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Jim Heuer

Brian, thanks so much for bringing this to light. The Portland Public Schools administration is in the midst of a review of the PPS schools to determine which are historically important enough to preserve. Unfortunately it appears that the Riverdale School District hasn't had the good sense to consider the historic importance of its buildings. Further, they don't seem to realize that the greenest building is one that doesn't have to be built.

Re-using an existing building, retrofitted for modern needs avoids vast expenditures of energy for demolition, disposal, and construction... Unfortunately, only in recent years has this "hidden" environmental cost of building a "green" building been fully understood by the green building movement.

There is no doubt that Albert E. Doyle was one of Portland's premier architects of the early 20th century, and casually to discard one of his buildings, even a relatively modest one like this, is a very bad idea.


Perhaps the Riverdale Board should tour UO's lovely new digs in the White Stag Building and PSU Dept. of Architecture's exciting new space in Shattuck Hall (a former elementary school). Both are great examples of creating vital, sustainable learning spaces within preserved architectural treasures.

Libby Dawson Farr, Ph.D., Architectural Historian

I agree with Jim Heuer. In fact, I didn't know about this meeting today until it was too late to re-arrange my PNCA classes to attend it. I saw the article in the OREGONIAN this morning. BUT, I went to Riverdale School for all 8 years - and my children went there as well. We ALL graduated from Riverdale, love it, keep in touch with our friends from childhood, and since I am now involved in writing nominations for Portland Historic Landmarks, AND National Historic Property designations, I am so concerned that I will make phone calls, and contact the Board. The school spent so much time this last summer getting us all invited to a ridiculous (in my opinion) reunion at Waverley Country Club, bombarded us with mail and invitations, BUT I never received a notice as an alum of Riverdale about the problem of renovation OR demolition. I am shocked, concerned, and will jump in and testify, write my opinion on its being retained in some way, and help the cause, if... it is NOT to late. Thanks for posting the information. I am a Doyle and Belluschi academic researcher, and I have all the job listings of Doyle and Belluschi's office records. I have known since 1977 that Doyle, and later Belluschi were involved at Riverdale. So, here's to the beginning of my getting on board. Let's hope it is not too late to save it. ANd, also in my opinion, a more aware, sensitive and concerned architect should be asked to take over now. Libby Dawson Farr


Riverdale is a very small school district, considering that it's part of the metro area. Just two schools; the grade school and the high school. It's understandable that they might particularly feel the pinch of finances necessary to preserve over a knock down build new.

Still, it seems a bit incredible that the school board would recommend the Doyle be demolished and replaced with new buildings. Does this really characterize accurately the outcome of their discussion of the issue?

Just checked oregonlive.com.... . Fortunately, decision on the issue has been delayed until Dec 15th. Sounds as though developments to date on this issue have turned out to be a wake-up call for some people. From the O article:

"The fate of that building has pitted neighbors against one another and has pushed the school board to offer more community meetings.

Today's meeting drew 2½ hours of heated discussions. The board did not allow public comment and said members of the Save the Doyle Building committee had e-mailed "threats" to the board.

"I'm really, really sad that it has come to this point," board member Sarah Bradley said, "that people would threaten me ... and that it's all over a building." O/Casey Parks

The board's going to wait for "...design and architect firms to provide up-to-date numbers and plans...", before deciding.

I'm inclined to think that Riverdale School District could never get a better design than the Doyle for the money required to thoroughly modernize and upgrade its physical structure including additions of all the latest 'green' whistles and bells that would be incorporated in a new building.

Steve Jewell

Thanks for helping bring greater awareness of this issue to the Portland architectural community. There is very strong community sentiment for preserving this Doyle gem at Riverdale, and I hope the School Board will come to understand the gravity of their decision. Any help from those passionate about historic preservation will be greatly appreciated!

By the way, any "threats" the Board received were from individuals, not any organized group. I condemn threats and know that 99.9% of the Riverdale community does, too.

Laurence Qamar

This discussion runs deeper than the specifics of a particular building, it's architect's relevance, it's educational function, or the cost of renovation.

It's yet another chapter in the ongoing debate over historic preservation vs. the Zeitgeist. Granted, many of us love well designed contemporary architecture, but some will be all to quick to eradicate the past, and become enamored with the promises of new, sleek, 'high-performance, sustainable design. Some may even try to use the fine principles of green design as an excuse for eradicating the past (although Jim Heuers point is right-on that historic preservation is inherently greener than new construction).

This school building shouldn't need to be a monument of great architecture to be preserved and renovated. There is great value in preserving not only the monuments, but the historic fabric of our city. This school is all at once elegant, majestic, and yet modest. It embodies memory and meaning as an icon of it's neighborhood, and of a valuable era in Portland's past.

And finally, what about the children. Some would likely argue that a bright, new, gleaming, green, high-performance design would be a much better educational environment. I'd rather a pedagogy that honors the past achievement of our forbearers by layering past tradition with the present. Throwing away our history is not a good lesson for our children.

Is there an on-line petition that we can sign in support of the schools preservation and renovation?

Steve Jewell

Yes, here is the petition link:



Renovating Riverdale Elementary School is a greener approach than new green construction because more material is reused and there is less need for new materials. With a typical renovation, more money goes to skilled labor instead of materials (compared to demolition and new construction) as a result more money would go to living wage jobs for Oregon workers instead of potentially out of state materials.

More daylight in the classroom is one of the quantified educational benefits of new school construction, but in the case of this Riverdale School, it appears to have MORE windows than the typical new "green" school construction.


I hope they save and renovate Doyle’s Riverdale School. I hope the struggle to save the school will serve to wake-up Portlanders to the value of a THEIR historic well-designed and well-sited schools and the important role schools play in neighborhood identity.

As Lloyd T. Keefe, Portland City Planning Director said, "With proper forethought, schools can do very much for the community, more than the all-important function of educating children. The elementary school, particularly, is one of the keystones in the arch to better social and physical environment for urban homes."

I hope school boards and city governments recognize that they are not the owners of these properties, but are the stewards of the public’s property, and I hope that saving Doyle’s Riverdale School becomes the model that Portland Public Schools will follow in a truly green 21st century.


Ironically, they are planning to tear down the school portrayed on their emblem.


I find it hard to believe that "saving" the building is even a discussion topic. Of course, this building should be preserved. The building is part of the community's history and collective memory. As a work by one of the most important architects of our region, and arguably the US, this building is also part of our heritage and the legacy of enlightened clients of an era past. I would hope that those entrusted with the new work, respect and incorporate this building. There are many components of a modern educational facility that would fit wonderfully into this existing building.

We need to think about what we have lost... stop by Powell's books and visit the Portland and NW section... Books abound on our lost buildings... most significantly from the Victorian period, and from the "mid-century modern" period. I refer to post war schools, shopping malls, small professional office buildings and even libraries that have been destroyed for one reason or another.

Our blend of old and new buildings is one of the most compelling and defining components of our "urban fabric" which Goldberger commented on.


Corey Martin

I'm with Potestio on the loss of our historic fabric, especially the mid century buildings built in ways that we just can't come close to achieving nowadays.

Yeah it's a bit off putting that the demolition was considered the best option. I have not been to the school but it does look like it has plenty of window area to meet the standards of current daylighting design. There must be some large amount of work that is needed to the building, structurally or otherwise, that pushed their decision in this direction. Does anyone know any specifics about the budget?- The cost of a planned renovation and addition vs demolition and new construction and how much total sf each would create? And yes, re-use is usually greener, just not necessarily as cost effective. Every time we renovate a building it's always a surprise to compare the cost per sf vs new construction...it often is equal if not more than new construction.


I can understand that the Riverdale school board would have considered demolition, but what begs an answer, is how they came to make that option their reccomendation. Until this most recent meeting, were there really no other, better options argued for the upgrade and re-use of this building?

