Portland Oregon history.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Lost and Found

A survey of Portland’s venerable and storied parking lots could start here, at the corner of First and Stark Streets.

The lot covers nearly two thirds of Block #38 (Lots #1 through #6 specifically). In land use parlance it is a “converted commercial segment.” The lot has approximately 100 spaces. It is operated by City Center Parking.
Besides parking revenue, its low profile allows the side and rear walls of the Governor Building (1906) to be used as five story high billboards.

It dates, like many of its kind, from the early 1950s.

As often is the case, there was once something else there.

From 1868 to 1954 the north east corner of Block #38 (Lot #1) was the location of the Ladd & Tilton Bank building.

“Few buildings more fully captured the essence of the cast-iron era in Portland than the richly decorated Ladd & Tilton Bank, built in 1868.”

“The Grand Era of Cast-Iron Architecture in Portland” by William John Hawkins III.

The building was designed by John Nestor, inspired by the Libreria Veccchia (1536) in Venice.

The Libreria Vecchia, Venice.

It was elaborate, even in an elaborate age.

Crowning the front entrance was a parapet featuring Neptune and Mercury guarding two urns. Originally the buildings cast iron facade, built by Portland’s Willamette Iron Works, was painted white to approximate marble. According to William John Hawkins III excellent and exhaustively researched book, the finials above the roofline served as chimney caps for fire place flues leading up from the building.

The banks founder, William Sargent Ladd arrived in Portland from New England in 1851 with only a small consignment of liquor to sell. He set up business on Front Street, soon adding produce, tobacco, farm tools and other wares. In 1853 he built the first brick building in Portland at #105 Front Street, on the corner of Front and Stark, opposite the Stark Street ferry landing.

W.S, Ladd was elected Mayor of Portland in 1854. By that time he was already established as a local source of credit, loaning money at a 1% interest rate (standard for the era). If not repaid when due, he would accept payment in goods and property. He was not averse to foreclosure. From this business evolved the Ladd and Tilton Bank, established in 1859 with fellow New Englander Charles E. Tilton, of San Francisco.

The original Ladd & Tilton bank operated out of the second floor (added in 1857) of W.S. Ladd’s store on the corner of Front and Stark streets. A third story would be later added in the 1860’s. The Ladd and Tilton Bank soon outgrew the space and moved in 1864 to a temporary location before the the Ladd & Tilton Bank Building was completed in 1869. The original W.S. Ladd building was torn down in 1940.
Picture from “60 Milestones of Progress, 1859 to 1919” by the Ladd and Tilton Bank.

Portland in the early 1880s. Front Street, with warehouses backed up to the river, is on the left. Mercantile First Street is to the right. The Ladd and Tilton Bank can be seen on the corner of Stark and First, one block up from the right hand corner of the picture. (click on pictures to enlarge)

W.S. Ladd’s later career can be read as a chronicle of Portland’s development in the later nineteenth century. As an owner, an investor or a benefactor, he was deeply involved in interests as varied as Oregon Steam Navigation Company and its successor the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company, the Oregon Telegraph Company, the Oregon Iron & Steel Company at Oswego, the Portland Flouring Mills, the Hotel Portland, the Portland and Willamette Valley Railroad, the Portland Art Museum and the Portland Library Association (which was allowed to occupy, rent free, the second story of the Ladd & Tilton Bank from 1873 to 1893) and many others. He served on the Water Committee that decided to bring Bull Run water to Portland. He also owned three large farms on the east side of town, which were later developed as Laurelhurst, Eastmoreland and, of course, Ladd’s Addition.

When William Sargent. Ladd died in 1893 his estate was worth in excess of ten million dollars.

The Ladd and Tilton Bank at First and Stark. Note the street railway track, Portland’s first horse car line built in 1872. Max now runs on the same right of way.
From “The Grand Era of Cast-Iron Architecture in
Portland” by William John Hawkins III.

