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1120 SW Fifth Avenue, Portland, OR 97204
One hundred years ago, in the summer of 1914, Henry and Georgiana Pittock moved into their newly completed mansion atop what was then called Imperial Heights with nine family members. There was nothing else like it in Portland, then or now. Built in the style of a French Renaissance chateau with panoramic views of the city’s skyline, mountains, rivers, and forests, the house contained 46 rooms (including sleeping porches) and a grand stairway hall that resembled those in European palaces. On the 46-acre estate also stood a Gate Lodge, a three-car garage with gas pump, green houses, and tennis courts.
In addition to its elaborate architecture, the mansion was filled with 1914 inventions including one of the first residential elevators in Oregon. The central heating system was zoned to allow different heating in separate parts of the house. Each bathroom had a shower (during an era when people were happy to have an indoor bathing tub), and the shower in Henry’s bathroom was, and still is, a hydraulic masterpiece that sprays from multiple directions. In addition to electricity, the house had back-up gas lighting. A modern kitchen contained a refrigeration room with a freezer. Intercoms connected the rooms. And to make cleaning easier, there was a central vacuum system.
A dream house, and yet Henry and Georgiana Pittock lived in it for only four years - one less than it took to design and build. Family continued to occupy the house after the Pittocks’ deaths, however. Two daughters, Kate and Lucy, along with their husbands, had also moved into the house in 1914. Lucy had two daughters, and a son was born in the mansion in 1914. In addition, two orphaned nieces were among the original occupants.
An extraordinary businessman
Henry Pittock was able to afford a mansion because of a lifetime of hard work and a strong business sense. In 1853, at age 19, he left his parents’ home in Pennsylvania and followed the Oregon Trail to Portland. He arrived “barefooted and without a cent,” but within six years he was the sole owner of The Oregonian newspaper. He worked hard and during his lifetime founded the paper industry in the Northwest, developed land in the area, operated a bank, and was invested in everything from sheep farming to railroads to mining. A lifelong hiker, he was also the first (with four others) to make the documented ascent to the top of Mt. Hood in 1857, and he was a co-founder of the Mazamas, a mountaineering education organization that is still thriving today. When Henry Pittock died in January 1919, his estate, which was worth $7.9 million at the time, was the largest ever settled in Oregon.
Lady of roses
Though Georgiana (Burton) Pittock was not a businesswoman, she made her own considerable contribution to early Portland as it grew from frontier town to major city. In 1852, she arrived here at age nine with her family from Iowa. Eight years later, when not quite 16, she married Henry Pittock and together they had six children who survived to adulthood. Georgiana was known for her extensive philanthropic work, which provided aid and training to the elderly, young women, and boys and girls. In 1888, she also set up a tent in her yard on SW Washington St. and with her friends exhibited the roses they had grown. This first rose exhibition eventually led to the establishment of the Portland Rose Society.
A landmark saved
Members of the Pittock family occupied the mansion until the end of 1958, when it was put up for sale. There were no buyers, however, and the house remained largely unoccupied for nearly six years. In 1962, it was damaged by what is remembered as the Columbus Day Storm. In 1964, the mansion was on the verge of being torn down when Portland citizens intervened to raise funds and save the property as a historical landmark. The city of Portland was able to purchase the home and estate for $225,000, and after fifteen months of renovations the mansion was opened to the public as a museum.
A place of history
Today, Pittock Mansion is a vibrant and inspiring place, visited by more than 70,000 each year. Pittock Mansion Society and Portland Parks & Recreation work together to maintain the historical site so visitors may explore the grounds, enjoy the scenery, and experience Portland’s transformation from a small “stumptown” to a bustling city.
The Pittock offers daily guided and self-guided tours, as well as three seasonal special exhibits. Also, special architectural tours examine the meaning behind the design of the mansion, and “Behind-the-Scenes” tours take visitors on a trip back in time through the areas not ordinarily open to the public including underground hallways, the furnace room, and the servants’ quarters on the third floor.
Events At Pittock Mansion
|Pittock Mansion’s First Centennial Exhibit: Building Pittock Mansion
On view February 1-July 13, 2014
Explore how this favorite landmark came to be 100 years ago. Examine original blueprints, learn about architect Edward Foulkes, view photographs of workers who built the home, and discover the modern technologies that were incorporated into the home when it was completed in 1914.
|100 Birthday Candles at the Pittock
Join in the celebration of the first 100 years of Portland’s favorite landmark, Pittock Mansion. Enjoy free cake, stroll the gardens, view vintage cars, and listen to music 2-4pm on Sunday, July 13.
Pittock Mansion Hours
Admission: Adults $9.50; Seniors $8.50; 18 and under $6.50. Admission is free to members and children under 6.
To learn more about Pittock Mansion, visit pittockmansion.org