It's possible to rebuild and upgrade an existing building from the inside out. This has been done. The people of Riverdale school district should be fully appraised of and given the opportunity to consider such an option and others supporting rebuild and upgrade of this architecture before being told by their school board that the board's recommendation is demolition.

It looks as though the windows run nearly floor to ceiling. That's a lot of light. In the picture, I think we're seeing an east view. In new construction, a different design might be able to permit the admission of more light with the creation of windows with a southern exposure, but the existing floor to ceiling windows are probably doing a pretty good job.


Save the Riverdale Doyle building!

We have so little preserved in Oregon's history in the way of historic buildings. Mainly for a number of reasons and one is we keep destroying instead of preserving our architectural past. A.E. Doyle building is a classic example of the kind of building that deems restoration ---- not destruction. Let us start thinking about protecting our very limited connection to Portland's past and not let it be in fond memories of some one's old forgotten photographs.

In favor of preserving some of our beautiful buildings. Riverdale Board has a responbility to be good stewards of the peoples trust and fiscally responsible. It would be wiser more prudent to go green by saving this building then building another one to replace it. Please go see the U of O's beautiful example in the White Stag Building and PSU Dept. of Architecture's exciting new space in Shattuck Hall (former elementary school). Both are great examples of creating vital, sustainable learning spaces within preserved architectural treasures.


The Doyle building is not a great building worth saving. It does not even compare to the other buildings designed by Doyle.

Lets make Riverdale famous for providing the best education at the best educational facility possible. This is best done by replacing an aging building that is not AE Doyle's best effort.

Please stop worshipping a building and focus on the educational future of those that attend the school.

Brian Libby


It doesn't have to be one or the other. The best educational environment for kids is, as we can all agree, a sustainable space with ample daylight. But this can be achieved by renovating the Doyle building - not just painting and changing finishes, but really creating a new space within the old one. So you can't claim demolishing historic architecture by a seminal local architect like Doyle is being done for the sake of the kids/students. Moreover, demolishing the building teaches them the wrong lesson. We should demonstrate to these kids and the community that preservation of architectural treasures is of paramount importance, and such efforts can accommodate a new generation of sustainable design and construction. It's really simple: Riverdale can either take two steps forward (historic preservation and sustainability) or one step forward and one back in a way that only feels like going backward.


Dear Joanny,

Firstly, the building is far from beatiful. In fact it is better described as a dump. Not exactly Doyle's best!!!

Secondly, the school board's first responsibility is ensuring that it maximizes the educational opportunities at Riverdale.
It is not to "be good stewards of the peoples trust" at the expense of educational facilities.

This is a school board not a building board. The SCHOOL board needs to do what is best for the school now and in the future. A year and a half of work, studies, proposals and possible designs of the buildings on the campus have lead to the very responsible conclusion that education is best served by replacing the Doyle building.

Please know that being for the Doyle building is by default being against a better educational facility.

I,m not sure how I would tell my kids that we could'nt build a separate lunch room for you and you have to eat in the gym, but at least we preserved this old outdated building.

Or maybe when they want to use the playing field in the winter and can't because the drainage could not be improved I could tell them to play soccer in the newly renovated Doyle building. I'm sure they would be excited to know that money set aside for drainage had to be used to complete the much more expensive renovation of the Doyle building.

I'm sure that the kids would be excited to know that they will have a significantly smaller outdoor play area because we had to save this "awesome" building.

The trade offs are many in keeping the Doyle. That is why it is a selfish and foolish decision to renovate and not replace.



I am more interested in teaching children to be financially responsible. The current world recession and economic crisis is largely a result of poor financial decision making at all levels. Saving the Doyle building costs significantly more and provides very real limitations and possible omissions from the educational facility as a whole.

That makes saving the building a bad decision period. creating sustainability is important, but not while sacrificing facilities used for education. Additionally, Sustainability for Riverdale is best done by replaing Doyle with a new tasteful building that can provide the best possible education for another 75+ years.

You must not be aware of the trade offs or maybe you simply do not care.


The Riverdale Elementary does compare well to other Doyle buildings. Built as a small elementary school, it should not be as grand as Portland’s Central Library, but because of great design work, it is still a useful educational facility. If a comparable structure to Riverdale Elementary exists in the area, I would like to know about it.

John, what do you think will be missing from the children’s education in a remodeled Doyle school? I think I know what would be missing with the new “green” school approach.

I do not worship this or ANY building, but I do respect the contributions and investments of past generations and these treasures should be stewarded prudently and not destroyed because doing so is easier or cheaper.


John, I, and maybe others would too, be interested in hearing some of the reasons you have for considering the Doyle to not be a great building. Maybe, besides the fact that the building is old, you can list some specific reasons to support your claim.

I think that, especially as grade school buildings in our area tend to go, this one is uniquely beautiful. Whenever possible, in the interest of providing the best possible education for the students studying within them, for the purpose of inspiration, it's important to incorporate great beauty into school buildings. This building already has that. Why fix something that's not broken?

Sunday's Oregonian had a nice bit on A.E. Doyle's other works in the area. I tend to forget things, so it's nice to be reminded that Doyle also did buildings such as the one at Reed College, and the lodge at Multnomah Falls.

Brian Libby

John, you say "being for the Doyle building is by default being against a better educational facility". You can't say that without letting architects give it a try. Again, those arguing against preservation of the Doyle building seem to discard the fact that such a renovation could be substantial enough to completely transform the inside. All the maintenance issues described about the old building are moot.

I'm not looking for Riverdale to be preserved at the expense of students and other occupants. I'm also not for historic preservation in the strict sense. If the best learning environment can be created by largely gutting the insides, so be it. But at least preserve the exterior. Show a little sense of imagination about what a hybrid new-old building could be!

Steve Jewell

For those wondering about the reasons the Riverdale School Board has given for favoring demolition of the Riverdale Doyle building, they were provided to the community on Nov. 19:

1. Costs: Renovation is more expensive than new construction. However, it is very likely all desired improvements, including the Doyle building, can be done within the $20M provided by the bond that was just approved. We will have more definitive information on this by December 15. Riverdale School District has the financial resources to be good stewards of our heritage AND provide excellent education.

2. Site Utilization: Confusion regarding the location of the main school entrance. Saving Doyle would reduce available play space, create a potential for "disjointed flow" to play areas, and make the campus less "unified." These can all be addressed adequately by good design.

3. Educational Program: Reduced space for outdoor learning. Decreased grade to grade connections. The Board would like to have all students, K-8 under one roof. Currently, K-4 is in one set of buildings, and 5-8 is in the Doyle building. This has been the case for 60 years, and the educational program has been excellent with this arrangement. Also, Doyle preservation is felt to result in less "flexibility" in the future.

4. Health & Safety: Campus less "secure." The thinking behind this is unclear. Possible improvements in parking and drop off.

These are the four areas which have guided the Board's decision. None are major or insurmountable issues.

Significantly, the Board has not formally weighed the following:
1. The educational value of historic preservation.
2. The sustainability of historic preservation.
3. The community building benefits of preserving a cultural icon.
4. Our community obligation to be good stewards of our history and heritage.


If you are really interested in debating the merits of the various plans, take a look at the architect's report:
All plans, including those retaining the existing building, include the same basic features, and the price ranges for new construction vs reuse are very similar (17.5-20m vs 18.5-21m). As an architect, I can attest that trade-offs need to be made in any kind of building design, whether new construction or renovation. All the criticisms "John" levels against reuse appear to be addressed in all the schemes presented, including those that reuse the existing Doyle building (see scheme 3 in particular). And, whether or not the existing building is dumpy inside (and this would presumably be remedied during renovation), it certainly appears to be a beautiful building from the exterior, at least on the front side. I agree with Brian; the "building" vs "kids" argument is a false choice (disclosure: I also have elementary school-age kids in public school). With a diligent architect, it should be possible for a renovation of the Doyle building plus additions to serve educational needs well.


Sorry, my link got cut off. For documents, go to:
Then click on "Grade School Renovation Documents," then "Architect's Report."



