Heritage Home Tour in Portland, Oregon
A couple of weekends ago, I visited three of the five homes on the 4th Annual Heritage Home Tour in Portland. My husband came along, the sun was out, we had ice cream, we visited a few other historic places along the way... it was such a fun day.
Starting Point: The Architectural Heritage Center
Our first stop was the Architectural Heritage Center in SE Portland, where I picked up our tickets. Opened in 2005, the center's mission is "to preserve the historic character and livability of our built environment, and to promote sustainability through the re-use of period homes and buildings."
The AHC hosts a variety of programs including lectures and architectural walking tours, and its historic headquarters includes a small museum of architectural artifacts, classrooms, and a library. Everyone I met there was very friendly.
Lunch in a Historic Chapel
Then it was on to lunch at the historic McMenanamins Chapel Pub, where we looked through the tour brochure over sandwiches and tater tots.
Most McMenamins pubs are housed in creatively-restored historic buildings, which is one big reason I'm a fan of the chain. The Chapel Pub is no exception: it is the former Little Chapel of the Chimes, built in 1932.
The chapel has a interesting Romanesque Revival design that reminded us strongly of the Basilica of St. Ambrose in Milan:
The pretty interior (Portland, not Milan):
1. Harker Building
Thus fortified, we drove back across the river to Downtown and our first stop on the self-guided tour, the Harker Building. It was a great start - a unique, interesting, and very Portland-y home.
The Harker Building dates from 1878 and originally housed a restaurant and shops. In 2001, it was purchased by Thomas Lauderdale, founder and bandleader of the Portland-based band Pink Martini.
My father is a huge fan of Pink Martini and they've always sounded like a band I'd like, so I've been meaning to check them out forever... but never got around to it. I'm pretty lazy about music discovery. So this was a great introduction, and I listened to some songs when I got home. Of course, I loved them.
The inscription on the facade reads JE NE VEUX PAS TRAVAILLER. I loved it because not only is it beautifully designed and within my level of French comprehension, it is a sentiment I can sympathize with: "I don't want to work." But when I read the tour brochure more thoroughly later, I learned there is also a great story behind it.
It turns out that Pink Martini's song Sympathique (from their debut album of the same name in 1997) was licensed for a major ad campaign by Citroen, a French car company. And that allowed Thomas Lauderdale to put a down payment on the Harker Building, which became the world headquarters of Pink Martini (on the main floor) as well as his private home (on the upper levels). Je ne veux pas travailler is a lyric from Sympathique, which I listened to when I got home and LOVED. So catchy and cheerful (and in wonderfully simple French) - you should really check it out if you don't know it already. Warning: it's a sticky one!
Anyway, back to the building. It was restored over a period of several years by designer Philip Iosca using a variety of reclaimed materials from local historic buildings - including theaters, libraries, a strip club and city hall. The result is just as cool and creative as you would expect from the founder of Pink Martini.
View of the stairwell in the center of the building from the top floor, with the library on the middle floor.
Displayed in the library is this old overcoat, which doesn't look like much but is actually an important local artifact - a tour volunteer informed me that it is the very coat worn by Mayor Bud Clark in the (locally) famous "Expose Yourself to Art" poster created in 1978.
Another view of the stairwell, with vintage doors from Mary's Strip Club in Portland.
Office area on the top floor.
Modern kitchen on the top floor, with lots of art on the opposite wall.
View of the entire top floor from the front of the building. The living area is in the foreground, followed by the kitchen and dining area.
Sid Vicious is invited to every party.
A creative use of space: sleeping loft with one of two guest beds.
We left by the back stairs.
On the street outside, we were offered a free scoop of ice cream, courtesy of Thomas Lauderdale! And not just any ice cream, but some of the best I've ever tasted, from the local shop Salt & Straw.
It was sea salt and caramel, all ingredients made in house. YUM.
A big thanks to Thomas Lauderdale for letting us all tromp through his beautiful house, and for the amazing ice cream! What a great start to an architectural day out in Portland.
2. Geisy-Failing House
Next up on our list was the Geisy-Failing House, which has an interesting twin-peaked roof and was completed in 1913. It's in a beautiful location in the West Hills. Today there isn't much of a view and there is quite of bit of freeway noise, but it was a peaceful oasis with grand vistas for its original owners.
Small room just inside the entrance to the right, with bookshelves (visible in the mirror) and beautifully-decorated bathroom.
A grand staircase. Sadly the upstairs was not part of the tour.
View from near the entrance, with the stairs are just out of sight on the right. On the left (not pictured) is the living room; in front is the sunroom; and on the right is the dining room. All beautifully restored.
The sunroom is a great space - it makes you want to settle in with a book. But the floor is noticeably sloped - I fear that if you put a drink on the table, it would slide towards the windows!
Dining room, the most beautiful place in the house.
Dining room detail.
After our tour, we wandered around back to check out the crookedness from the outside, and found that they are working to correct it with jacks (for lack of the actual technical term) under the foundations.
3. Williams House
The last house we visited was the Williams House, a Mid-Century Modern of 1957 that has been faithfully restored by its owners, who are enthusiasts of the period.
Sitting room between dining room and kitchen
The deck was my favorite spot, with its beautiful materials and forest views.
Living room, with fabulous leopard sofa.
Vintage intercom in another bedroom
The carport and side yard. Stairs on the other side of the fence lead down to the basement level along a wonderful hillside garden.
On-the-Way-Home Bonus: Vista Bridge
Before heading home, we paid a visit to the historic Vista Bridge, which isn't far from the Williams House. It's a lovely bridge that I've driven under many times but have never actually visited up close.
Built in 1926, the Vista Bridge features generous sidewalks and amazing views of the city. And this was a good time to visit and photograph the bridge, because fences were soon to go up along its length, changing its appearance for the foreseeable future.
Why fences? Because, unfortunately, the bridge has long been a popular place for committing suicide, and the number of jumps have been increasing lately.
In the meantime, messages of hope have been placed around the bridge, and suicide prevention volunteers stand ready to help.
Aside from this unfortunate aspect, it is a wonderful structure. The views are magnificent and the architecture, although simple, is a stylish Art Deco.