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Toni Magic

Riverdale High School is located at the old Collinsview Elementary school near Lewis and Clark. As far as I know it is still standing. The grade school, the building that was just torn down, was located in Dunthorpe.


well good for them, who needs dirty old architecture in their city anyways.

Brian Libby

You're right, Dennis. I say we tear down City Hall next, or maybe the Pittock Mansion, and then we go after the Portland Art Museum or maybe Central Library. We have got to get rid of all these dirty old buildings!

And by the way, Paris and London are just full of this stuff, too. What is their problem?


What's to be done with the rubble? Is anything being salvaged for re-use? Libby Farr's photos show the types of used materials I've seen for sale at Rejuvenation.


Ah, as much as I hate seeing these images, they are very telling and useful. Look at all of the wood that was wantonly smashed into unusable condition. So, not only has another historic, but somehow not historic building been lost, these images show how much usable materials are being wasted as well. Ok, so maybe all of those building materials will end up at a recycling center, but that should not be good enough. Just think of how much of it could have actually been re-used in some fashion.


If you are not going to admit that buildings like these have historic or architectural merit and work to ensure their preservation, the least you can do is admit there is a real problem with sending all of these materials to a landfill! And even if they do go to a "recycling" center, has anyone asked just how this smashed up wood will be recycled? I'm guessing it could become lead tainted garden mulch that maybe can be used when they landscape the new Riverdale School building.

Sorry if I sound perturbed by this whole ordeal, wait, you know what? I'm not sorry. It's the City and the school district that should be sorry for supporting such wasteful activities.


Curious, but if this was supposed to be LEED certified, why does the mess of rubble indicate a lack of conservation of materials? The photos depict demolition without a care for salvaging brick, wood panels, beams and glass windows.

What gives?

Someone needs to run over there and document the amount of trash that ends up being hauled away to a landfill, and verify that this project isn't claiming the various, related credits.


if they would have, and they should have, dismantled the building into useable parts and pieces, then it would have left more time for people to protest. Contentious demo projects are done fast and furiously, sometimes very early in the morning or late evening. Make no mistake about it, they smashed and burned to get it done quick. Too bad they did, because there probably were some nice straight grain wood in there, fixtures, and other useful relicts. I am sure they will separate and use what they can such as bricks, but the pictures are telling. Pretty devastating.


Sad Riverdale had to go, but sometimes that's just what happens when a building owner decides to call it quits. I have no problem with that; historic preservation should be at the option of those that own property and there should be incentives to intice owners in this regard. If property owners see things differently, so be it. Good riddance.

I enjoy Brian's blog very much, but I also feel the same way about the MC. As a taxpayer and longtime Portlander, it saddens me to see it just sit there unused year after year. If the collective minds at the City can't get their heads together to make it a functional asset, then it is time to make way for something else (um, but not an "entertainment district").

HOWEVER...the idiots that allowed demolition to proceed in this fashion rather than deconstruct Riverdale in a sensitive way that provides for reuse of the materials should be held accountable for such waste. That is the real tragedy here.


It would be useful to post a picture of the building as it was before, some of us (fortunately a few) had no idea there was an architectural gem in the league of Paris and London buildings that was there before...

Brian Libby

Good suggestion, Nikos. I have added a picture of the school before its demolition.

As for your other comment, I'm not saying Riverdale was St. Paul's Cathedral or Notre Dame. It was just a small school. But it was a lovely work of architecture by a couple of very significant local architects. When I made the Paris-London comment, it was a response to the logic of Dennis's comment, not in such literal terms as you seem to suggest.

Brian Libby


Thanks for the positive comment about the blog.

I disagree with your characterization of Memorial Coliseum. It does not "sit there unused". It nearly turns a profit with the numerous events happening there. It IS a functional asset.

I also disagree that not salvaging Riverdale's materials is a worse tragedy than tearing down Riverdale itself. But maybe we can agree that it's all bad.

Regardless, thanks for joining in the conversation.


The neighborhood may have money but lacks consideration, character, and discernment. Many new homes designed and constructed in this area are void of meaning and sensitivity to our environment.

The proposed design for the new school is pitiful and should have at least gone through a series of design reviews....salt on the wound at this point i suppose. Boo to Mahlum Architects and 3 big boo's to the residents in the neighborhood responsible for this tradegy.

The decision to demolish the building is an example of irresponsible leadership and poor environmental stewardship. I, too, can not belive materials were not salvaged. This is Unacceptable.


As a Riverdale graduate, I am so deeply saddened by this. Dunthorpe has gone so far downhill; it is just a mockery now.


To those complaining about wasting all the building materials, this is from the grade school's Web site.

"Dismantling means that everything we can save will be saved or reused in some way. Though all materials will be put into containers on site, they will be shipped to a sorting station. From there 75% - 95% will be preserved or reused in some way. The Steering Committee has identified items of historic and practical value.

