Friday, September 24, 2010

Portland Architecture: Historic Buildings Downtown

Downtown Portland has a heck of a lot of historic architecture. Before I moved here I was aware that Portland was at the top of the list for LEED buildings (that's a green building certification system) falling just behind Chicago and just ahead of Seattle. Yay for living in green-friendly cities! And I had been to Portland before, visiting when we lived in Seattle, so I knew there were a lot of historic buildings. But now that we live here it seems like every other building in the Downtown area has a historic status. It's very cool.

Historic buildings tend to mean there are some interesting stories of preservation efforts surrounding these buildings. One of my favorites so far is the Ladd Carriage House, which was relocated in 2008. It's my understanding that the Morris Marks House is considering a similar fate. It's no easy task, as you can see in this time lapse of the efforts on the Ladd House:

I'm starting to notice that there are certain historic architects who have several prominent buildings that remain. I've noticed that many of the apartment buildings on our street have similar window detailing to our building, so I'm wondering if they are by the same firm or there was just one very successful window manufacturer around when these buildings went up in the 1930s.

One big firm from the beginning of the 20th century is Whidden & Lewis who get credit for City Hall, the Failing Office Building (gotta love that name), the Postal Building and The Grand Stable Building and Carriage house among other projects. The last two are pictured here, along with the Mackenzie house, a large eclectic/shingle style home on the northwest side of town that we happened by on a walk this week, also by Whidden and Lewis:

Postal Building Grand Stable and Carriage Building, 1887, 1894
K. A. J. Mackenzie House

The Old Church and the Morris Marks House are both by Warren H. Williams and are a quick walk from one another:

The Old Church Morris Marks House

So I am on the look out for other prominent names in early Portland architecture as we explore the city. It's great to have so many buildings of the same era remain to get a sense of the styles that were prevalent and really start to understand how various local firms worked within each of the styles. It's especially fun after our last two years in Chicago. I'm quite happy to have moved to a city that can compare, if on a smaller scale, to the rich architectural history of the birthplace of the skyscraper. Even if the tallest building here in Portland is only 41 floors.

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