I have seen all of the renditions of the Doyle renovation and not one of them can be done without serious limitatins to the school facility as a whole. It was like trying to fit 5 puzzle pieces into a 4 piece puzzle.

The interior is only part of the issue. The total available acreage for this school is only 3.9 Acres. When you save Doyle and still need a new building to acomodate the need for additional class rooms you eat up a lot of space that would otherwise be available for outdoor play and an additional multipurpose room which will create a lunch space. That will allow the gym to be used as a gym and not a lunch gym.

Even if the architects come back with a financial solution they still have an ominous task of not sacrificing otherwise useable space.

You are aware that the entire playing field space is not useable based on the land use deed?

Also, using my imagination, I see a smaller renovated Doyle dwarfed by a much larger two story building right next to it. aesthetically, it will look disjointed and not have any sense of flow.

In fact it will look like what it is-a preserved building next to the better school facility. is that what people really want?



The schemes in the report provide alternatives, but they do not address my criticisms at the level of not requiring trade offs.

Please know that I believe that a renovated Doyle soluion is better than what we have today. However, no one to date has provided any solution that can clearly demonstrate that there will be no trade offs when compared to a replacement scheme.

At least this blog is now focusing on the right issues!!!



Your claim that the Board has not formally weighed the following is absurd:
1. The educational value of historic preservation.
2. The sustainability of historic preservation.
3. The community building benefits of preserving a cultural icon.
4. Our community obligation to be good stewards of our history and heritage.

These are all subjective opinion based issues. Not one of them is more important than maximizing the educational facilities that a replacement scheme provides. The board has sufficiently addressed this one issue that you make out to be four issues.

You also claim that the very real issues that support replacement are not insurmountable or major-again a simple opinion by you and a few others.

These are all convenient positions and arguments for someone that does not have children in the school.

To many a smaller outdoor play area is major!
To many spending extra money to save an average building is major!
To many the aesthetics of a small saved Doyle next to a much bigger and taller new building is major.

In the end what you really are saying is "who cares if it requires sacrifice by the students and parents the building must be saved" I know it is not politically correct, but you really should come clean!

maybe it should be called the Jewell Building because it seems that the main person being honored by the building is you!


John you say, “I’m not sure how I would tell my kids that we couldn’t build a separate lunch room for you and you have to eat in the gym…”

Maybe you could explain that with the “current world recession and economic crisis” preserving a great architectural investment is as important as having a dedicated lunch space.

What are the educational benefits of a dedicated lunch space?


anp, maybe it's just my connection, but I'm disappointed because I can't get the Architect's report to download.

John, the residents of Riverdale school district are going to have to decide what they want to do. If they think that the current architects report, or future ones, provide them with enough information to make that decision and the residents decision eventually happens to coincide with the school board's recommendation for demolition, I suppose that's the way it will be.

The addition of a new, much larger building right next to the Doyle, isn't necessarily a problem. The effect of a new, larger building next to a smaller old one all depends upon how the architects and engineers determine to approach the situation after having been sufficiently motivated (and not just by money) by Riverdale school district residents.

I really hope the residents will be able to come up with a good plan to keep the Doyle on. If they can't, then I hope the new building's design will be at least equally beautiful. Given the state of architecture today, it's hard to be hopeful about that.

Big, new buildings can be built next to old ones with the outcome being complete compatibility between the two. Architects can be very creative and ingenious when give the opportunity and sufficient motivation (and just in the form of money).

I hear people routinely say that one reason architecture is in the state it is today, is that developers confine them to very mundane objectives. A new building for Riverdale should be at least as inspired in design as the Doyle, it's position in the project inspiring the architect to possibly have his design even surpass the Doyle. Once, if, the Doyle is torn down, they won't have that bar to aim for.

I can't yet quite remember the bit about the playing field usable space/land deed issue. Think WWeek did a story on that some years ago. An unresolved issue between the school district and the residential neighbors, if I remember correctly.


The National Trust for Historic Preservation has some great examples of schools that were renovated rather than torn down. Copy and paste this link:


Buildings like Doyle's Riverdale school can be renovated successfully, you just have to want it, and you have to find the right people to do the job.



The benefit is that the gym can be used as a gym all of the time. It also means that the gym does not not get tables dragged across a finished floor designed for court sports. Maybe you do not value gym activities, but I do and my kids do.

Additionally, the new room which will serve as a lunch room can be used for many other purposes such as for guests and displays.

For example, one year there was a science demo that had to be put up and taken down several times over the course of the week because the only useable space was the gym. The gym also had to be used for sports and PE. The group involved in putting on the demo said that if this is what is involved in a project demonstration at Rivedale I do not want to go through this again.

So, again I do not want to tell them that we saved an average building that you dub a great architectural investment (what exactly is the great investment involved in saving three walls of this building anyway?) at the expense of better facilities for the school.

Earl, you are however illustrating my earlier point which is that many of the those that want to save Doyle do not care what impact it has on the students. In your opinion and theirs if it saves the precious building then let the students sacrifice!


Sorry, I kind of screwed up the following paragraph in my comment above with the omission of 'not' in the parenthesized phrase:

"Big, new buildings can be built next to old ones with the outcome being complete compatibility between the two. Architects can be very creative and ingenious when give the opportunity and sufficient motivation (and just in the form of money)."

By the way, has planning for a replacement building progressed to the point of design renderings for such a building? It seems as though in a replacement building, loss of good design equal to that of the Doyle building would certainly be a trade-off. Of course, we'd have to see a rendering to get some sense of what the new building might be.



I agree with you that large and small buildings can coexist. I also agree that with sufficient requirements and community input that a new building can and will be tastefully done.

The points that I am making support the idea that you will get a better architectural design if you have fewer contraints and more available space that you only get if you completely replace the current Doyle building.

I am not in favor of replacing the building if it can be done without giving up additional educational facilities. So far there has not been one realistic save Doyle solution that does not require significant trade offs or a significant risk that there will be trade offs.

Maybe the next version of the school design will accomplish this. Until then replacement makes more sense.

Please know that the renovation idea only involves saving three sides of the building.


As a father with children in Portland’s public grade schools, who values gym activities, I have seen several gyms used as lunch spaces without any noticeable harm to the ability to teach gym.

With a school so small, would you actually have need for simultaneous gym and lunch?

It sounds like there is good support for PE in Riverdale, but maybe not enough support for art and architectural history. Maybe they could use their new lunchroom to present an architecture appreciation demo, including a survey of lost community architectural gems.


Thank you “val” for the link to preservationnation. It is too bad Portland is missing from this page.

I found the story on the Horace Mann Elementary similar to the story of some elementary schools in Portland. It is too bad that Portland’s city government didn’t take a more active role in avoiding school closures as did the Fargo city government.

Portland’s population has never stopped growing and we will need those schools soon. If more high quality schools had remained open, we would have needed them even sooner, as the closures scared many families to the burbs and private school options.


Yes John, I had read that the renovation idea only involved saving the facade. Read that on the Riverdale website. There wasn't much further elaboration on the subject.

It seems as though this idea is the outcome of only one renovation proposal for the building. I wouldn't be surprised if there were more, and better, renovation ideas to come, now that more of Riverdale school district's residents are more aware of what they stand to lose with demolition of the the Doyle, and likely not to recover with a replacement building.

I don't see that demolition of the Doyle, replaced by an entirely new building provides a certainty of a better architectural design. In fact, I see just the opposite, though not necessarily. It's possible that a replacement could be better, but it's doubtful. It'll be new, but it won't be obliged to have to be in any way compatible with the Doyle's exquisite design. That means Riverdale will probably wind up with some sort of cost saving box with some hip features that will let the builders claim it's not a box.

With the Doyle out of the way, excellence in design in a replacement building can easily be subordinated to economics of the moment or uninspired functionality.

Recently I had occasion to join in the annual dinner at my nephew's grade school out around North Plains. It's an old, very well maintained building, definitely not anything as gracious in design as the Riverdale Doyle is. It's been added on to over the years.

