Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Portland's Pittock Mansion

He was 75 and she was 65 when they built the ultimate Oregon retirement house. Sitting on 46 acres, 1000’ above sea level, near the center of Portland, this grand manor served as home to one of Portland’s most influential businessmen, Henry Pittock and his wife Georgiana.
Pittock immigrated to Portland in 1853 by way of the Oregon Trail, and worked his way up from lowly printer’s apprentice to owner of the Oregonian, the state’s largest newspaper. Additional investments in pulp and paper mills and real estate provided the Pittocks with the necessary resources to splurge on an opulent, new mansion appropriate to their station in life. Construction began in 1912 and the Pittocks, along with one of their daughter’s family, moved into the $350,000 house in 1914.
Built in the French Renaissance Chateau style, the exterior’s rounded towers, cone-shaped roofs, and massive sandstone walls create the appearance of a sturdy fortress, ready to ward off any unwelcome invasions from Forest Park. The house was situated to take advantage of its sweeping view of the city of Portland, Columbia and Willamette Rivers, the Cascades, and, on a clear day, five volcanoes.
The interior in dominated by a grand marble staircase that winds continuously from the basement to second floor. The 16,000 square feet include 22 rooms filled with furnishings and artworks representing a mish-mash of styles: Victorian, English Jacobean, Turkish, Renaissance Revival, and Arts and Crafts. Of special note, are the plasterwork, light fixtures, painted ceilings, and wooden floors. For its time, the house contained a number of state-of-the-art features still sought after today including a central vacuum system, indirect lighting, intercoms, and a fancy shower with multiple sprayers.
The Pittocks’ offspring occupied the house until 1958, when it was placed on the real estate market. The Columbus Day storm of 1962 inflicted serious damage to the property, blowing over trees, knocking out windows, and damaging the roof. Subsequent leaks destroyed some of the wooden floors and finishes. When it looked like the property would be sold to a developer with plans to raze the house and subdivide the acreage, the city of Portland with the help of private donors stepped in and saved the house in 1964. After extensive repairs and restoration, the house was opened to the public as a museum operated by Portland Parks and Recreation and the Pittock Mansion Society.
Through mid-July, the museum is hosting a special exhibit "At Home in Portland 1909-1914". These were the city's development boom years and the exhibit features promotional materials designed to sell property in the new neighborhoods of Laurelhurst, Eastmoreland, Kenton, Portland Heights and the Ladd Addition. It also examines different architectural styles in the new Portland including Revival, Arts and Crafts, and Prairie Style.

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