For the past several months, photographer Matthew Ginn has been touring Portland's public high schools with his camera for a continuing series. Today, we reach the last two school on Matthew's list: Marshall and Franklin.
The two schools make an appropriate conclusion to the series, because they represent Portland Public Schools at its best and worst. Franklin, as the photographer aptly describes it, is "definitely the best-looking high school in the PPS system, and the staff are rightfully proud of their building." Marshall, on the other hand, faces outright closure. In PPS' game of musical chairs to determine which school will face budget-necessitating end to its existence, the outer Southeast Portland high school will no longer be there in its dual role of educating children and anchoring the long under-privileged Lents neighborhood.
In my previous post, which looked at tall condos built in the past decade, a commenter urged that equal attention be given to more under-funded public buildings instead of these architectural symbols of affluence and overzealousness during the 2000s real estate bubble. Well pal, here you go! No buildings in our community, or most anyone's, better signify the ongoing inadequacy of public funding than our K-12 schools. Portland may be a liberal city, but it is also part of a tax-phobic state. For this an a host of other related reasons, many of the Rose City's high schools as well as elementary and middle schools, are practically crumbling. That may change with Portland Public Schools' emerging plan to cut some facilities like Marshall out altogether and hope for a new bond to pass that will bring renovation and expansion funds for the schools left. Passing large public bonds at a time of 10 percent unemployment is a tricky proposition, but most of us can agree the maintenance at these PPS facilities is in most cases deferred.
If or when a large amount of funding does come for local public school construction and renovations, it will also be a challenge to balance the current era's emphasis with green design, energy efficiency and sustainability with historic preservation. Whether it's a nearly century-old school like Franklin or a mid-20th century structure like Marshall or Madison, these buildings ought to be preserved in some form. If not schools, then at least as facilities like McMenamins Kennedy School, itself occupying (as you can read more about below) significant bit of local school architecture history.
As with previous posts in this series, pictures of the schools - all by Matthew Ginn and courtesy of Homestead Images - will be matched with abridged versions of the architectural descriptions on the PPS website.
First, the star-crossed Marshall High School. I'm deliberately going with Marshall first, even though Franklin is prettier. It's the least we can do.
"Marshall High School is located 3905 SE 91st Ave. in the Lents neighborhood of southeast Portland. Built in 1959, the 23-acre campus includes only the main school building (1959, 220A). The three-story building’s internal functions, such as the stairwells, hallways, library, auditorium, and gymnasium are clearly communicated by the building’s fenestration patterns, overall massing, and varying building heights.
The building mixes an external skin of variegated tan-colored brick with expansive banks of plate glass windows that form the building’s curtain walls. Cantilevered overhangs shade the windows on each floor on the west and south sides, while no eaves are present on the north and east sides. The interior follows a square shaped corridor plan that provides access to all classrooms, the auditorium, cafeteria, and the gymnasium.
Development in the surrounding area consists primarily of single family residences built between 1945 and 1970 as well as large scale retail with the presence of large “big box” stores situated to the west at Eastport Plaza."
"The school is approached via a U-shaped drive that affords easy student drop offs and access to surface parking lots as well as the playing fields. An oval track, football field, and grandstand as well as other playing fields are located to the south of the main building. The main (east) entrance into the school consists of three double door entries that are recessed into the building as the second floor is supported by a single round concrete column. The west elevation exhibits only two floors while the remainder of the building features three stories due to a change in the topography that descends from west to east. While banks of plate glass windows extend to the north of the entry, a large round edged double height volume, the auditorium and music wing, extends to the west. The north elevation features three floors of plate glass windows interrupted at three points by three floors of small square windows that mark stairwells.
The high school also features an entirely enclosed, terraced courtyard that descends from east to west. A central walkway provides access from the east to west corridors as well as through the corridors directly to the exterior. The library intrudes into the courtyard and is supported by a series of cylindrical columns on the bottom floor.