Not fancy, works well. Those kids eat in a cafeteria constructed in the basement. Property's on a grade, so it's kind of a daylight basement. Point is, there's many different, good solutions to problems presented by the use of existing buildings.

Steve Jewell

John, if you look at the architect's report of 10/13/08, you will see that all three of the site plans that incorporate preserving the Doyle building do include the multipurpose room and play areas you mentioned are important to you. So keeping Doyle does not sacrifice those areas. There is, in fact, room on campus for what you want.

Additionally, I suggest you take a look at the White Stag buildings the U of O has renovated as well as the old Portland Armory building, which is the first LEED Platinum historic preservation in the country (now a theater). Both will help you understand how the interior space of Doyle can be transformed into a 21st century space for learning while preserving the beauty and grace of the Doyle exterior. Additionally, go inside the Multnomah County Central Library downtown to see specifically how an A.E. Doyle building can be renovated and improved. The current interior of the Riverdale Doyle building can be similalarly transformed.


Steve and others,

The multipupose room is in the report in all cases as an option that may not be possible if the entire school project runs on the high side of the budget. It is estimated that saving the Doyle will be more expensive by at least $1,000,000. This in fact does make getting a multipuspose building much less likely.

Generally, many of you are continueing to try to justify keeping the Doyle by debating the very real limitations that have been brought up by nearly every person involved in designing the school.

The fact remains that the students can use the gym for lunch, the students can deal with a smaller outdoor play space and they can deal without a multipurpose room if the budget does not permit its construction. However, I and many other parents with kids in the school do not believe that sacrificing these items or adding to the possibility that they will be sacrificed is worth saving a very average building.

As I have said before. To date no person has presented a school design that does not require some sacrifice of additional facilities at the school site. I also think that many of you that want to preserve the building are refusing to deal with the reality that saving the building will come with some sacrifice which will affect the students and staff.

why don't we get the the heart of the issue. What should the school district sacrifice in order to preserve the building? Or more specifically what should we expect the students and staff to give up to save the building?

Some additional questions: When they preserved the Portland Public Library what was sacrificed and what was given up? When they renovated the Stagg building what was sacrificed and what were the alternatives? And what exactly about the Riverdale school building is so great? The reasons that I hear are that it is great because the Portland Public Library is great or the M&F building is great or that a U of O building is great. Maybe it is an average building designed by a renowned architect not worth preserving. Do you think when they preserved the Portland Public Library that they said it is great because the Riverdale Grade School is great?? I doubt it!


I don't have time today to really answer John's latest question, but I hope someone will.

Doyle's Riverdale Grade School building design is inspired architecture that transcends the limitations of basic functionality. Back when this building was designed, I'm sure the school district could have cut costs by making something lower level, sacrificing the high ceilings and tall windows, and by eliminating the grand entry and ornamentation. But the school district didn't do that. For their kids education, they went the extra mile and got something far better that has inspired generations of kids.

That's all I got time for today.



Your assumptions about the new school design being some sort of box are wrong! The preliminary design suggestions are very nice looking buildings designed to be both creative and spacious on the inside and architecturally beautiful on the out side. That term, however, is subjective.

As for the residents they are devided. Most parents with kids in the school and the staff want a replacement scheme. Some of the older residents with memories of their time or their kids time in the school want a renovate scheme.

Some claim that the Doyle building binds the community. So far nothing could be farther from the truth!


Just curious if the School Board has brought in a preservation consultant - separate from the current architect, to get a different perspective on possibilities. I think it is important to remember those possibilities are limited by imagination. If you bring in someone whose focus is building new, then it will seem easier to that person to build new - and possibly vice versa as well. If you contract with someone who may not understand or appreciate the existing building, the results of any study will surely be skewed accordingly.

Brian Libby

Well said, Val. I agree.

Steve Jewell

Historic preservation architect Peter Meijer completed 60% of an initial review of the Riverdale Grade School project earlier this year. I believe he is back consulting with Mahlum Architects on the Doyle building. LeRoy Landers of Mahlum has acknowledged he is not experienced with historic preservation, so I applaud LeRoy and Mahlum for seeking Peter's expertise as new budget numbers are being prepared.

To John, even though you don't appreciate the value of the Doyle building, many others do (nearly 600 have signed the petition to date), and by preserving this building we also preserve the connections these people feel to RGS. Please don't dismiss their views simply because you don't share them.

You may not realize that the bond measure failed within the Riverdale neighborhood. Only the 564 registered Lewis and Clark student voters pushed the bond measure over the top. That's fine, but it is incorrect to feel that the School Board has a mandate from the neighborhood residents to demolish the Doyle building. If any situation called for a compromise, this does.

John, if the new budget numbers come back to show that the multipurpose room and the improved field drainage can be included in the budget along with the Doyle preservation, would you be willing to compromise? A new K-4 building and a renovated Doyle for the 5-8 grades? A skillful architectural plan can make this aesthetically pleasing to all. This would be a win-win for everyone. What do you think?



Firstly, your petition includes hundreds of people that either do not understand what they are signing (some people thought that the entire school was being demolished)or they are not in the school district and do not pay taxes in this district. My understanding of the petition is that about a third of the signers are tax paying residents in the district.

As for the vote, I am aware that the bond past because of the L&C students despite your hard fought attempt to scuttle the bond passage just to save a building. It highlights the fact that you would sacrifice fixing a school that is in great need of repair and replacement for the sake of a building.

It is the reason that I now question your motives and true agenda. In my heart I do not believe that you have the students best interest in mind when pursuing saving this building.

I also know that many in the community that voted no did so because they did not want their taxes increased. I do not look at the outcome of the vote as a mandate one way or another. I know that most parents and most staff want the building to be replaced and to me that speaks louder than anything else.

Having said that I have always maintained that if saving Doyle can be done without requiring meaningful sacrifices to other school facilities I would not have a problem with it. I do not value the building (renovated or replaced) more than maximizing the educational facilities.

On the flip side, if renovating Doyle cannot be done without meaningful sacrifices to the facility as a whole would you be willing to step aside and allow the building to be replaced and focus your energy on a new well done building? (I do not believe that you will answer my question with a straight answer).

Philip Niles

In the debate about Riverdale School, there have been questions about the significance of the building. I recently published a book on A. E. Doyle’s career and times: Beauty of the City: A. E. Doyle, Portland’s Architect. The School is a well preserved example of Doyle’s work. His career was short, just twenty-one years, 1907-1928, yet he did more for Portland than any other architect before or since. He designed nineteen downtown Portland buildings (eighteen exist today) including Central Library, Meier & Frank, U. S. Bank, PGE Park, Benson Hotel, and Reed College. He has 37 entries on the National Register of Historic Places. He designed only two other schools in the Portland area because Portland Public Schools employed a staff architect.

A. E. Doyle was particularly fond of Colonial (or Georgian) like his Central Library at SW 10th and Yamhill, Neighborhood House at 3030 SW 2nd Ave., and Riverdale School. Colonial was thought appropriate for libraries and schools as institutions intended to prepare citizens to participate in a democracy. At Riverdale there are a number of Doyle features, historically appropriate, yet intimate and attractive touches that one comes to expect with a Doyle like the cupola on the top, the arched lattice work over the central door, the arched windows in the library, the cornice and moldings at the roof line, over the windows and on the dormers. Even the arched vents in the dormers give a decorative touch to a utilitarian feature.

The central, side gabled portion, with the central doorway was designed and built in 1920. The north wing and auditorium and library were added in 1923 and a south wing to match the north was done in 1927, when Doyle was absent in Europe and when Pietro Belluschi was the principal designer as he remained after Doyle’s death January 23, 1928. The firm continued as A. E. Doyle and Associate Architects until 1943 when Belluschi renamed it for himself to launch his own internationally recognized career.