This list includes:

• Front door lantern
• Library windows
• Green wood storage box behind the field backstop
• Façade bricks
• Flag pole
• Foundation cornerstones
• Reader Board
• Playground soft fall material
• Cupola
• Wood trellis over main entry
• Riverdale School District sign over main entry
• Donor brick pavers
• Art tiles
• Benches
• Tables
• Bike racks
• Play equipment"


Enough Already

It's wonderful how those of you who have no knowledge of the situation and have never set foot in the neighborhood somehow feel you have license to judge the character and beliefs of the people who live there.

No, not everyone who lives in Riverdale is rich, although it sure is fun to bash the stereotype, isn't it? The fact is, Riverdale is, like every other community, comprised of people of many socioeconomic backgrounds, ages, political and religious beliefs, and race and sexual preferences. It's a great place with very nice people who deserve better treatment than they are getting on this blog.

And for those of you who label the school board irresponsible and environmentally insensitive based on some emotional pictures of the demolished building, here's some questions to ponder: Do you know the Board or their background? Know of their educational decisions and policies? Know them as people? Guess what? This isn't a case of a bunch of morons running around ripping down buildings for fun, though it sure is fun to anonymously bash them, isn't it?

I'm absolutely disgusted with the simplistic, naive, self-righteous, comments some of you post as reasoned thought.

The world is a complex place. If you want to voice an opinion, get educated. A great deal of thought went into the decision to replace the building. This was the result of a two-year planning process, not a dice roll in a dark, smoke-filled room. If the building could have been saved, it would have been. But, unfortunately, site, educational program, health and safety, and cost considerations dictated that the building be replaced.

You don't agree? Dig in and get the facts.

And if you come out at a different place, fine. After all, this is an architectural blog, so one shouldn't expect anyone to support tearing down an old building.

But, you know what? You can disagree and be civil. You can disagree without labeling and name-calling people who you don't know.

Recognize that the world requires that difficult decisions be made, and tradeoffs considered.

You may not like it, but in this situation, given the operating constraints, this was the right call.


Wah...thanks for that! I needed a laugh today. That ol' Riverdale School Board is quite the materials re-use model.

"Dismantling means that everything we can save will be saved or reused in some way. Though all materials will be put into containers on site, they will be shipped to a sorting station. From there 75% - 95% will be preserved or reused in some way.re-use model." Riverdale web site

Never have seen a building as big as the Doyle building dismantled and carefully sorted for re-use. I have personally seen two houses on two different properties that were dismantled for materials re-use. I can tell you this....the process was nothing like the dismantling process the Doyle building appears to have been subject to.

Every component; the roof; windows, walls, studs, plumbing...was methodically dismantled, piece by piece, carefully sorted, loaded, on site and stacked onto trailers and hauled away. These were modest houses too. It was like building a structure in reverse. I expect that everything will likely be re-used.

In comparison, the way the Doyle Grade School building has been dismantled, looks as though it was hit by a bomb.

A friend

Same thing is happening in Hillsboro right now, as the original Hillsboro High School demolition began early this week. School board is building Soccer fields.


I definitely felt that something needed to be done to improve the condition of the school, but this was certainly not the answer. I've spent a lot of time there (although I was never a student of the grade school) and it was pretty obvious the building was either going to need repairs or it would fall over on its own. What puzzles me is why they didn't look at the high school. I went to the high school the first 4 years it was open and it was an example of an old building being integrated with new construction classrooms. From the front it's almost impossible to tell that any additions were made (except for the new entrance). Why couldn't they have done the exact same thing here? I'm just shocked at the way this played out. All of the reasonable people seem to have left the school board and the loss of the superintendent was probably the nail in the coffin.

Also, anyone who wants to dispute that Dunthorpians are anything less than 95% wealthy and white is fooling themselves. Show me a house in that neighborhood anywhere near 2x the average home price in Oregon and I'll buy your argument.


I don't know anything about the building reuse issue on this site so I won't comment other than to say that these decisions are not cut and dried. I would not expect everyone to agree.

Mahlum has no say in what is done with this building or any other that they don't own. We can only assume they did their diligence and put the community in position to make an informed decision. After that there isn't a lot they could (or should) do.

I wonder if salvage pays for itself. I'm thinking especially of the raised panels and some of the trim.

So, all seriousness aside:

It does look like they are planning to reuse the building materials...in a bonfire.

And, credit where due: the Steering Committee has identified items of historic and practical value...that they want for their back yards.

Enough Already

Johnstone you're a classic example of the type of person I described above.

Let's see, where to take apart your groundless conjectures?

If you followed the last Riverdale School Board election, you'd know that with one or two exceptions, all of the school board members since 2000 endorsed the current board.

The last superintendent STARTED the rebuilding effort and would have torn down the building in a heartbeat. He was pragmatic and saw that the building was falling down around our ears.

The construction of Riverdale High School went more than $1 million over budget, in part, because we did save the old building and, in doing so, incurred all kinds of cost overruns. Oh, and there were site differences that we didn't face up there that applied down at the grade school. And that only begins to scratch the surface of what is a complex issue.