In 1945, the citizens of Portland approved a ballot measure that provided $5,000,000 over five years to construct, improve, and rehabilitate its public school buildings to respond to the explosive growth in school-age children that had occurred in the city as a result of the arrival of defense plant workers and their families, as well as the deferred maintenance arising from the lack of funds during the depression. Beginning with this initial bond measure, PPS embarked on an effort to improve its school facilities through renovations, additions, and new construction of over fifty schools between 1945 and 1970."
"Emphasizing the need for economy and rapid construction, the designers adopted new materials that were standardized and mass-produced including steel, plywood, glass block, and aluminum. In many buildings, architects achieved flexibility through the building’s structure by employing non-load-bearing partitions walls and zoned ventilation and heating systems.
Although many of the architects for schools in Portland continued to design their schools to be extensible, designers turned away from the two-story schools with centralized massing and the period revivals that were popular in the 1920s. Instead many architects adopted the principles of the Modern movement and its regional variant, the Northwest Regional style, choosing to express functional areas through massing and materials to create innovative forms. Classrooms featured extensive built-ins that included sinks, slots for bulky rolls of paper, and coat storage. Many buildings incorporated interior courtyards, which facilitated access to the outdoors and expanded the opportunities for passive ventilation and daylighting.
Designed by Stanton, Boles, Maguire and Church, John Marshall High School was originally called Southeast High School until it was renamed for the U.S. Supreme Court justice. A native of Iowa, Glenn Stanton graduated from the University of Oregon and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, returning returned to Portland where he worked with Morris H. Whitehouse, eventually becoming a partner in the firm of Whitehouse, Stanton & Church. In 1955, Stanton formed the partnership of Stanton, Boles, Maguire, and Church – a firm that would be responsible for designing Madison and Marshall High Schools in 1955 and 1960, respectively as well as structures for the new Lewis & Clark College Campus, and the Stadium Branch of the US Nation Bank. Stanton was also known for supervising the restoration of the McLoughlin House (1846) in Oregon City."
"The school featured a square corridor plan with the various functions of the school decentralized around all parts of the square. The gymnasium, auditorium, cafeteria, were all designed to serve as appendages to the square corridor plan. The building, largely constructed with exterior curtain walls that consisted half of brick and half of glass, also featured cantilevered eaves on each of its three floors on only the south and west sides of the building to reduce the amount of glare caused by sunlight. Other components of the school include an undersized auditorium to reduce the size of heated spaces, sliding partitions that could increase classroom sizes and permit work with team teaching techniques, as well as a large terraced courtyard located in the middle of the building.
Marshall has not been extensively modified over time and retains most if not all of its character-defining features. Even so, it does not appear to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Although associated with the suburban expansion of southeast Portland, the high school’s overall design was not noted as being necessarily innovative for the time period."
And now, Franklin:
"Franklin High School is located in the South Tabor neighborhood of southeast Portland. Intended to be expanded over time, it was designed in a distinctive Colonial Revival style and the campus was organized according to a multi—part plan. The 18-acre campus includes the original classroom and school office building and boiler building from 1915, a manual arts (west) wing built a year later, an auditorium dating to 1924, a fieldhouse from 1950, a gymnasium built in 1954, and an industrial arts building from 1981.
The campus occupies an expansive 18-acre rectangular-shaped parcel that is positioned between SE Woodward St. to the south and Division St. to the north. The core group of two story brick-faced and concrete buildings feature a balanced and largely symmetrical fenestration, colonial revival embellished porticos and entryways, staggered quoins on building corners, modillion cornices, jack arches with keystones over all windows, elaborate terra cotta panels, the retention of original twelve-over-twelve sash windows, and a centrally-placed, highly detailed clock tower with glazed cupola. The property also includes expansive playing fields that include a football field and baseball field. Just to the east of the school are playing fields and tennis courts that are part of Clinton Park and Atkinson School.