All old buildings cannot be preserved. However Riverdale School is much more than an old building. If the decision is made to demolish A. E. Doyle and Pietro Belluschi’s Riverdale School, everyone needs to understand that Dunthorpe and Portland lose a significant portion of their shared history.

Brian Emerick

I am also in the 'Save Riverdale' camp for all of the reasons so well stated.

What I would like to add to the discussion is that this plot has the unfortunate potential to play out many times again in coming years. The Hillsboro School District already went down this path, mothballing their original 30's era High School and building a brand new school on the track next door. The original campus is slated for demolition and the community the board serves is outraged. Unfortunately for them, at this point they are probably only delaying the inevitable since the new resource has already been built.

These are all good lessons for what we may yet face with the Portland Public Schools, the largest private landowner in the City and their district wide 'Facility Upgrades' plan. We have had much discussion about this on the Landmarks Commission and have reached out to PPS to open the lines of communication and concern. Being non-profits, school districts are not able to take advantage of many incentives that developers use to make a historic renovation 'pencil'. The PPS survey shows some older buildings and many mid-century ones are at risk. These range from the once noble Jefferson High to the mid-century Reike Elementary with demolition arguments similar to the Riverdale debate. The ongoing program of deferred maintenance to close budget gaps threatens the status of these resources more each year.

Portland's neighborhood schools are powerful links to the community and the generations that have been educated in them. Generally built to last, they are local icons, focal points of pride, and important open spaces in dense neighborhoods. They are worth saving AND making into state of the art learning facilities for our children- the two are not mutually exclusive. It's hard to argue that throwing these away and building new makes more sense. What's more sustainable then reusing these quality buildings and the embodied resources they represent.


These sound like great features some of which can be incorporated into a new building. This is a school not a sacred piece of holy land never to be touched by human hands!

If it is that great to you and others then why not build a coalition to raise money to move the building and restore to its original state. I'm sure there are 600 signatures on a petition from people that would be happy to contribute to such a cause.

Why do you continue to insist on saving a building at the expense of educational facilities. The problem here is that many people believe that what is lost in tearing down the building will be created better and in the end Dunthorpe and the community will be improved.

You know it is still possible to create very nice tasteful structures today. I'm quite confident that with all the controversy over this issue that a replacement building will be high quality.



Unfortunately, to date NO ONE has been able to produce a design for this school that includes a renovated Doyle building that does not require significant sacrifices and possible omissions to the educational facilities. You and others for the Doyle seem content to avoid the very real issue of what is sacrificed to keep this building. You just gloss right over it and claim that it can be done with the right design or architect.

I am still waiting for someone to either give me the list of sacrifices to be made by the students and staff that are worth making to save this building or to come up with a solution that does not reaquire any sacrifices.

So, while they are not 100% mutually exclusive they seem to be partially mutually exclusive.


I am not a professional architectural preservationist, nor am I a professional architect, nor architectural critic, so I feel I might not be able to do justice to Doyle’s work, but here goes anyway.

The Riverdale School was remodeled in the second half of the 20 century and as a result has lost some of its beauty and functionality. Since we know the type of windows that once hung there and we have a good idea of what is above that hung ceiling, we can imagine how lovely and functional a properly restored Doyle would be.

For the past 88 years, Riverdale School has been a warm welcoming environment for children to learn. The warmth and elegance of the finely detailed entryways, high ceilings, material choices including masonry work, freeze boards and door and window proportions once dovetailed with the historically green functionality of maximizing daylight, passive air movement and emergency access, these features were all ahead of their time. Though much of this functionality has have been compromised in the relatively recent remodeling, restoring these historically green functions with, for example, a historically appropriate window and ceiling systems should be goals of the remodel or restoration.

It is hard for me to put into words the intangible proportional elegance of the main entry, surrounding windows, roofline and copula, but the fact that proceeding generations decided to make the Riverdale School entry the logo for the entire district says something beyond anything I can say.


Just to reinforce Brian Emerick’s comment, anyone interested in mid-century modern architecture should visit Rieke Elementary School. Most recently remodeled in 2001, the school is one of the youngest elementary schools in Portland and is in exceptional condition. The reason they want to demolish it is to replace the school with a much larger school. This larger school would threaten smaller neighboring schools like Capital and Hayhurst, further disrupting enrollment in the cluster.

It would be environmentally unconscionable and a huge waste of public resources to demolish this safe, efficient mid-century modern gem. In the 2/11/2005, PPS “School Profile” for Rieke the only “Pending Capital Need” listed was a new dishwasher. Three years later, they NEED to demolish the entire school!?

Link to the profile:

In addition to Rieke, Winterhaven really stands out as an architecturally significant building that is slated for demolition, and is certainly a treasure to the community. Coincidentally, in the PPS, 2/11/05 “School Profile” for Winterhaven the only “Pending Capital Need” listed was a new dishwasher.

Link to the profile:

A few of the schools targeting for demolition may merit replacement. In the case of Markham School, replacement AND resiting are overdue. However, we should not build elementary schools that are so large they require busing more children to a given school than can walk or bike to that school. We should look at the more cost effective and educationally and environmentally sound option of reopening schools like Smith School before demolishing and rebuilding Rieke.



Beautiful features like the ones you speak about can be incorporated into the new building. As for proportion, the school was originally designed for fewer than 100 students. It now needs to be capable of handling over 300.

Even if you renovate and keep the Doyle the entrance would compete and be overwhelmed by a second main entrance in the larger building next door. The proportion that you like today will be gone regardless of what you do.

As for the letter head logo. What were the alternatives-the falling down shanty town which contain the lower grades? We can keep the Logo in memory of the building and Doyle because that has no impact on the educational facility.


Is there one example of new school construction with the character, materials and detail work of your Riverdale School?

According to the Riverdale Architects Report, the building “currently accommodates approximately 320 students” and "this program will provide the same number of teaching spaces.” Though most districts in the Portland area have growing enrollment in critical elementary grades, the report says, “today we are ‘growing small’ with a declining enrollment.”

Steve Jewell

John, I shall continue to purposely refrained from responding to your ad hominem attacks. I don't know who you are, but I doubt you know me based on your statements. Civil, intelligent dialogue is always welcome. Mature people can agree to disagree, communicate respectfully and remain on good terms. What a sad, boring world it would be if we all agreed on everything!

Steve Jewell

Thank you, Philip Niles, for your assessment of the Riverdale Doyle building. It truly is a gem and Riverdale is blessed to have this piece of our regional heritage as the center of our community.

On December 15 we will learn what, if any, sacrifices would have to be made to preserve A.E. Doyle's work at Riverdale. I look forward to the revised budget numbers being prepared by our design and building professionals.


Steve J,

You seem content to claim the high road, but you have failed to answer my question regarding your willingness to support a replacement scheme if in fact significant sacrifices will be required with a saved Doyle building. So, here it is again:

On the flip side, if renovating Doyle cannot be done without meaningful sacrifices to the facility as a whole would you be willing to step aside and allow the building to be replaced and focus your energy on a new well done building? (I do not believe that you will answer my question with a straight answer).

I answered your question honestly and in a straight forward manner that I would accept a renovated Doyle if it did not require meaningful sacrifices.

As for respectful communication and civil dialogue, please know that numerous nasty and threatening emails have been sent to the School Board all in the interest of saving the Doyle building. Many of these emails have been inspired by you and your "save Doyle campaign". The emails may not have been sent by you, but I have not seen much of an outcry from you condemning this kind of behavior.


get a room.

Brian Libby

What does that mean, Ben? That's a comment usually reserved for two people making out on a park bench.

