Story via Pittock Mansion
The Pittock Mansion, a 16,000 square foot French Renaissance style home, sits high atop a hill overlooking downtown Portland and the Cascades; it’s by far one of the best views of the city I have ever seen, though I imagine it’s quite different from when the house was built over one-hundred years ago.
As a result of wanting that view, the home has a unique oval shape with wings attached at a 45-degree angle. It’s not an excessively large house—it’s no Biltmore—but there are some 23 rooms, including a Library, Music Room, Turkish Smoking Room, Sewing Room, five large bedrooms, and two sleeping porches.
The mansion was designed by architect Edward Foulkes who trained at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the French École des Beaux-Arts. Foulkes had a challenging client in Henry PittockHenry wanted an architecturally impressive house with the latest technology, including modern conveniences such as thermostat-controlled central heating, indirect electric lighting, refrigerator room, elevator, and central vacuum system.
Henry Pittock was born in London, but grew up in Pittsburgh; in 1853, when he was 19, Henry Pittock headed west on the Oregon Trail. His is future wife Georgiana Burton left Missouri with her family and headed west a year later. In those days Portland was a frontier “stumptown” so called because in those days the city's growth led residents to clear a lot of land quickly, but the tree stumps were not immediately removed; in some areas, there were so many that people used to jump from stump to stump to avoid the muddy, unpaved roads.
In 1860, Henry and Georgiana married, and he began working as a typesetter at , a local newspaper. The newspaper industry was financially risky, and five months later Henry Pittock was given ownership of the newspaper in exchange for back wages. He went on to transform The Oregonian into a successful daily newspaper that is still printed today.
While a successful newspaper publisher, Henry Pittock also built a financial empire by investing in real estate, banking, railroads, steamboats, sheep ranching, silver mining, and the paper industry. He was an avid outdoorsman, bicycle enthusiast, and was among the first group to climb Mount Hood. Georgiana Pittock became a founder and fundraiser for many charities and cultural organizations, such as the Ladies Relief Society, Women’s Union, and the Martha Washington Home, a residence for single, self-supporting women.
After forty years of marriage, Henry Pittock started planning his “mansion on the hill”; construction began in 1912 and Henry and Georgiana moved into the home in 1914 with eight other members of the family. Sadly, the Pittocks only lived in the Mansion for roughly four years before they died, but their family continued to live in the home into the 1950s. In 1958, Henry Pittock’s grandson Peter Gantenbein and his father, Edward, moved out and put the Mansion up for sale.
Sitting empty for four years, the Mansion was hit by the Columbus Day Storm in October 1962. Hurricane-force winds damaged roof tiles and window panes and allowed water to infiltrate the Mansion. By 1964, the Mansion was in poor condition and developers expressed interest in tearing it down and turning the estate into a subdivision.
Luckily the people of Portland weren’t having that, and they raised the funds to purchase the property for just $225,000. They then set about restoring the Mansion and transforming it from a private residence to a public space and in 1965 the Pittock Mansion opened to the public as a historic house museum.