The bank occupied the location at First and Stark until 1911 when it moved to larger quarters in the Spaulding Building (still existent) at Third and Washington.

The Ladd & Tilton Bank was acquired by U.S. National Bank in 1925 after being crippled by series of bad loans and investments.

The banks former home on First and Stark went through a series of devolving uses until being demolished to create a parking lot in 1954. Contractor / preservationist Eric Ladd (no relation to W.S. Ladd) was able to save the buildings cast iron ornamentation, which was warehoused.

Thus one of Portland’s more extravagant buildings was consigned to memories, books and imagination.

But not quite.

Some lost treasures are less lost than others.

In 1869, at the same time the Ladd and Tilton Building was being built in Portland, W.S. Ladd and Asahel Bush established a new bank in Salem; Ladd and Bush Bankers.

The building, on the corner of State and Commercial Streets, used identical cast iron façade pieces as the Ladd and Tilton bank in Portland, struck from the same molds at Willamette Iron Works. It was smaller than the Portland bank and lacked the elaborate front parapet and roof finials.

Over the years the bank was enlarged and altered at least two times. In the picture above, circa 1939, there are eight bays on Commercial Street (two more than in 1869) and seven on State Street (5 more than in 1869) plus a non-matching addition at the south end of the building.

In 1940, after 71 years of successful banking, Ladd and Bush was merged into the Salem Branch of the United States National Bank of Portland.

In the mid nineteen sixties, US Bank decided to expand the Salem Oregon branch. In a stunning deviation from the near standard practice of the time, US Bank chose to maintain the historic character of the Ladd and Bush bank. In 1967 the building was “radically remodeled,” according to the “Commercial Street Historic District Narrative” (this may be a euphemism) with the interior gutted and new concrete walls constructed. The original cast iron façade was then re-applied. In the expansion, the bays on Commercial Street were increased from eight to eighteen and on State Street from seven to ten.

The expansion was made possible by augmenting the original cast iron facade of the Salem bank with the identical ironwork from the Ladd and Tilton Building in Portland, saved by Eric Ladd, thirteen years prior.

What can be seen today on Commercial and State is a strong echo of what once stood at First and Stark. It is a hybrid of two closely related buildings that would not likely exist today without each other. The vision of US Bank and the foresight of Eric Ladd allowed Portland’s loss to be Salem’s gain.

The Ladd banks had a tendency to publish books before disappearing. “Sixty Milestones of Progress” was published in 1919, six years before Ladd and Tilton was acquired by U.S. National Bank. “70 Years” was published in 1939, a year before Ladd and Bush was merged into U.S. National Bank.


In “The Grand Era of Cast-Iron Architecture in Portland” William John Hawkins III mentions that a near twin to the Ladd & Tilton Building was also built in 1868, the Ironclad Bank of Brooklyn New York. Does this building still exist?

Eric Ladd’s salvaged cast iron pieces adorn the Ladd & Bush building in Salem. But what happened to the parapet with Mercury and Neptune?

A copy of “The Grand Era of Cast-Iron Architecture in Portland” is good to have around.

Attention Portland Historians!

David Schargel of Portland Walking Tours has announced that there are now openings for tour guides. For details see:


Sunday, January 07, 2007

House of Inman, House of Poulsen

Vanished Symmetry.

Like sentries they stood at the east approach of the Ross Island Bridge, two identical Queen Anne mansions on either side of Powell Boulevard.
The Poulsen House exists today, one of the finest examples of its style in the city. Its twin, the Inman House, was torn down to create that mid-century Portland staple, a parking lot.

They were built by timber barons, Robert D. Inman and Johan Poulsen, with sweeping views of the city, and more important, their shared empire emerging on the east bank of the Willamette.


The Inman-Poulsen mill circa 1940. The Inman House and the back of the Poulsen house, directly across the street from it, are visible just above the lower right corner, along Powell at the east end of the Ross Island Bridge.