Eric Cantona

i think what John fails to appreciate, and probably never will, is the intrinsic value of the existing structure. his argument centers around the notion of sacrificing this or that, and how awful it would be for the kids to not have this or that.

it appears most of the posters here would probably agree that sacrificing some of the programmatic elements is a fair trade-off for the benefits to both the students and the greater community that a restored school would afford. in John's world this is just an old building, that offers nothing more than enclosure. 'new' is always preferable to 'old'. losing pieces of our built heritage matter not.

personally, i don't have a dog in this fight. i don't always believe that preservation/renovation is the best way to proceed. i'm still not convinced that Brian's crusade for the rosefriend made any real sense. in this case, however, based on what i've read and heard the school IS significant both architecturally and historically. losing it would deprive future students of a valuable learning tool, and a touchstone to the past. no new school will ever be able to provide that.

don't get me started on the sustainability aspects...

Brian Libby

Well said, Eric. (If you're the real marble-mouthed soccer player Eric Cantona, this must be the first moment of eloquence in your life!)



Thank you for the post!! I think you are at least partially right in your characterization of me failing to appreciate the building in the way that some others do.

I particularly like the fact that you are the first person that has been willing to address the very real possibility that sacrifices will have to be made in renovating the Doyle building and force the question of what is worth sacrificing.

My failure to appreciate the existing building comes primarily from the Riverdale design expo I attended which provided insights and images of what the interior space will look like in a new building scheme. It included large class rooms, extra spaces for special projects and meetings. It included large windows with tons of natural light. The outdoor play area was bigger and the campus had a flow and proportionality that was incredible.

While I am open to the possibility that this can exist in a save Doyle scheme, so far every rendition that includes a saved Doyle building compromises many of the features that I value in the replacement scheme.

Additionally, community members that wish to save the Doyle continue to hold out for the possibilty that the building can be saved without making programmatic or facility sacrifices. In so doing they refuse to acknowledge that maybe the sacrifices required outweigh saving the building

Brian Libby

This seems like a good conversational breakthrough, John. It's completely understandable, and even admirable, that you want the best scheme for students. It's also interesting to hear how the proposed design schemes inspired you. And you're not wrong to hold the original building up to a high standard for possible future use.

It's true that compromise will have to exist one way or the other. If Riverdale is demolished, it will be a cultural tragedy for students, parents and the whole Portland area. At the same time, if we save Riverdale, a fair tradeoff seems to be that some liberties are taken with the original architecture to incorporate that into the best school-wide scheme without being bound by strict historic preservation rules.

At the end of the day, we all agree that something bigger and better needs to happen with the design and construction of Riverdale for its future. Some of us value space, facilities and flexibility the most, while others argue for the importance of saving architectural treasures. Maybe I'm just naive, as has been suggested here before. But I still strongly feel the only good solution will accommodate all of these concerns: an ultra green campus with plenty of new amenities but one that also preserves the legacy of the past.

Eric Cantona

"marble-mouthed"??? i am a frenchman, sir! that's how we speak.

and, for the love of god, can you PLEASE remove the photos of stamford bridge from your London photo album. they are tres offensive. chelsea fc have built their recent successes on the backs of the Russian people, and should be condemned as a blight on the beautiful sport.

up the red devils!


john said "My failure to appreciate the existing building comes primarily from the Riverdale design expo I attended which provided insights and images of what the interior space will look like in a new building scheme."

Were there any representations created by expert preservation architects at this expo? or was it all about the new? If the process was skewed from the start its no wonder the old building is viewed as needing to be demolished.


Notice that not one person commenting here has extolled the aesthetic and architectural beauty of the proposed replacement building.

So far, hasn't the Riverdale School District conferred with only one architectural firm about design ideas for either a replacement building or a Doyle re-use/renovation/expansion approach to the school's needs? If this firm cannot produce a worthy idea, others should be consulted.

The Doyle Riverdale is great architecture, but the school district will be hard pressed to get something to equal that greatness, even in a different design or period style.

If he were here to be consulted, what would Doyle do today:

If demolition and replacement were the only cost effective option acceptable to district residents, even as they continued to prefer the Doyle's architectural design over others presented to them, then the way to go is obvious: Let the Doyle's design be the design concept for the new, larger replacement building.

A replacement building done in this manner would have the square footage, features, and footprint that Riverdale needs for its site and the best education possible for its kids, and would continue to carry on the graceful, inspired and highly regarded architectural design of Doyle's Riverdale Grade School.


There have been numerous attempts made to create a layout for the buildings that utilize the space as well as replacement. So far it creates a squeezed campus that is disjointed. The terms used were "Skinny Doyle" and "Fat Doyle". Whether you go with a thinner Doyle or a fatter Doyle renovation it left you with limited space to locate the new bigger building.

In the end it really changed the entire look and feel of the campus and created two separate buildings with different sized class rooms.

That is one of the main issues (cost is the other) that the architects are supposed to try to address when they come back on the 15th of December.

My concern still remains that the pro Doyle group in the end will not under any circumstances accept a replacement building no matter how great the educational sacrifice.

Steve Jewell

As I posted earlier, the trade offs the Board has identified are these:

1. Costs:
Renovation is expected to be more expensive than new construction. However, it is very likely all desired improvements, including the Doyle building, can be done within the $20M provided by the bond that was just approved. This would include the multipurpose room and improved field drainage. Construction costs are down at least 10%, and probably more, according to experts who bid on this project.
We will have more definitive information on this December 15.

2. Site Utilization:
Confusion regarding the location of the main school entrance was cited, but can be addressed with good design.
Saving Doyle, it is feared, would reduce available play space, create a potential for "disjointed flow" to play areas, and make the campus less "unified." But what the actual numbers?
The Doyle building is approximately 18k sq ft. The existing Primary building (planned for demolition) is 11k sq ft. The existing Art building (planned for demolition) is 1.4k sq ft.
If Doyle is preserved, and the Primary and Art buildings replaced by a new two story building of 25k sq ft, as proposed in the architect's Option 1 of the 10/13/08 report, then 12.4k sq ft is demolished and replaced by a new building with a 12.5k sq ft footprint. This represents a net "sacrifice" of 100 sq ft of lost outdoor space.

3. Educational Program:
Reduced space for outdoor learning. See 2. above.
Decreased grade to grade connections. The Board would like to have all students, K-8 under one roof. Currently, K-4 is in one set of buildings, and 5-8 is in the Doyle building. This has been the case for 60 years, and the educational program has been excellent with this arrangement.
Doyle preservation is felt to result in less "flexibility" in the future. That view has not been clarified.

4. Health & Safety:
Campus less "secure." Again, the thinking behind this is unclear.
There are possible improvements in parking and drop off if Doyle is demolished. What would be allowed by the county is yet to be determined.

So, unless the field drainage and multipurpose room cannot be had within the $20M budget, I do not see any major sacrifices that would have to be made.

For those who may be thinking the Riverdale community doesn't care about historic preservation, it's important to remember that surveys during the planning process showed that 61% of respondents wanted to keep the Doyle building. Furthermore, due to the Board's September 18 resolution favoring demolition, the bond was more than a measure to raise $21.5M. It was a de facto referendum on preserving the Doyle building. As I posted earlier, the voters within the neighborhood voted down the bond when it was linked to demolition of Doyle. (The bond passed overall due to the votes of college students at Lewis & Clark College.)
These numbers support the view that demolition of Doyle is not supported by a majority of the Riverdale community, and the School Board would be acting against the will of the community if it decides to demolish Doyle.

Steve Jewell

I refer John to my prior posts where I have condemned heated rhetoric, including the "threats" the Board cited.
Can't we keep this civil? This isn't the Rush Limbaugh show!

Steve Jewell

John, perhaps if you email me directly and reveal who you are, we can have a civil exchange without imposing on Portland's architectural community. I'll be pleased to answer your questions, with the caveat I previously conveyed to you about personal attacks.
I'm in the directory.

Let's use this blog to discuss the architectural issues surrounding the Riverdale Doyle building.



Another interesting fact about this project is that the Riverdale School Board hired a skilled, historic preservation construction company to do the project, Bremik Construction. Who coincidentally was the general on the White Stag Block project. Historical Preservation is one of the primary backbone to Bremik's mission statement.

