Originally published June 2, 2012
Read the original article here
A few -- the Simon Benson House, the Morris Marks House and the Bishop's House -- are rightly celebrated for their architecture or connection to Portland history.
But most -- the ones lining Southwest Jackson Street between Sixth and Broadway, or the two still standing on the block southeast of Southwest Fifth and College -- are virtually invisible, standing in one place so long they have faded into the downtown woodwork.
Our count finds 26 houses more than a century old still standing in Portland's compact downtown between West Burnside, the freeways and Tom McCall Waterfront Park. In many cases, they remain because they stand in pockets that latter-day developers have ignored.
For some, the pressure is growing. Architect, architectural historian and author William J. Hawkins III, along with preservationist Clem Ogilby, are racing to find a way to move the 132-year-old ornate Italianate Morris Marks House from its current site at 1134 S.W. 12th Ave. to a new location in Goose Hollow.
"The landowners at the 12th Avenue site continue to remain incredibly patient," Ogilby said, "but with an ascending real estate market, the clock is clearly ticking."
They've been working at it for a while. The morrismarkshouse.net website says the Warren Williams-designed house "must be relocated by the end of 2010." Two earlier potential sites have been ruled out. A site on steeply sloped Southwest 20th next to the historic Kamm House, where Hawkins has his office, may be the best hope for saving the Morris Marks House, built for a pioneer shoe merchant.
Portland State University, which dominates the southwestern portion of downtown, is home to three century-old houses. The jewel is the 1900 Simon Benson House, at 1803 S.W. Park Ave. As Hawkins notes, the house's Queen Anne turret and Moorish porch signal an elegance appropriate for Portland timber baron and philanthropist Simon Benson. Benson gave the city its Benson Bubbler drinking fountains, the Benson Hotel, Benson Polytechnic, the land containing Multnomah and Wahkeena falls, and built the Columbia Gorge Hotel in Hood River. The house was in danger of condemnation in the early 1990s, but the university and concerned citizens stepped in to move it from its former site at Southwest 11th and Clay and restore it on campus. Now it is the alumni center.
Hawkins once consulted on a plan to restore the Marston House, an 1893 Queen Anne that stands at 1622 S.W. 12th Ave. Although its onion dome has been removed and the first level clad in brick, the interior is intact, he said. It serves as home to PSU's Graduate Honors Program.
A third house, the Harder House at 1604 S.W. 10th Ave., has been radically modified and serves as a graduate systems science building.
The closest thing to an intact "century block" downtown is the south side of Southwest Jackson Street from Broadway around the corner to Sixth Avenue. Wrapping from the set-back, cut-away two-story at 2027 S.W. Sixth Ave., which seems to have been moved to the site, to the former Green Onion restaurant at 632-6 S.W. Jackson St., the block is home to a collection of 1900-era houses and apartment buildings. It was punctured by the unfortunate addition of a mid-century apartment complex on Southwest Broadway, and slashed by the curve of Interstate 405, but parts of it look much as they did when it was a thriving Jewish neighborhood 110 years ago.
A little farther to the east, several houses still stand, if precariously. Lawyer Randal Acker waged a vigorous campaign to stave off condemnation of his Queen Anne office at 525 S.W. Jackson St. after TriMet and Portland State had targeted it for redevelopment. Now it holds a lonely place between a PSU high-rise and a MAX turnaround.
On the block bounded by Southwest Fourth and Fifth avenues, College and Jackson streets, two radically remodeled houses linger in a block of missing teeth. A double-bayed Italianate dating from 1894 is a duplex at 1986 S.W. Fifth Ave. Around the corner at 420 S.W. College St., in an 1880 building that now houses Alexandrya Restaurant, a resident named Sarah Neusihin once pickled cucumbers and sold them in barrels on the sidewalk. Neusihin, sister to a rabbi, established a company that was later sold but whose name lingers in the Mrs. Neusihin's brand of kosher dills.
A couple of downtown houses, at 921 S.W. Clay St., and at 1421 S.W. 12th Ave., were built as rectories for the churches next door. The more attractive of them is four-square Hafner Haus on Southwest 12th, built in 1911. The other, a 1905 two-story listed by the city as "American Basic," was built the same year as the First German Evangelical Church -- now the Portland Korean Church -- next door.
Probably the most dramatic house still standing downtown is the 1879 High Victorian Gothic three-story built as a rectory for Archbishop Francois Blanchet, who conducted masses in now-demolished cathedral next door. Today his former house stands alone, home to Al-Amir Restaurant at 219 S.W. Stark St.
Surviving 100-year-old downtown houses
The survivors on the block: 420 S.W. College St. Built in 1880, the Queen Anne house was home to Neusihin Pickles. Since remodeled, it now houses Alexandrya Restaurant. It's around the corner from 1986 S.W. Fifth Ave., an 1894 Italianate duplex that had its double bays cut in half in a remodeling.
525 S.W. Jackson St. The 1894 Queen Anne survived redevelopment pressures and was renamed the Figo House by its commercial occupant, lawyer Randal Acker.
2021 S.W. Sixth Ave. Built in 1880. 2013-2015 S.W. Sixth Ave. Built in 1889. 2027 S.W. Sixth Ave. Built in 1880 and later sawed off to accommodate the highway. The Sanborn insurance map of 1901 shows the site listed as "Shed," so the house apparently was moved from another location. 624, 626 and 632-6 S.W. Jackson St., all built in 1900 in the Colonial Revival style.
1924 S.W. Broadway. Date unknown, but an apartment house in the same block was built in 1895. This Victorian Italianate was modified and is home to Baan-Thai Restaurant and Broadway Coffee.
Campus collection: On Portland State University's campus stand the attractive Benson House at 1803 S.W. Park, the Marston House at 1622 S.W. 12th Ave., and the radically remodeled Harder House at 1604 S.W 10th Ave. All are being used by the university.
The rectories: 1421 S.W. 12th Ave. Built 1911 in the Craftsman style, it stands next to Grace Bible Church. 921 S.W. Clay St. Built in 1905, the same year the First German Evangelical Church (now the Portland Korean Church) was built next door. 219 S.W. Stark St. The Bishop's House, was built in 1879 as living quarters for Archbishop Francois Blanchet, next to a cathedral that was demolished in 1894. Now it's home to Al-Amir Restaurant.
Next-door neighbors: 1326 S.W. 12th Ave. 1890, Queen Anne Vernacular, now houses a hair salon and law office, and 1318 S.W. 12th Ave., also 1890, a law office.
1134 S.W 12th Ave. The 1880 Morris Marks house, designed by architect Warren Williams. Must be relocated. It stands next to a Craftsman duplex at 1142-6 S.W. 12th Ave., listed by the city as being built in 1890.
1023 and 1015 S.W. Yamhill St. Both date from 1888 and both standing on their original sites, according to Hawkins. Across from the Central Library, they house a salon and a law office.
The apartment houses: z1402-06 S.W. 12th Ave. Possibly built in 1908 as a duplex, now divided into 10 units. 1515 S.W. 10th Ave. The Ada Apartments, with twin gables. 1415 S.W. 11th Ave. The Hidwell Apartments, built 1908, stand across from the 1882 Old Church.
The loner: 1123 S.W. Yamhill St. An 1883 Italianate that was later wrapped in brick still shows its double-bay shape, a chimney and a trace of the old back porch. It's known as the Tilbury/Rothman or just Tilbury Building, after the lawyers who worked there. One part-owner says it may go on the market soon, following a relocation of his practice. He also said it sometimes seemed to be haunted.