Yesterday I was rummaging for something in the basement and found a handful of old photographs of various Portland buildings, most of which originally came from the Oregon Historical Society but that I picked up at a garage sale years ago.
One photo - or in this case what seems to be a drawing - is of the Lipman Wolfe Building. The architect was A.E. Doyle, who as most know also designed Central Library, the Meier & Frank building, the US National Bank, and much of Reed College in addition to mentoring Pietro Belluschi. I found the following entry about the Lipman Wolfe building from the PDX History website:
The roots of Lipman Wolfe & Co. go back to 1850 in Sacramento when gold-fever had a grip on everyone. Adolphe Wolfe, who was originally from Germany, had immigrated to America many years before and teamed with his uncle Solomon Lipman, to become successful merchants. Wolfe opened a branch of the family store in Virginia City, Nevada to capitalize on the wealth of the Comstock Lode Silver Mines. But in 1880 Wolfe decided to try his luck elsewhere and he moved to Portland.
Wolfe set up shop in a building at Washington and First streets where Portland’s first store elevator transported patrons vertically. His customers marveled at being able to move among the other floors without using stairs. Later, Wolfe moved his store two blocks up Washington to the grand new Dekum Building at Third Street, but that wasn’t far enough to spare him from the great flood of 1894. By 1912, Lipmans had moved uptown to its own huge building at Fifth & Washington, which was located across the street from the north end of Meier & Frank.
Buying offices were opened in London, Paris and Berlin. The Oregon Journal announced that Lipman & Wolfe displayed gowns within 12 days after they appeared on the boulevards of Paris. During World War I, the entire eighth floor was turned over to the Red Cross. Wolfe died in 1933.
The Lipman family decided to sell to the Dayton Hudson Company in the 1950’s. Then in 1980, Marshall Field’s bought all six Lipman’s Stores and made them Frederick & Nelson stores.
Two other photos I found in the basement documented downtown at SW Sixth & Washington and along SW Fifth. You can see some buildings in these shots that remain today, but most of them don't. And to a degree, I suppose that's appropriate. We want to preserve quality historic architecture whenever possible, but every city evolves and changes over time. The key is achieving the right balance of preserving the past but making way for the future. At times Portland has been better than most, but we certainly don't hit the right note all the time, as evidenced by old and new demolitions like the Portland Hotel and new tragedies like the Rosefriend Apartments. (Any Ladd Tower buyers listening?)
Looking back at a more recent era, there's this photo I found of the Fremont Bridge taken in 1978. Theoretically you could take the same photo today - if you had a really big ladder. But somehow this photo evokes for me the spirit of the 1970s, when massive capital projects such as the Fremont were still a possibility. I like the Fremont Bridge a lot, and its quintessentially sculptural freeway overpasses. If anybody knows anything about the Fremont's designer, please pass on the info. The bridge photo also makes me think of the current considerations for a new Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia. Will it be something we want to look at a photo of 29 years later?