Steve Jewell

Bob, and to Bremik's credit, they have NOT been beating the demolition drums. They are very highly regarded for their historic preservation work, and let's hope they will be given the opportunity to preserve Doyle, not bulldoze it.


Steve J,

You still did not answer my question!!! I find your refusal to admit that there is a point when the sacrifices could outweigh preserving the building concerning.

You can not conclude that the vote in the community was lopsided in favor of Doyle. You would have to do a lot more breaking down of the votes, which is impossible without direct voter involvement, to know that a No or a Yes vote was linked to the Doyle debate.

I do know that the original intent of the Board and all involved was to renovate the Doyle. One of the reasons is because there are people in the community that want to see the building preserved.

It leaves one wondering what caused the School Board to change directions. Maybe it is because of a significant advantage involved in a replacement scheme.

This recomendation was not arrived at easily and you seem quick to dismiss and undervalue those reasons.

As for the architectural community, you brought this issue from your point of view to thier attention and I want to make sure that the other side is fairly represented.



A colleague mentioned this thread, so I am late to the conversation, but have been catching up with interest and amusement.

Besides the architectural argument, which is my primary interest, I cannot help but address your other words.

John, I find your arguments unspecific and changing and I wonder if this is why Steve J is unwilling to commit to an agreement with you.

To begin with, you lost all credibility when arguing that the renovation would somehow not allow for a "multipurpose" room. Only when it was pointed out that all of the architectural plans, calling for a renovation, included this room did you back down on the point. And, you continually fail to acknowledge the most compelling argument listed time and time again in this blog that financially a renovation is viable with the state of the economy. Obviously, you either are not familiar with this project (did you read the plans?) and should go and do some research or you're grasping at straws to find what you yourself would classify as a "major" sacrifice.

You're the last person I would enter into an agreement with. You obviously do not understand the argumentation of those in favor of renovation and you blindly trumpet up excuses and "sacrifices" that to the unbiased person are certainly able to be overcome.

I don't speak for anyone in this blog, except Adrian Harris on his day off, but maybe my thoughts will give you insight into their reluctance to answer your questions and commit to your challenges. I thought there should be a voice of reason, here.

As for the architectural aspect of the project, what background and expertise do you have that would make us believe your assessment of the building as "average"? When you have expert upon expert praising the building, it is hard to take you seriously, and I certainly hope that no one in a position of authority is listening to you.

Open your ears, learn, change.

And to quote the late, great Bob Marley, "Emancipate yourself from mental slavery none but ourselves can free our minds."

Steve Jewell

Thank you Richard, for your articulate statement. You said it brilliantly. I enjoy the intelligent dialogue of this blog. Keep it up!

FYI, the Riverdale Doyle building will be a discussion topic at the end of the regular agenda of the Portland Historic Landmarks Commission meeting this Monday, December 8, at 1:30 p.m., in Room 2500 A of the Development Services building at 1900 SW 4th Avenue.

Steve Jewell

The discussion about the bond vote perhaps deserves elaboration for most readers. To be clear, this discussion does not deal with the legalities of the vote, simply the political realities the School Board faces now that the final election returns are out.

The bond passed within the Riverdale School District as a whole, however the District has an unusual electoral base. There are three precincts within the School District, one of which includes 564 registered voters who are students at Lewis and Clark College. Students make up 88% of that precinct. Neither the students nor the college pay taxes in the District, but as District residents the students were entitled to vote on the school bond measure.

395 Students voted on November 4, representing 26% of the total votes cast. The precinct with L&C students voted 75% in favor of the bond, reflecting the fact that the student vote was heavily solicited by the campaign for the bond.

In the two precincts without students, the bond failed, with 51% voting no.

So, while the bond passed, and no one is disputing that, the Board now is faced with a situation in which the residents of the neighborhood, who understood the issue the best, and who will be taxed, voted the measure down.

I simply point this out to demonstrate that the Board does not have a mandate to demolish the Doyle building, so a compromise is the appropriate political move at this point, avoiding a deep, on-going division.

The downturn in the economy has provided the means to achieve that compromise. Competitive bids may be needed to achieve this result, but it is likely Mahlum and Bremik will come back with numbers within the $20M bond. With reduced building costs, all reasonable parties can be satisfied and move forward with improving the Riverdale Grade School campus.

Steve Jewell

Oh, and John, see Richard's reply to you.

Of course I would not expect the children to make "major sacrifices." The answer to your question is obvious. I asked you about the field drainage and multipurpose room to clarify what you thought were "major sacrifices," but you would not be pinned down.

To clarify for you, I do not consider either of those "major sacrifices." The gym has served as the de facto multipurpose room for the past 60 years, and I don't think that has been a "major sacrifice" for the kids. The field is usable, if not perfect.

Field drainage and the multipurpose room can be added at any future date, but if the Doyle building is demolished, it is gone forever, and can never be brought back.

Losing the Doyle building is a "major sacrifice."

Happily (and ironically), however, the economy has served up a set of circumstances that can provide for all, so the discussion of "major sacrifices" is really moot.



Welcome to the debate. Since you quoted Bob Marley it is reasonable to believe that you are smoking dope based on your "dopey response" to my posts.

The architectural plans that you reference do in fact contain the multipurpose room. However, at the meetings about the design of the school it was clearly communicated ( also by me in a prior post) that the multipurpose room is an option that may not be available if we cannot come in on the low side of the budget. Renovating Doyle increses the cost considerably and reduces the chances that this room can be afforded (even with the possible reduction in overall cost). Additionally, the site utulization breaks down quickly when you have a renovated Doyle and Multipurpose room. It is not just a cost issue.

Also, I find it ironic that you are asking that I "open my ears, learn, change" when that is exactly what I stand for by wanting a new school building that maximizes the educational facilities and programmitic elements. It is you and those that cling to emotional arguments for the building that should step aside and welcome change and the benefits that change can bring.

I suppose in Richard's world we would be communicating back and forth with feather quills, ink wells and parchment paper

About the building being average. In the context of the other Doyle buildings, such as the Portland Public Library, the Riverdale school building does not even come close to that standard. Even a person as arrogant as you can't disagree with that.

So Richard, go lite up another spleef and continue to emancipate yourself from reality!



I appreciate your answer to my question even though you derail your answer in the end by claiming that it is a non issue. I posed the question to you simply to start the process of discussing the trade offs that will be required to keep the Doyle building. It also raises the possibility that those trade offs will not be worth making.

Having enough money to save the Doyle building is only one issue that if resolved due to lower overall costs, will not address many other issues. Site utilization will still have to be addressed and so far this has caused more problems and sacrifices than the possible budget limitations. I think you are operating under the assumption that an extra million dollars fixes everything.

As for your implication that the bond vote somehow indicates community sentiment in favor of saving Doyle, that is simply not accurate. A better number in the community that strongly want a saved Doyle is about 200. The number of tax paying residents that signed your petition. I find it ironic that you discount the L & C students as non tax paying voters yet you proudly use your 600+ signature petition as a powerful reason to save Doyle. About two thirds of the signatures on your petition are from non residents that do not pay taxes in this district.

In the end most of the reasons to save Doyle are emotional and sentimental. There is nothing wrong with that, but it makes the idea of accepting trade offs a hard one to swallow.

As for the community, if the new school turns out to both look good and people feel like they got their moneys worth then most will forgive and forget. This can be true with or without Doyle in my world.


john, the fact that you think the preservation argument is rooted in emotion and sentiment is the reason why you cannot comprehend the logic of saving the building.

Steve Jewell

John, your inability to follow a series of logical arguements makes your posts increasingly irrelevant.

I'll only reply to your distortion of my comments about the bond vote.

I said, "So, while the bond passed, and no one is disputing that, the Board now is faced with a situation in which the residents of the neighborhood, who understood the issue the best, and who will be taxed, voted the measure down.

I simply point this out to demonstrate that the Board does not have a mandate to demolish the Doyle building, so a compromise is the appropriate political move at this point, avoiding a deep, on-going division."