But hey, don't let me stand in the way of your ignorant brainstorming. Because you're RIGHT; just ask your mirror. Or read a post from another uninformed blogger.

And as for the neighborhood, I do live here and have friends of all different SES and races and political backgrounds and ages. And some of us are struggling economically and are anything but rich white snobs. Yes there are doctors. But, you know what? We're also social workers, and journalists, and landscapers, and teachers.

Yes, houses here are expensive. But, shall we start pointing fingers at the West Hills? Irvington? Lake Oswego? Bend?

And know that some of us who moved here made huge sacrifices to get here. My parents were collecting unemployment benefits when I was in high school and I busted my ass to get an education and subsequently worked hard to be able to afford a falling down house in the neighborhood, one that I've fixed up with my own hands.

And I moved here so that I could provide for the education of my children. Not because I valued the architecture of an old building.

So you and others can go ahead and make up fanciful stories and label the people who live here all you want. But, saying it over and over doesn't make it true.

And it doesn't change the fact that the right thing to do from an educational standpoint was to tear down the building.


"...and saw that the building was falling down around our ears." Enough Already

Readers of this weblog were presented with that euphemism as used to fault the building's structural integrity a number of times. When one of the persons claiming this to be the case was finally pressed to explain exactly what that meant, it turned out that the roof hadn't been properly fixed, and so, some ceiling plaster came falling down...not the building.

No defender of the plan to tear down the Doyle and build an entirely new structure ever stepped forward to offer any details that would indicate the Riverdale gradeschool was falling down, or that the buildings basic structural integrity; foundation, walls, roof support was in question.

But Enough Already...why be concerned about criticism of your school board's decision? The old Doyle has bit the dust and your district has supposedly saved a cool million bucks. With this victory on behalf of the best education for your kids, I would thing you'd be tipping back and enjoying some champagne.

Un-Biased Observer

Buildings have lifespans, which aren't linked directly to how well they are built or maintained. A building's purpose, climate zone, demand for use - the list goes on - will ultimately determine it's lifespan.

We love to talk in Architecture how a building will last 50, 100, maybe even 200 years. But how can you know that for certain? You can't.

Preserving Architecture isn't a right a building earns once it's reached a certain age or has an impressive Architectural pedigree. There must be compelling reasons to preserve buildings. Buildings serve a purpose and are an expensive commodity. If they aren't serving their purpose, why continue to invest in it? It doesn't make logical sense.

All politics and personal opinions aside, it has been pointed out here more than once, you have to consider the whole picture. We should be thankful Riverdale didn't bulldoze it 2 years ago when they started trying to figure out what to do. They saw it through a process of evaluation and did due diligence. You can nitpick their process, but it doesn't do any good. The end result will ultimately be a step in the right direction to accomplish the district's goals.

That pile of rubble is quite an eye sore. Nobody can disagree that materials reuse is important and the right thing to do. Maybe they'll surprise us all and reuse the materials somehow. Then again, it's not required by law that they reuse the old materials. Good thing.

In order for re-use to work, there must be demand for it. I don't see a lot of developers clamoring to acquire old materials to build or finish new structures. Liability and expense come to mind.

We haven't done a good job in Architecture to create real demand for our convictions of Sustainability. We can barely convince ourselves of it's worth. The mighty dollar (or Yuan/Euro/etc.) makes the final decision, not "Doing the right thing according to the Architectural Community."

Recall everyone that we are in the midst of a recession, practically a depression. In these times, bad things happen to assertions with no basis in financial reality.

That's not to say that the Riverdale School would have been saved in better times, but it may have been. Perhaps the district would have had enough money to buy additional land needed for a new facility and re-purpose the old school using donor dollars.

Something to ponder...

Eric Cantona

ignorance is bliss, no?

Enough Already

Thank you Un-biased Observer for a thoughtful contribution to the dialogue. One observation is that, while monetary issues certainly had a role in the Board's decision, the move to demolish had more to do with educational program trade-offs and the complications associated with a limited building site than just money.

I would agree that architects need to rethink how they go about winning over the community to the sustainability argument. I would suggest that they begin by considering the cost-benefit equations associated with building versus demolition, and come up with practical arguments and solutions to support their position (not all of which have to be financial). Because, hey, while I'm actually into preserving old buildings, I'm not going to save one simply because it looks old, and I'm certainly not going to do so because some preservationists are rattling my chain.

To the contrary, if some group of preservationists comes out of the woodwork (so to speak) and attacks rather than constructively engages, you can bet there is not going to be a positive resolution for anyone.

No one is celebrating the old building being torn down. It's sad. But, the alternative was unfair to the kids who would be using the site for many, many generations to come.

And while the preservationist community was happy to yell and scream and even, in the case of Preserve Riverdale, hire lawyers to fight the district, not one, NOT ONE person stepped forward to say, "let me help raise funds or find another workable solution." Instead it was attack and misinform.