Approached from the south, the main school building is a concrete structure with a brick veneer laid in an all stretcher bond. The main school building, auditorium, and west wing retain a beveled water table, staggered terra cotta quoins, jack arch with keystone above each window, and modillion cornice, as well as hipped roofs."
"Decorative emphasis is most prominent on the front and rear entrances. The ceremonial or north entrance features a two story portico with both rounded and square shaped columns with acanthus leaf capitals. The columns support a pediment with a festoon-adorned tympanum as well as a modillion cornice. The three double-door entrances each feature elaborate transoms with leaded traceries as well as terra cotta surrounds. These surrounds are composed of Doric friezes decorated with triglyphs and metopes filled with panels decorated with cartouches, festoons, fruit bowls, swags, and sheaf of wheat with scythes. Immediately above the frieze is a soffit replete with mutules and lozenges. The more commonly used rear entrance slightly projects from the main building. Rather than columns, this entrance exhibits three portals decorated with terra cotta surrounds.
Immediately above each door are terra cotta panels decorated with cartouches and festoons. Three large single hung fanlight windows illuminate an interior stair. The entrance composition is completed by a closed bed pediment that lies above the second floor and a modillion cornice.
The most prominent feature of the main building is the clock tower, which is symmetrically positioned in the middle of the building. Mirroring much of the embellishments below, this all-white structure features staggered quoins, clocks framed by an open bed pediment and corner urns, as well as an eight sided, glazed belfry. The top of the tower exhibits urns as well as a bell cast roof and weathervane."
"Ancillary entrances exhibit Federal era-inspired door surrounds consisting of sidelights, slender pilasters with acanthus leaf capitals as well as a dentil cornice, and semi-elliptical leaded fanlights. Some of the secondary entrances also feature pediments as well. Nearly all of the windows on the first three units have been retained and exhibit their original twelve-over-twelve sash windows.
The interior of the main building consists of a U-shaped corridor plan that is then attached on opposite ends to east and west wings by two story hyphens. In the main foyer are plain pilasters at each corner, boxed ceiling beams, as well as a set of staircases that lead to the second floor. At the head of the stairs on the second floor is a painting by WPA-era artist John Balletor entitled “Benjamin Franklin at Liberty Hall, Philadelphia” which was completed in 1935.
Franklin High School was part of a dramatic building program begun by Portland Public Schools in the early 1900s. Gradually influenced by John Dewey’s Progressive Education Movement, Portland Public Schools responded to changing city demographics and ideas concerning school safety, sanitation, and child centered instructional methods beginning in the first decade of the 1900s. By 1905, it became increasingly clear that dramatic increases in school-age children outstripped the district’s current classroom capacity and existing schools could not effectively serve areas of the city with new residential development .
In 1908, Portland Public Schools created the Bureau of Properties in an effort to centralize the management of the district’s various properties and take on a more formalized role in the design and maintenance of school facilities. Two of the most influential district architects during this period included Floyd Naramore and George Jones, who designed a majority of the schools from 1908 to 1932.
These new school buildings were often constructed of brick and concrete and were one or two stories in height. The buildings also contained more differentiated and increasingly specialized instructional spaces such as libraries, gymnasiums, science rooms, music rooms, as well as assembly spaces. The architectural details of the new schools were largely encompassed by the Classical Revival, Colonial Revival, and Collegiate Gothic styles; architectural revivals that were viewed as inspirational and appropriate for educational settings."
"The architect of Franklin High School, Floyd Naramore, who in his tenure at Portland Public Schools designed 16 schools for the district including the Kennedy School, which gained notoriety as a single story response to the issue of fire safety in American public schools. Naramore’s success led to a similar position in Seattle, where he designed many of the city’s most renowned schools and would be a founding principal of the still-flourishing firm Naramore, Bain, Brady & Johansen (NBBJ).
Franklin High School is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion C. The high school is also eligible under Criterion A for its association with the rise of higher education in the 1910s under Superintendent Alderman, and for its association with the development of southeast Portland."