I never implied or asserted, as you claim, that the "vote somehow indicates community sentiment in favor of saving Doyle."

To reiterate, in the election the Board did not get a majority of the neighborhood to approve either demolishing the Doyle OR building the new building. The neighborhood did not approve the bond. Period. They did not wish to be taxed for a $21.5M bond. There are many reasons people voted against the bond, and I don't claim the Doyle issue was the largest reason, but it certainly was one reason for a no vote. We simply don't know why people voted as they did, because they haven't been asked.

The petition was never intended as a substitute for the bond election. We already know, from the election, that the neighborhood does not support a new building OR renovation of the Doyle. The petition was simply to answer the question raised by a Board member at the November Board meeting: Are there a large number of people who care about the Doyle building? The answer is a very loud and clear YES, and every one of the signers of the petition has a greater interest and stake in the school than any of the L&C students.

Parenthetically, I am not displeased that the bond passed, as I really wish to see improvements at the grade school. To me the vote was perfect in that the money was raised without giving the Board a political base from which they can, in good conscience, demolish the Doyle building.

The Board is in a very tenuous political position, knowing a majority of the neighborhood does not wish them to spend any money at all. A wise Board that wishes to reunite the community will compromise and preserve the Doyle building, knowing that there are a number of voters who would have voted yes on the bond had the Board committed to saving Doyle prior to the election, thus giving them the support of the neighborhood.


I give you the poise, empathy, thoughts, logic, and exclamation points of John:

"It is reasonable to believe that you are smoking dope based on your "dopey response" to my posts"

"I suppose in Richard's world we would be communicating back and forth with feather quills, ink wells and parchment paper."

"Even a person as arrogant as you can't disagree with that.
So Richard, go lite up another spleef [sic] and continue to emancipate yourself from reality!" (favorite)

"My failure to appreciate the existing building comes primarily from the Riverdale design expo I attended which provided insights and images of what the interior space will look like in a new building scheme." (huh?)

"These are all convenient positions and arguments for someone that does not have children in the school."

"In the end what you really are saying is 'who cares if it requires sacrifice by the students and parents the building must be saved' I know it is not politically correct, but you really should come clean!"

"maybe it should be called the Jewell Building because it seems that the main person being honored by the building is you!"

"Maybe you do not value gym activities, but I do and my kids do."

"Earl, in your opinion and theirs if it saves the precious building then let the students sacrifice!"

"Do you think when they preserved the Portland Public Library that they said it is great because the Riverdale Grade School is great?? I doubt it!"

"In my heart I do not believe that you have the students best interest in mind when pursuing saving this building. "

"This is a school not a sacred piece of holy land never to be touched by human hands!"

"I'm sure there are 600 signatures on a petition from people that would be happy to contribute to such a cause."

"Please stop worshipping a building and focus on the educational future of those that attend the school."

"Firstly, the building is far from beatiful. In fact it is better described as a dump. Not exactly Doyle's best!!!"

"Please know that being for the Doyle building is by default being against a better educational facility."

"That is why it is a selfish and foolish decision to renovate and not replace."


In all seriousness, guys, you all care about this school, and I hope a compromise can be made that will satisfy all parties.

Best of luck to you.


Steve Jewell

Thanks, Rich, well said.

And thank you to Brian Libby for his original piece on the Riverdale A.E. Doyle building here at Portland Architecture. I have enjoyed the discussion and appreciate the support of so many people who appreciate great historic architecture. Your comments have been intelligent and insightful, and I am grateful to each of you. A.E. Doyle would be proud of you!

Even John has served a useful purpose in exposing the readers of this blog to the nature of the opposition to the A.E. Doyle building at Riverdale. Thanks, John, for your contributions. It is valuable for those interested in historic preservation to hear the other side and learn from that experience.

Finally, I wish to express one last time that I'll continue to do what is possible to preserve the Riverdale A.E. Doyle building, not only for its beauty and grace, but to preserve it as a symbol of our community history, traditions, and culture. Historic architecture is a powerful, subliminal force for good in our society, and each piece we can retain is good for our future and our children.

With that, I am signing off from this blog, and wish the best to all of you. Thanks for your help and support!


Steve Jewell



I am pleased to see that my last post caused you to read all of my posts. My characterization of you must have hit a nerve!

Steve Jewell,

When you sent your letter to everyone in the community prior to the bond vote encouraging people to vote no for money to renovate the school it affected me deeply! If this bond had failed we would be faced with the reality of having a school that is literally falling apart for an extended period of time (another bond campaign would not have been done for at least two years according to the School Board). I have children in this school and by standing in the way of a better educational facility for children in the community you sent your message loud and clear.

Had you not done that it would be a lot easier to understand your position and claim that compromise will bring the community together.

I speak for a larger number of people in the community than you probably think!

What you did was wrong!


My understanding was that another bond measure would have been possible in May. Maybe I'm mistaken.

If the may scenario is the case, it seems another six months or so would have been well worth saving the building.

Just some humble thoughts.

Also, John you may want to think about toning it down a bit. You just come across as a little aggressive and vindictive. Like Richard said, everyone cares about the education and wants to see a compromise, so no use riling things up, eh?

Happy thoughts everyone!



You are not doing any favors for anyone who agrees that the Doyle building be demolished. You are making that side look angry, small minded, and quick to resort to personal attacks on those who disagree.

I do not have a position on this issue, but I would not want you on my side if I did.


Mahlum's planning document, available HERE:


...said that the cost of renovation of the older structure would be 60-70% the cost of a new structure (page 29)

Main Building
• Building Area: Approximately 18,000 square feet
• Year Constructed: 1920
• Overall Assessment Rating: 38 (Major remodeling/60% to 70% of replacement cost)

So, in fact, renovating and keeping the older building would be... less expensive.

However, there are some additional buildings onsite that should be demolished that aren't of any real historical value. For instance, the Art Department is housed in a 1973 "temporary" modular unit.

At the same time, there is this (pg 12):

• The total estimated project cost for the renovation option was a range of $18.4 to $21.0
• The total estimated project cost for the replacement option was a range of $17.5 to $20.0


FYI: I just confirmed on the Riverdale district website that Monday's meeting has been postponed due to the winter storm.

Also, I checked out the district page dedicated to the campus upgrade.


It includes what I would guess was the wording given to Riverdale voters summarizing how the bond money would be spent. To me, it is at best ambiguous, and at worst misleading concerning whether the Doyle building would be demolished. It uses the key word "rebuilding." In the context of the preceding paragraphs discussing facility and roof upgrades, etc., I would interpret that as implying that the Doyle building would be preserved.

I'm not a Riverdale district resident so I can't be sure. Does anyone in the district feel they were misled by the ballot measure wording?



The wording on the ballot measure was ambiguous. Legal counsel required it to be that way. The school board held open meetings and open forums and communicated them frequently to the entire community when it came to discussing how the new school would be designed. It was a 15 month process.

The initial plan was to keep the Doyle building. That changed when significant advantages became known with a full replacement scheme.

This was not a closed process.


some simple questions:

1. How is a combined gymnasium/cafeteria a bad thing? doesn't it mean the space won't be empty for chunks of the day? when i was a kid, i ate at a table in the gym, and i don't think my education suffered as a result.

2. how is the available play area reduced by preserving the building, if as has been said, the playing fields cannot be built on anyway?

3. how is renovating the building more expensive thatn building new, when the architect's report states all of the renovation costs as % of cost of replacement (all less than 100%).

4. it is possible to reorganize, or even demolish and replace the later non-Doyle building that are behind the original, reorganize the existing playing fields, etc. without having to demolish the original building. why not consider those options. the deed restrictions say no buildings can be built on the playing fields, but that doesn't mean no development of any kind. why not consider these options?

5. why assume that the architect has thought of all possible options? is any architect, or anyone for that matter, really that smart? maybe what is needed is a bit more creativity?


V. Robert Erickson

1. Make Riverdale a private school.
2. Save the building.

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