Robert D. Inman and Johan Poulsen built their saw mill in 1890 on the river south of Hawthorne, near the Madison Street Bridge (a previous incarnation of the Hawthorne Bridge). Originally on a marshy inlet, today the site is bordered roughly by OMSI to the west and the Union Pacific railroad tracks and MLK Viaduct to the east.

For 64 years Inman-Poulsen mill was a Portland colossus. It was the centerpiece of an operation that was, for a time, the largest lumber company in the state with vast timber holdings in Oregon and Washington. By 1918 as many as 450 Portlanders worked there. At its height it covered over 60 acres. The mountains of sawdust waste produced by the mill created an ever changing topography to the skyline of the Portland’s east side. Inman- Poulsen was the last and greatest of the saw mills located in the central city.

A interuban car owned by Portland Electric Power Company next to a huge pile of sawdust, provided courtesy of Inman-Poulsen.

The mountains of sawdust had a function. In 1890 the East Side Railway, an electric railway with plans to build to Oregon City needed of a power source. A site was selected for a power plant near Inman-Poulsen for its near inexhaustible supply of wood debris to burn as fuel. It was connected corporately (and soon physically) to the Willamette Falls Electric Company (a precursor to PGE) which was building a long distance power transmission line from the falls at Oregon City.

The enterprises presented Portland with a trifecta of national firsts:
The country’s first electric interurban railway (built between cities as opposed to a local streetcar system), the counrty's first long distance power transmission line (14 miles) and the first long distance transmission of both DC and AC current.

Inman-Poulsen received their log supply via river, floated up the Columbia from timberlands in Washington and Oregon or down the Willamette. Logs that arrived from the neighboring railroad were dropped into the river at a log dump near Sellwood, and then floated to the mill.

Thus a closed circuit was created; logs hauled by the railroad were cut by the mill, creating the debris that was burned by the power plant that powered the railroad which brought logs to the mill.

The power plant was eventually known as Station L. Part of it exists as a portion of OMSI.

Two electric powered “Steeplecab” locomotives owned by "PEPCO" (Portland Electric Power Company) hauling a train of logs, probably between Gladstone and Oregon City. Electric locomotives were used on the east side interurban lines until 1958 when the wires came down.

The Poulsen House.

Robert D. Inman and Johan Poulsen built their identical Queen Ann style houses in 1892 on the high ground above the mill in the Brooklyn neighborhood (the old “Brookland,” named by pioneer donation claimant Giddeon Tibbet).

Perhaps to place some distance between his work and home life, Johan Poulsen never lived at his house, renting it out until selling it in 1902. Robert D. Inman chose to live in his. Along with his business interests he had a political career which began in 1892 and was elected to the state Senate in 1900. He died in 1920.

Robert D. Inman.

The Ross Island Bridge was built in 1926, which placed a major thoroughfare between the two houses. Ten years later, a viaduct connecting Union Avenue and McLoughlin Blvd was built as part of the Pacific Highway, routed immediately to the west of the houses.

The Inman House prior to 1934, before the Pacific Highway construction removed the south end of the Bridge Transfer streetcar line through the area (once on the Brooklyn Line). Note the large natural gas tanks in the background, an east side fixture for many years. From the Oregon Department of Transportation web site.

The Inman house, circa 1936 from the Ross Island Bridge, during the building of the Pacific Highway. From the Oregon Department of Transportation web site.

Beneath the soon to be replaced MLK (Union Avenue) viaduct, narrow-gauge tracks of the Brooklyn streetcar line are still in place, built over in 1934. One of the reasons for the upcoming replacement of the viaduct is that it is built on layer upon layer settling of sawmill debris, from the Inman-Poulsen mill.

Inman-Poulsen was purchased by Georgia Pacific in 1954. The mill, at the time in the middle of a prolonged strike, was shut down. At the time of its closure, the mill employed 300 people and covered thirty seven acres. The site was divided into parcels and sold, the final parcel in 1959.