As to the claims by WS that no proof was provided as to the building's condition, what do you want? Repair bills posted? Photos of mold and dry rot and sagging ceilings and rusted pipework and outdated electrical systems? If so, go to the district office and review the materials that WERE SHARED WITH THE COMMUNITY. And read the materials that described the cost and other educational tradeoffs that WERE SHARED WITH THE COMMUNITY. Because you know what, a majority of the community re-elected three members of the sitting board because they were educated on the issues and came to believe that the decision to demolish was the right one. And just for the record, the big issue for those voting against the sitting board had more to do with floating a $21.5 million dollar bond in a recession and building what was misrepresented as a huge replacement building than in saving an old building. So Un-Biased Observer, you're right on in your points.

But as to te point about providing convincing evidence: This is a BLOG. No one in Riverdale has any responsibility to convince you that we made the right decision. If you're interested, then invest some time and go to the school or call the Board members and get educated. Or better yet, do it when there is still a hope to save a building.

And as for posts by Irlin about the Steering Committee taking materials for their own backyards...well, that's just stupid. And it's further evidence of how blogs can do more damage than good, because it allows simplistic, one-sided, unresearched, and at times, pretty vindictive, hurtful comments to be posted alongside thoughtful commentary by individuals such as Un-Biased Observer. Brian Libby, you want to be taken seriously, then police your blogs and set standards; otherwise, they become a joke that few people will take seriously.

So to all of you out there: You want to preserve architecture and save old buildings? Then engage constructively. Come up with practical alternatives that are cost effective and feasible. Attend meetings and ask probing questions. Dig deep and learn the whole story. Don't mindlessly attack and then whine when you don't get your way.

Be part of the solution.

I'm done posting here.
Attack me all you like, if venting somehow cleanses your soul. But know that until the architectural preservationist community comes up with winning arguments and constructively engages to find workable solutions, you're going to be fighting a losing battle. And you also need to thoughtfully pick your battles. If you do your research, you'll find that Riverdale was not a winnable one because of so many other construction- and cost-related issues. But there are other projects out there that are worth saving. And you will succeed in doing so if you get involved and help to contribute to finding workable solutions.


This is such a tragedy… No amount of justification can make this destruction OK. There are always other options, even if it does require sacrifice (something Riverdale apparently knows nothing about).
I do think that architects have a duty to help educate their clients, and should exhibit a sense of right and wrong. It seems Mahlum Architects has failed us twice. Once, not being able to provide an alternate design that saved the school. And twice, (the salt in the wound) the design for its’ replacement.

Brian Libby

Enough Already,

I'm suspecting you and I have already spoken outside the blogosphere. I appreciate that someone who may be a member of the Riverdale board is willing to come and engage people here, but I'm disappointed (although sadly not surprised) that your points haven't changed.

Historic preservation sometimes requires an extra effort, someone who sees that money and logic can't always justify what's right and wrong. No matter how many times the situation is explained about how Riverdale just couldn't be saved because of this financial reason or this structural reason, we are just not going to agree. Riverdale could have been saved. It just would have taken more innovation and creative thinking than apparently its stewards were capable of.


"In order for re-use to work, there must be demand for it. I don't see a lot of developers clamoring to acquire old materials to build or finish new structures. Liability and expense come to mind." Un-Biased Observer

UBO, possibly, you're aware of the Rebuilding Center over on Mississippi St. If not, you might enjoy a visit. Re-use is big time over there. It's a large, and very busy place. I wouldn't be at all surprised if I were to hear that developers are actually keeping their ears and eyes open for used materials to build or finish new structures.

In fact, I think it's happening already...I just can't whip out some examples for you off the top of my head. I some cases, such as wood, old stuff is better. And cheaper. You don't have to look too hard at the pictures above to see some good old wood destroyed. There appears to have been a wealth of re-usable materials in that building.

"As to the claims by WS that no proof was provided as to the building's condition, what do you want? Enough Already

Except, that's not what you claimed in the earlier comment. Here's what you wrote:

"The last superintendent STARTED the rebuilding effort and would have torn down the building in a heartbeat. He was pragmatic and saw that the building was falling down around our ears."

So now you're saying the problem was "...mold and dry rot and sagging ceilings and rusted pipework and outdated electrical systems?" With the possible exception of dry rot, the existence of those problems do not mean a building is falling down because of them.

It's been a learning experience. There's something to be said for that, even if it's meant the loss of a good building.


I run the architectural salvage department at Rejuvenation in Portland. I have been in the salvage business for many years here, and know a lot of folks in the salvage and materials re-use community, as well as the historic preservation community.

Preservation issues aside (now kind of a moot point in this case), I can tell anyone who doubts it that this demolition was obviously done in a blitzkrieg style, with little, if any, consideration for materials re-use. They may perhaps have saved a few "prestige" pieces, like the lanterns, fancier windows, and cornerstones, but clearly the majority was simply smashed and will be completely wasted.

