The Pittock Mansion was completed in 1914 for Henry and Georgiana Pittock. The Mansion was designed by Edward T. Foulkes in the French Renaissance Chateau style. It had many technologically cutting edge features, such as a central vacuum system, intercom, and a large spacious walk in cold room off the kitchen.
TIt was in the family until 1958 when it was put up for sale with little interest. It was just too large and difficult to maintain. In 1962 the Mansion was heavily damaged by the Columbus Day storm, and it was left vacant and exposed to the weather for a number of years. 1964 developers were considering tearing the Mansion down for a subdivision. There was a community campaign to save the Mansion and surrounding grounds, and it was purchased for $225,00 by the City of Portland. $67,500 of those funds were raised by the community.
The Pittock Mansion has been through various stages of evolution as it has transitioned from being a private home, to a storm damaged abandoned building, and then on to becoming a premier house museum.
Karla has been involved with the Pittock Mansion for numerous years. She served on the Board for two terms, served as Board Secretary for a year, and is currently the Chair of theCollections Committee. The Collections Committee is responsible for tracking every item in the museum’s collection, crafting policies for the management of the collection, and reviewing and vetting all objects that are offered to the collection.
The Collections Committee has also spearheaded the restoration of selected architectural elements in the Museum, such as for missing or damaged light fixtures, finish plumbing, and odds and ends such as missing bakelite mouth pieces for the intercom system.
The Challenge Continues
Karla noticed numerous compromises to the finish plumbing throughout the mansion, including the maid’s third floor bathroom, which was missing its historic toilet, the floor was covered with vinyl, the finish plumbing for the tub was damaged or missing, and other details that compromised the space from its 1914 interpretation.
Other finish plumbing elements in the main areas of the house were also not correct to the period. Some sinks had a mix of period and contemporary valves, the sitz bath in Henry’s bathroom was missing multiple pieces of finish plumbing, and the kitchen was fitted with a reproduction sink with contemporary faucets.
Karla brought these inconsistencies to the attention of Marta Bones, the Executive Director, Patti Larkin, the Curator, and the Board of Directors. They understood these inconsistencies were miseducating the public, and that it was important to correct them over time.
Karla's biggest challenge was how to source the rare period pieces required to restore these various missing or damaged elements.
Karla worked in collaboration with other craftspeople in the Preservation Artisan’s Guild. The restoration work in the Maid’s third floor bath became an Angel’s Project for the Guild, with members donating their time and materials to the restoration work.
She also traveled to New England to connect with restorationists there who could help her source the rare parts needed for this specialized work. Karla was able to bring Walter Parker of Old School Plumbing from Massachusetts to Portland to work on the restoration.
The Preservation Artisan’s Guild has also been very instrumental in restoring missing and damaged light fixture shades and missing fixtures. The projects are ongoing, and Karla has worked consistently to keep these projects in progress.
The Pittock Mansion is a premier destination in Portland, Oregon. And visitors get a chance to experience a home like none other.
As the Mansion continues to evolve its restoration work, the visitors gain a clearer and clearer sense of what the Pittock Mansion may have been like in 1914 when the Pittocks moved into their new home.
This is truly a museum worth visiting for both Portlanders and those just visiting the Rose City.
Visit the Pittock Mansion website.