Ever since the Street of Eames tour began four years ago, tickets have sold out nearly as soon as they've gone on sale. So it's not for lack of demand that this will mark the final year for the tour.
Street of Eames has raised more than half a million dollars for homeless students in Portland, particularly at Chapman Elementary. But, says Sherri Nee, who co-founded the event with another then-Chapman parent, Caroline Fenn, they are ending Street of Eames because they've reached their goal: a stable funding infrastructure for those efforts.
"We found a social service agency to take over providing the after-school program as well as fundraising for it in the form of grant writing," As Nee told Bridget Otto in The Oregonian, "Friendly House in Northwest Portland has agreed to do both. It started providing the program for homeless Chapman students beginning in September. The Street of Eames folks will continue to fund this Friendly House effort during this transition as it ramps up its grant-writing for these students."
This year's tour is scheduled for Saturday, April 17. Tickets are $50 each, or $40 for students. Tickets go on sale at 9 a.m. Monday, February 22 at streetofeames.org. Advance ticket packages (two $50 tickets plus $150 donation) are on sale now through Sunday.
There has always been a limited number of tickets available: one thousand. I assume that's a way of limiting the amount of foot traffic traipsing through these owners' homes. But this year there will be 200 more tickets made available, for a total of 1,200.
There are eight houses this year, up from the usual six or seven, and the hours of the tour have been extended.
The tour includes three contemporary homes: the Z-Haus by Ben Waechter (pictured below), the Park Box by Path Architecture, and the 14 House by Seed Architecture Studio. The Z-Haus and Park Box were featured in last year's oft-mentioned 11xDesign tour. Seed was also had a previous house on that tour, but the 14 House is something new. It's just finishing up construction as we speak; I visited the house recently and it's gorgeous.
There are also five mid-20th century modern homes, including designs by the great Portland architects John Yeon and John Storrs.
Yeon is probably the most acclaimed local residential architect of the 20th Century along with Pietro Belluschi. As Randy Gragg writes in the Oregon Encyclopedia,
"Few architects have influenced the state of Oregon as broadly as John Yeon. A planner, conservationist, historic preservationist, art collector, and urban activist, as well as one of the state's most gifted residential designers, Yeon was one of the founders of the Northwest Regional Style of architecture and one of the earliest visionaries in the realization of the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area."
Storrs is best known for designing Salishan, the Oregon College of Art & Craft, and the World Forestry Center, but his houses are equally exceptional. As Phil Favorite wrote in an Oregonian story last year, "Storrs, who died in 2003, was part of the second generation of architects who established Northwest style: an Asian-influenced architectural form noted for its use of natural wood and stone, ample windows to bring the outdoors in, and its subtle, understated buildings that blend in with the land."
There is also a house by Bob Origndulph, a retired principal with BOORA Architects, a Robert Rummer house in Beaverton, and a house by noted Portland architect Warren Weber House that was renovated by Architecture W.
In the case of Oringdulph, Otto's Oregonian article also chronicled a visit by the architect to the house he designed in 1958 (for his brother) to meet the current homeowners and see how renovations have changed it:
Just over two years ago, Nicole and Brett Olszewski bought the house Oringdulph designed and his brother built. "Being a lumberman," Bud says of Fred, who died in 2006, "there's wood everywhere."
Three-inch-thick cedar decking vaults overhead, while a stunning, unchecked, old-growth cedar beam runs the length of the living room.
Bud says he was fresh out of the University of Oregon's architecture school when his brother approached him about designing a house where a family could grow.
The Olszewskis wanted the same for Grace and her older brother, Nathan, 4 1/2.
"It's a good place for kids," Bud says, walking through the recently remodeled house he hasn't been in for years.
"You're cloistered into the back," he says of the home, which turns its back on the street but opens to a spacious interior facing a backyard full of mature trees, shrubbery and a pool.
Oringdulph's name is not as much associated with Portland's midcentury modern houses as perhaps John Yeon, Pietro Belluschi or Van Evera Bailey. But discovering the residential work of these midcentury star architects is one of the joys of the annual Street of Eames tour.
"That's what's fun," says Becca Cavell, who has worked as program director of the tour since its inception five years ago.
It's disappointing to learn that this will be the last year for Street of Eames. After all, as laudable as fundraising for homeless kids is, didn't the Street of Eames organizers also see some value to the community in the tour itself? Maybe Chapman Elementary's homeless assistance program doesn't need Street of Eames anymore, but the disappearance of the tour will be a substantial loss for Portlanders who appreciate contemporary and midcentury modern architecture.
14 House, photo by Jeff Beck
More than any other homes tour in Portland, Street of Eames was a wonderful introduction to both the city's impressive collection of mid-20th century homes, and also to some of the top residential architects working today. Isn't that of value in and of itself?
Nee, Fenn, Becca Cavell (of THA Architecture) and others involved with Street of Eames have given thousands of hours of their time, all on a volunteer basis. They deserve a break and a pat on the back. But it would be great to see somebody take the Street of Eames torch and continue on the tradition. One could even make a lot more tickets available and please some of those unable to procure them in the past.
Meanwhile, though, enjoy this year's Street of Eames tour swan song. And if you're not one of the 1,200 able to get a pass, the houses from this year's tour will also be on display in April as part of a Street of Eames exhibit at the AIA Center for Architecture .