I sincerely doubt that any bids were requested by the board for deconstruction for salvage materials re-use. It is a more expensive process than simply running everything over with a bulldozer, yes, but that can be offset by re-using the materials in the new building as well as tax-deductable donation to non-profit salvage organizations and selling nicer pieces to other salvage vendors. Not to mention that aside from not demolishing a building in the first place, deconstruction is the greenest possible option, as proven in innumerable studies and by the common-sense test.

To those who doubt that builders, DIY folks, and others have a real use for these more humble materials, have you ever been to a salvage yard? Have you ever been to the ReBuilding Center? In Portland we are very lucky to have a community that will support many different salvage businesses, from deconstruction to vendors of basic reclaimed building materials to salvagers of historic and more "glamorous" pieces, as well as organizations like the Architectural Heritage Center.

However, despite all of these organizations and businesses, and the folks who support, donate to, and buy from them, demolitions like this still happen here in Portland every day. Not many of the buildings have the historic or architectural value that this one did, but if we are to really hold our heads up as a community that supports historic preservation, REAL green building and "sustainability", we have to both educate the wider community at large and demonstrate the value inherent in these concepts by putting our money where our mouth is. Support deconstruction, materials re-use, salvage businesses, and historic preservation organizations. Teach your kids the truth about these things so that the next generation can carry the torch further. It's always going to be easier and cheaper to simply smash and trash everything - we have to provide an incentive to do the opposite.


A sense of place, a sense of time, and the spirits of Doyle and Belluschi have further faded away with the loss of this building.

The outer presence of the building and it's relationship to the landscape, streetscape, and neighboring homes was very pleasing and beautiful. It's rare to discover this sense of place. I feel the loss of these more illusive qualities more than the physical stuff of bricks, mortar, glass and wood: sustainability, energy conservation, and waste reduction ...although those issues are all absolutely essential.

It's been said that the building no longer fulfilled its function, thus it was obsolete, and its owners should have full discretion to make those judgements and do as they like accordingly.

The finest buildings emit the more illusive spirit of place that transcends the everyday notions of function. Notions of function comes and goes. Great buildings are cherished for their place-making quality, and consequently renovated, restored, added to, and readjusted to meet new notions of function over time. But that sense of place is incredibly difficult to create, and should hold much greater value to those deciding the fate of buildings.

I claim to know nothing of the costs of renovating the now lost Riverdale School. But it's hard to image that it could not have somehow been saved if the decision-makers had held a broader notion of function...one that simply included a value for times past, sense of place, art, and beauty.

We should have all done more to pull-together and help them find a better solution. Let this be a wake up call the next time a fine place is considered for the wrecking ball.

Enough Already

OK, I'm going to violate my own promise.

Such a tragedy, my ass, Jon.
Had you been to the school? Seen the reports? Read up on this?

Dear god, you statement "no amount of justification can make this destruction OK" is absolute crap. Are you advocating for saving old buildings over functionality and people as an iron-clad rule of life?

Oh, and get off Mahlum's back. They did a great job and educated us all about he tradeoffs of retaining versus replacement. And I've found people who love the redesign and those who hate it. Care to make an iron clad rule on a subjective aesthetic call?

Get a life, Jon.
This was about doing what was right for kids.


Yes. Yes. Yes. No. No. I've got a great life. And I think we disagree about what is right for the kids.


I really appreciate the thoughtful comments by Enough Already in response to this blog. I am a Riverdale Alumni (1st-12th grade) and still live in the Dunthorpe neighborhood. I can tell you that the school district worked for several years to come up with the best solution to be able to provide EDUCATION to it's children, in a safe and healthy environment.
Yes, the building was designed by well-known Portland architects, and Yes, it makes me wistful and a bit sad that the building I grew up in is a pile of rubble today, but in order to be able to last as a school district for another 100 years a new building was the best choice.
The lot that the school is on is long and narrow, and several of the more recent out-buildings like the gym are being kept, and unfortunately there is no way that the original building could have been remodeled in order to remain useful in the space that they had to work with. The options that were discussed were not only more expensive, they were actually semi-short term fixes with a lifespan under something like 30 years. (I don't recall the exact estimate).
I hope that people realize that the education children are receiving, and the sustainability of the school district and neighborhood to provide that education, is more important then the structure that it occurs in.


I will say this, I grew up in Norfolk, Va, before I was born, the city decided to destroy about 90% of its downtown to make way for all the new developments that could come its way...the city was left with parking lots for 50 years and had managed to erase its own history.

Granted this is only one building, but building after building adds up, and the more we tear down, the more we erase. The school that will replace it will not have the same feel that the previous school evoked. It will not have the same charm, nor class, it will simply be a new institutional building.

