Colorful stained glass windows, intricate masonry, and wide verandas—I’ve always admired the beautiful Victorian buildings that fill Portland’s tree-lined avenues. Their owners, the Rose City’s original entrepreneurs, put a lot of pride into their homes. They employed the best architects, used the best materials, and hired the most talented artists to create dramatic, stately homes to show off their wealth. Today, these homes are the crown jewels of their neighborhoods and still sport many of the original features installed by their original occupants.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Victorian architecture you see everywhere in Portland, I’d recommend visiting the Southeast District’s Architectural Heritage Center.
Decorative elements adorn the galleries, along with handcrafted porcelain doorknobs and glass embellishments. Look up and you’ll see the stylized hardware of early electric light fixtures. The tools used to make these fantastic adornments are also on display, along with information about the local manufacturers and architects who helped define Portland’s visual character.
The Center is about to complete a massive restoration project that will bring a second life to the 134-year-old building. Volunteers and donors have dedicated time, money and research to the cause and have been able to keep much of the original building intact. One interesting project that has already been completed is the exterior, which was refreshed by flipping the original brick over. This hides the weathered side and brings out the relatively untouched interior facing. When completed, the Center includes two exhibition galleries, two classrooms, a workshop, and a research library.
Along with its ever-expanding collection, the Center hosts events throughout the year that provide a deeper understanding of Portland’s architectural history. Lectures from local architects and walking tours are designed for anyone interested in the unique styles expressed in the buildings seen around the Rose City.
The Architectural Heritage Museum is located in the West’s Block Building at 701 SE Grand Avenue, one of Portland’s oldest preserved buildings (built in 1883.) It is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Check their calendar for more details about their events.