A Portland Traction interurban car, bound for Oregon City crosses SE Caruthers Street past the Inman-Poulsen headquarters building. June 6, 1952.

The Inman-Poulsen headquarters building, along with the Poulsen House, are the final remnants of the once mighty timber empire. The Oregon Pacific now operates the former interurban track to an industrial park in Milwaukie.
March 3, 2005.

In 1956 the Inman House was torn down to provide parking space for a nearby dairy. Oregonian Photographer Dick Farris came across its wreckage after workers had hitched cables around the foundation and pulled it over with a tractor. The photograph ran in the Oregonian, and three years later, on the final page in the January 26, 1959 issue of Life Magazine with the caption: “Fall of the House of Inman”.

And what a fine parking lot it is.

Personal History

“I am a dull and simple lad.”

-Ray Davies from “David Watts,” performed by the Kinks.

A journal on the past and the present of Portland Oregon (or more correctly, the past in the present in Portland) doesn’t have much room for personal narrative or biography. A recent bout of post-Christmas cleaning however revealed a discovery worth sharing.

Deep in the recesses of my upstairs closet, beneath two Monopoly games and layers of pre-Nirvanian detritus, compacted and folded over itself as to make precise chronological dating difficult; beneath a strata contained old Rolling Stone magazines with covers that featured Tears For Fears, “Sign of the Times” era Prince and “Like a Prayer” era Madonna, there was yet another layer.
It contained the roll book of the infamous “Explorers Club” that met at the Lions Restaurant’s lounge across from campus in Eugene, a empty LP cover for The Jam's "Setting Sons" and a small cardboard box.
Inside the box were pictures.

They are not particularly good pictures. Clumsy first attempts at black and white photography without benefit of composition and sharp focus. There is a definite preference for tall buildings.
They show my very first ever view of Portland, without any pre-conceptions or a clue to what I was looking at, and quite accidentally, a bit of historic Portland that would be impossible to get today.

My best guess is that the pictures are from early in my college years, most likely the summer of 1984. My friend Kari had invited me to Portland, with the possible idea of getting a job over the summer. Had the plan reached fruition, my sojourn in Portland would have began six years earlier than it did.

The Greyhound station was not in this condition when I saw it.

I arrived at the old Greyhound station at SW Fifth, between Taylor and Yamhill. We then walked randomly in the general direction of Northwest. Pre-Max Pioneer Square and the Pioneer Courthouse itself were ignored but the Meier & Frank building merited a picture, as did Jackson Tower.

Had I have known of its existence, this photograph of the Fine Arts Building without trees or Max tracks on Morrison would have fit in well in my post; “57 Years at Tenth and Morrison” (in the April 2006 Archives), taken 35 years after the 1949 picture and twenty two years before the 2006 views.

The rest of the pictures are pretty much the same uninspiring lot, but near the bottom of the stack, treasure!

The Goodnough Building!

I have an affection for the two buildings, torn down around 1990 (the time I moved to Portland) to make way for the Pioneer Place Mall. The Corbett and Goodnough buildings, although historic, did not stand a chance in the face the idea of an city center urban mall. Pictures have to make due for vague and hazy memories of sandstone and brick. I especially like the Goodnough Building, built in 1881, part of the old brick downtown of the Hotel Portland, Marquam and Oregonian Buildings, so I was happy to find that I had actually photographed it. For reasons beyond me I did not take a picture of the Corbett Building (and it even was tall) next door.

The Goodnough Building was the original home to the Oregon Journal, as shown here with a sign meant only to be read from one direction. The Corbett Building had yet to be built.

The Corbett Building with the Goodnough building to the right.

Morrison Street, pre-light rail from the Galleria. The Corbett Building can be seen to the right in the distance.

Tourists reflected, Portland Oregon, circa 1984.