In Pittsburgh, PA the convention center there managed to reuse over 95% of the original building within the new building...if demolition was the only answer...which some times it is when a building is deemed "beyond repair," then the next option should be reuse of the buildings materials...if mahlum wished to stand up for being an architecture firm that is focused on our futures, they would of pushed for a more costly demolition that created more material to be reused, that could of reduced the costs of new materials needed, as well as produced less waste (ie, being more green). But clearly, the only thought with this was new building, screw the environmental concerns....which one can argue about costs until their face turns blue...environmental costs are always going to outweigh, because we live in a closed system.

Also, for those that choice to insult others who disagree with them, all you are doing is creating more hostility and making it so your opinion doesnt matter. I often times find myself skimming past comments that come off as an attack to other posters...which is such a waste on a discussion board.

Mike Francis

The vandalism in Riverdale could lead us to do something useful: Post a good list of threatened historic buildings. In downtown, I've been wondering about the Ivy Press building (the former home of Bee Tailors) and the Morris Marks House on 12th, which may get moved to a new site. I'm sure there are others that deserve the attention of those who read this blog.

And Brian, thanks for shining a light on historic preservation/demolition.


Enough Already, thanks for your thoughts. You make a lot of sense. Maybe not on this blog, but your logic is resonating with me. I love architecture and buildings, but sometimes "presrevation" just for the sake of it doesn't always serve larger interests. Thanks for speaking out.


Nigel, thanks for taking the time out to speak about materials re-use from your perspective as the guy responsible for keeping things running in the architectural salvage department at Rejuvenation in Portland. The words of someone actually working in the business can sometimes do a lot to help to verify the validity of others' suggestions about sound ways of doing things.

Even the casual listener or observer periodically hears bits and pieces of information related to how waste and energy use can be reduced. Ultimately lacking an option of refurbishing, reconfiguring the building in a new design, deconstructing and re-using it's materials would have been far less wasteful. If our region didn't have such huge, accessible landfills such as the one in Arlington, contractors might not be quite so readily inclined to recommend a trash-demolition that the Doyle designed Riverdale Grade School was subject to.

Over the many months that readers of this weblog have discussed the subject of the Doyle/Riverdale building, comments were occasionally posted, suggesting that 'preservation just for the sake of it', without regard for other fundamentally important concerns, was the reason people argued to keep the Doyle building on. Any validity that suggestion was hoped to have by those making it was routinely dismissed by many other people's comments that detailed, in addition to architectural preservation, numerous advantages to students in a new school design that incorporated the Doyle building.


I'd prefer that my kids learn how to look at things differently than we all do; to move beyond what we (think we) know, to see possibilities when others see doubt, to find better ways to move seamlessly with their futures rather than holding on to old hand-me-down beliefs that something is done simply because "this is how we've always done them..." We've come a long way in regards to how we view ourselves, our environment, and the synergy between the two, but short-sighted ignorance and the unwillingness to try new and potentially innovative approaches reminds me that we still have a lot of work left to do.

I'm a big believer that there comes a point in every generation when actions and ideas are no longer focused forward towards trying to make things better, but nostalgically backward towards trying to keep things the same as we remember them. And if we look at this situation from both sides of that belief, I'm not sure that we are teaching our kids the right lessons, nor are we encouraging them to ask the right questions. And furthermore, even if they were asking the correct questions of our "enlightened intellect", I don't believe that we have any way of answering those questions with anything approaching an intelligent response in regards to what their lives will be when they are in our shoes. We can only speak to what we've experienced in the past, yet we hold and push those convictions as though they should be the gospel for the future; in truth, we are ignorant to what is truly the best for future generations, yet we continue to stunt their growth with our limited vision and compromised guidance.

Does cost trump innovation? Is new always better than old? Can any lesson really be learned when money always wins? We could have chosen to save and upgrade the building and site to meet current and future demands. We could have taught our children through our decisions and actions that there are other ways to do things, and that you can learn to use your environment and the life situations that are presented to you as an opportunity to learn and create. Instead what we taught them was that with enough money and little to no concern for the lessons of the past, you can simply wipe the slate clean and start all over - instant gratification with no remorse... wonderful. I sure hope that they have a better understanding, and that they value EVERYTHING more than we do.

a former student and resident

but really, this is the story of dunthorpe. what was once a beautiful neighborhood has given way to bulldozing: mature landscaping and prodigious trees plowed-over to make way for even larger (yet hideous) houses on the divided lots of what were once estates.

with the nouveau-riche bullshit that has moved in, it is all about show. build a bigger house, but only if it can be seen clearly from the road.

would you expect any different with the treatment of our school?


I am thankful that the Riverdale School Board made the decision that was supported by the majority in the community and by over 95% of the parents that have kids in the grade school that will benefit from the new building.

I am thankful that people that live outside the Riverdale community were not able to force their agenda on the majority of Riverdale residents.

I am thankful that Steve Jewell and a handful of other residents (nearly all without kids in the school)were unsuccessful at manipulating enough members in the community through promises of tax refunds (not preservation)to over turn the school board members thereby forcing a change in direction.

