It’s an old story, perhaps best illustrated by “The Little House” by Virginia Lee Burton, a classic children’s book written in 1942.
Slowly, at first, the outside world approaches…
...and overwhelms it.
In the nick of time, its value is recognized. The house is moved…
It is easy to hurry past
The house is as unique as it once was commonplace.
The South Park Blocks circa 1882.
"It is nearly impossible to envision
From “Classic Houses of
The Morris Marks House.
The house was built in 1880 for Morris Marks, a successful shoe merchant, at what was then
It was by no means the largest house in the area. The truly palatial residences tended to be closer to the commercial district or along the Park Blocks.
With its horse drawn coaches, shade trees and Italianate houses surrounded by white picket fences, the neighborhood was the domestic counterpart to the cast iron fronted downtown on the river.
The city was governed and shaped by the aspirations and tastes of a small cadre that consisted largely of successful
“Portland’s first families crammed their homes with ostentatious marble fireplaces, heavy mahogany pieces, statuary, gilt-edged mirrors, crystal chandeliers and oriental carpets… Like most respectable homes- not just those of the rich- they incorporated the prevalent “fashion for clutter” …“It was expensiveness that distinguished the millionaires clutter from clerks clutter.”
From “Merchants, Money and Power, The
The Reception Room and a bedroom in the
The G.V. James house was built in the prevailing Italianate style in 1882, two years after the Morris Marks house. It was located on the block bordered by Eighteenth and Nineteenth and I (Irving) and J (Johnson) streets, an exclusive residential enclave that was emerging, centered on
Photograph from “
Photograph by Clem Ogilby.
To design his house, Morris Marks selected architect Warren H. Williams.
Williams had moved to
Among the surviving Williams buildings in Portland are the Old Church, the Blagen Block, the Merchant’s Hotel and a second larger surviving Italianate “mansion,” also built for Morris Marks, which would later be moved just outside the downtown core to a residential neighborhood around Fifteenth and Harrison 1910. Villard Hall on the
“Having settled on an imposing site, Dunsmuir hired an architect who could be counted on to produce an extraordinary house. San Francisco-trained, Warren Williams had moved his business to
From “The Dunsmuir Saga” by Terry Reksten.
Warren H. Williams designed buildings built in Portland include:
The Blagen Block, built in 1888 on the southeast corner of First and C (Couch) Streets, cast-iron fronted in the commercial version of the Italianate style.
The Merchant’s Hotel was built in stages between 1880 and 1884 on the southwest corner of Second and D (Davis) Streets.
A post 1895 view of the residential area west of downtown. Temple Beth Israel, across the street from the Morris Marks house, can be seen to the far right, towards the West Hills. The mansion to the left is the Henry W. Corbett house, another creation of Warren H. Williams. It was built in 1874 at Fifth and
Photograph by Clem Ogilby.
The Morris Marks house went through three owners before becoming a boarding house, a purpose it served for sixty years. For the last two years it has been empty.
The fireplace is very similiar to the one that appears in the picture of the bedroom in the C.V. Lewis house.
Today the house sits vacant on land zoned for high density residential use in a neighborhood that is rapidly expanding vertically. While there are no current plans to build on the site, it is obvious that it is only a matter of time. More immediate, the house is vulnerable to the elements, vandalism and worst of all, fire. It has been discovered by transients more than once.
An effort to save the Morris Marks house is starting to coalesce. It is spearheaded by Clem Ogilby of C.R. Ogilby and Company, who specializes in building preservation and relocation.
The supporters of the house hope that a suitable location can be found for the house, preferably downtown.
The Preservation Club of PSU recently held an outreach meeting on preservation options for the Morris Marks house, hosted by Robin Pipkin and Brandon Spencer-Hartle which featured presentations by Clem Ogilby and William J. Hawkins III (author of “Classic Houses of Portland Oregon” and “The Grand Era of Cast Iron Architecture in Oregon.”) to kick off their efforts to save the house. Also last month, the
More than anything, the house needs a site where it can be put to its highest and best use. Ideally it would be a location somewhere in the downtown core to best represent its historic context and limit the moving costs.
It is a challenging task, but there are reasons for optimism. The owners of the Morris Marks house are amenable to the idea of saving the house, if a new location can be found.
For all its years of hard use, the house is incredibly, almost unbelievably intact. Happily, the the prime mover of the project literally moves houses for a living.
Letting people know is the first step, followed by creativity and then hard work.
Looking back at
But how do we fare when a major opportunity happens on our own watch?
1880 and 2007.
The Historic Preservation Club of PSU: firstname.lastname@example.org
Myself, (for this, or any other post): email@example.com
Clem Ogilby, for recognizing the need for the preservation of the Morris Marks house and for doing something about it.
Eileen G. Fitzsimons, for her excellent presentation on Warren W. Williams at the
Brandon Spencer-Hartle and Robin Pipkin of the Historic Preservation Club of PSU.
William J. Hawkins III – Inspiration.