromised but the middle levels still feature red brick and expressive stone trim.
801 SW 10th Avenue between Yamhill and Taylor streets
The Library Association of Portland organized in 1864 and after decades of a peripatetic existence the collection moved into this Georgian showplace in 1913. Albert Ernest Doyle, who did more to shape the streetscape of Portland than any other architect in the city, provided the design which featured one of the first interior open library plans in America. The exterior blends red brick and native Pacific Northwest Wilkinson sandstone and the interior is awash in rich woods and marble.
Medical Arts Building
1020 Taylor Street between 10th and 11th streets
Wisconsin-born physician Andrew C. Smith, who began practicing in Portland in 1890, led the drive to create this central office building for doctors and dentists in 1925. When it opened the space was 95% subscribed. Architects Chester A. Houghton and Leigh L. Dougan tapped the Italian Renaissance style for the U-shaped building that is constructed of reinforced concrete and outfitted with sand-grey pressed brick and glazed terra cotta which is wrapped in cast stone quoins.
Auto Rest Garage
925-935 SW 10th Avenue at northwest corner of Salmon Street
During the decade between 1910 and 1920 automobile ownership climbed from 181,000 to over four million vehicles. Many dealerships congregated along 10th Avenue and this two-story brick structure was designed in 1917 by Joseph Jacobberger as a showroom for the Stutz and Columbia lines. Aside from modifications on the ground floor for commercial purposes the building looks much as it did in the early days of the horseless carriage.
Odd Fellows Building
1001-1019 SW 10th Avenue at southwest corner of Salmon Street
The Middle Ages in Great Britain saw the banding together of tradesmen into guilds to promote business and fellowship. The carpenters had their own guild, the bricklayers had their own guild and so on. Trades that did not have a large number of practitioners welded into hodgepodge guilds known as Odd Fellows. In 19th century America an International Order of Odd Fellows lodge building, usually exuberantly ornate, could be found in virtually every town. Portland’s is a Gothic Revival affair designed by Ernst Kroner in 1922.
TURN LEFT ON SALMON STREET AND WALK ONE BLOCK TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT ON THE SOUTH PARK BLOCKS.