I am thankful for all of the support for the new building from parents and other community members that resulted in strengthening relationships between my neighbors, board members, school teachers and administrators.

To me and a majority of others in the Riverale School District, contrary to Libby's statement, Riverdale has not been destroyed.

To all of those outside the community that think they get to dictate how we use our property and educate our children go away and "save" a community that actually wants to be saved.

Brian Libby

What is this, John, Thanksgiving? When you carve your turkey this year, it's wonderful that you can look upon destroying a local architectural landmark with all kinds of warm fuzzy feelings.

It's not a matter of dictating how things should be. The only people with the power to dictate the future of Riverdale is the Riverdale board. And they decided to raze the building.

This conversation should be all but over now, John. The building is destroyed. Your side won the right to demolish Riverdale. Can't you let those of us who support historic preservation and architecture complain a little bit? Or a lot?

You guys may have succeeded with your Blitzkrieg, but there is no way on the face of the earth that you will ever command or twist the writing of history. Your side had its way with the brick and mortar, but our side will now have the opportunity to explain to future generations just how tragically Riverdale screwed up.



Not thanksgiving! Is there is only one day out of the year to be thankful? For me I am thankful more often than that. This is one of those times.

What do you think it is? WWII with your references to Blitzkrieg and Schindler.

Of course you have the right to complain all you want. That's all you have been doing since last November along with making obnoxious inaccurate generalizations about people that I consider friends.

Brian Libby


Let's call a truce here if we can. The die is cast with Riverdale, and I would imagine now that each of us is just caught in a cycle trading barbs with the other.

Of course I get hyperbolic sometimes with rhetoric. A lot of it is deliberately so to make a point. If you've taken any of these remarks literally, I apologize and do not literally equate you with war criminals. I assume, or at least hope, that most readers understand this.

I realize that the Riverdale board, parents and administrators think they've done the right thing and have tried to do the right thing. We just vehemently disagree. But again, the time for arguing is more or less over. I want to turn my attention to other historically significant buildings that still have the chance of being saved.

Nigel Barnes

Correction: I run the architectural salvage department at Rejuvenation, not the ReBuiling Center.



Fair enough! Barbs and insults will not accomplish anything useful.


John, your words of thankfulness might have had a bit more positive resonance, and seemed a little less like whitewash if a key aspect of Riverdale School Board's decision hadn't been vividly documented by the stunning destruction captured in the photos taken by architectural historian Libby Farr, Ph.D..

The way the Doyle designed Riverdale Grade School was finally obliterated by the Riverdale School Board is definitely 'old school'...in this increasingly enlightened era of preservation and re-use...that's not so good.


You know, what is particularly aggravating about this blog is how people without any information continue to post their unfounded beliefs without taking the time to GET FACTS TO BACK THEIR POSITIONS.

So in the interests of being factual, here's some materials that were shared with the community at the Riverdale School Board meeting, which was held last night. If you bother to read, you'll see that the Board DID make an effort to preserve and reuse.

Note, read the whole list because there are many items that were pulled and will be re-used in the new building. And note the steps taken to responsibly reuse materials.

Items Preserved by Riverdale:

• Front door lantern
• Library windows
• Green wood storage box behind the field backstop
• Façade bricks (as many as possible)
• Flag pole
• Reader board
• Playground equipment
• Playground soft fall material
• Cupola
• Wood trellis over main entry
• Riverdale School District sign over main entry
• Donor brick pavers
• Art tiles
• Benches
• Tables
• Bike racks
• Rhododendrons (large)
• Memorial tree near fire hydrant
• Wood beams from undercover play area between the main building and the gym -
depending on the condition
• Cabinets from various locations

Items Not Preserved by Riverdale and Rationale:

Construction and architectural representatives walked through the building to identify other items to
preserve. The Rebuilding Center took three truckloads of cabinetry, doors, toilets, and other items that had been pulled out to be donated. No other items were found to be of any real value by these services. They included:

• Old Wood—
o To save and reuse the old wood, the wood needs to be more than 2” thick. None
of the wood was large enough to mill for reuse except for the beams listed above.
The other unsaved larger wood pieces were laminated using 2” wood or smaller

• HVAC Equipment (air conditioners/ heaters)
o All were checked and found to have no value in reuse.

• Wainscot
o Checked and found to be delaminating and of no salvageable value.

• Windows
o Those not preserved were aluminum clad with failing joints.

Bricks that are salvageable are being put on pallets and donor bricks from the centennial celebration will be either returned to the donor or reused in a monument. The items not found to be of any value were put in containers for sorting one more time before being recycled.

But wait, I can already imagine the responses: "It still is a tragedy to tear down the building," or "Children need to be taught to be responsible to the past," or "We need to adopt a new mentality toward sustainability," or my personal favorite that Brian posted a while back that went something like, "I don't have any children and I don't live in Riverdale, but if I did, I'd want them to attend an old school."

The building is down. It was sad and we are all grieving in our own ways. But, as galling as it might be to some of you, there was a thoughtful, responsible process in place to save what could be salvaged.

The new building will be safe, scaled and appropriate for the site, and in the best interests of the children yet to come.

It is time to move on.



- You should pay attention to the language many of us are using. While you're talking Preservation the rest of us are talking about Deconstruction that results in reuse.

Yeah, people obviously don't preserve wainscot, but if deconstructed, someone could reuse it after some tender-loving care. Same thing goes for all the 2x4 wood in the walls, that was probably in excellent shape, and would have been prized by many people doing remodels of their Portland bungalows.

Preservation is critical to keeping a piece of our history for future generations, but deconstruction and reuse is key to sustainability and saving the environment for future generations.

I mention LEED, specifically because the goal of this redevelopment was to seek LEED certification. But clearly from the photos, there was a rush to demolish the structure before the building could be listed as a Historic Register (or however the story goes).

By the way, anyone check after the recent rains, to see if there was silt runoff into the storm drains from improperly installed bio filters?

Ralph Allen

Sad, sad, sad.
As a graduate of Riverdale, it is disheartening to see not only the reports on why it happened, but also the how.
Thank you Libby


I’ve worked with owners to preserve historic buildings and I can tell you it isn’t easy. The process of evaluating what is worthwhile and what isn’t while balancing cost effectiveness and programming is an art, not a science.

The several renovation and remodel projects I’ve designed for school buildings of Riverdale’s vintage have taught me a lot. They are a mess to deal with. Lead paint, asbestos, outmoded engineering, fire hazards, inadequate exiting, no insulation, inadequate heating and cooling, decaying electrical wires, deferred maintenance, outdated or worn systems and fixtures, and always unhappy surprises once you start work await you. It’s expensive and difficult to clean all that up. It is no easy choice to save an older building given the financial constraints most school district deal with, even in the best of times.

Architects do have a responsibility to educate their clients. The first proposal should be to save a valuable historic resource for the community. But in the end the client owns the building, not the architect. The Riverdale school building looked like a typical public structure of its day. Not every old building can or should be saved for posterity. I don’t personally know anyone at Mahlum Architects. Their web site however shows historic preservation as well as new design projects. I would hope they made a good faith effort to save the original building. But failing that, they now have a responsibility to provide a new design worthy of at least the quality of its predecessor, and mitigate the loss of the original building.

Measuring overall success in this case should be by designing a better facility for the students and faculty. And providing a healthier and safer place for all.


I'm chiming in late here, but with a thought that hasn't precisely been expressed yet and one which could help to illustrate the complexities of such a decision.

Full disclosure: I am definitely more in the camp of reusing our building stock now instead of having to contend with new construction's inherent wastefulness. That said, the first thing I tell anyone is that renovations really do not cost any less than new construction. In this case, for example, the electrical system needed to be rebuilt, period. Whether that would be done in a new shell or an old one is a separate question and one which leads to more questions once answered.

Of concern here, is that information about building costs and budgets can find it's way into a board or steering committee's consciousness well in advance of a studied result of analyzing all the possible alternatives including the least familiar or typical. The limitations of our planning processes and, in particular, of our traditional design/bid/build projects generally done in these settings are quite often hampered by a cart-before-the-horse approach to budgeting. There are also very real design and construction coordination issues which are not best addressed by the traditional processes. In fact, the architectural profession and the world of general contracting and the construction trades are required to attend to layers of legal responsibilities which can get in the way of effectively and efficiently coordinating a preservation or reclamation project. Taking all that into consideration, when this process runs up against a preservation opportunity you can see how the emergence of new line items for coordinating, say, that new electrical system or other jurisdictional requirements, can toss a real wrench into the works. Only if the body responsible for final decision making and approval of direction throughout the entire project has preservation or reclamation as part of its non-negotiable base criteria, can the other process-related questions be answered.

Mark Young

My heart sank when I saw the debris field.

Everything happens for a reason. The building was not valued enough by the community to inspire effective efforts to save it. Too little, too few, too late.

The building was a symbol of what the neighborhood and school once was. Time has passed it by.

Dunthorpe is no different than any where else.

What place does something that old, steeped in tradition, and part of so many personal and family legacies have in todays "latest is greatest" society? Apparently, none.

Mrs. McCleveny, I can barely remember you now.

Melissa Parks

I was just wondering who the architect for the new building was...

Brian Libby

Melissa, the architect for the new building is Mahlum, which is based in Seattle but also has an office in Portland.


And for those of you who label the school board irresponsible and environmentally insensitive based on some emotional pictures of the demolished building, here's some questions to ponder: Do you know the Board or their background? Know of their educational decisions and policies? Know them as people? Guess what? This isn't a case of a bunch of morons running around ripping down buildings for fun, though it sure is fun to anonymously bash them, isn't it? http://www.fullmediafire.com

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