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There should be a new community center built that best reflects Buckman's past and future...but that should be built on the old football field.

I have long wondered why there hasnt been a private art college that hasnt taken this building on. It would make a great place for education...because that is what it was designed for.

Douglas K.

I have long thought Portland should have a contemporary art museum or some similar institution. Giving PICA a permanent home in Washington High would be a huge step in that direction.

If PICA wants the space, I hope they could transfer their daydreams to paper. It would be a lot easier to win support for the idea if they can present a compelling concrete proposal to the community.


God Brian, sometimes you are so out of it - who's talking about demolishing the building?


We should start calling this a "hysterical preservation" blog.

"The wheels are already in motion for Washington High to be leveled by those trying in vain to do the right thing".

Brian, I have not read anything about anyone wanting to tear down the school.

Brian Libby


I'm sorry if I've confused things here. My understanding was based on an article I read in the Southeast Examiner that reads the following:

"Option A, the original Master plan developed in 2004, calls for a new four-story structure on land the City purchased from the Portland School District for this purpose; the old high school building, once proposed for housing, would be used for some other purpose or possibly torn down."

"Option C, nicknamed 'gut and stuff' or 'ship in a bottle,' would remove everything within the school building but its exterior walls and build a community center within."

The article goes on to report that in the committee vote, Option C defeated Option A by a 10-8 vote but that it was not an official verdict because the committee wanted a consensus.

In writing the post, my concern was not outright demolition, but the gutting of the interior. I think Washington High School has a wonderful interior I'd like to see at least partially preserved, if possible. I loved the spirit of how PICA adapted to the school as it was, although admittedly the rules are different for a short-term endeavor such as TBA.

Jimmy, you're right, I over-did it in the sentence you cited. I apologize to anyone I may have offended. I was just trying to argue a point.

I'm going to ignore the distasteful tenor of comments like "you are so out of it" and try to remain focused on the ideas here.

If I've accidentally sounded a demolition alarm, again, I am sorry. I was talking about interior demolition - which admittedly is different.

Jim Heuer

Brian, isn't there a big seismic retrofit question with this building? Projects of that sort are pretty hard to do without significant interior changes to buildings of this vintage (see Lincoln Hall at PSU).

I'd agree that with both PSU and PCC struggling mightily to shoehorn in big increases in the size of the student populations, it seems ridiculous to let big, functional school buildings be torn down or re-purposed if there is any possibility of their use for education. I understand that PSU looked at Washington High School as a branch campus, but had no source of the funds for the required renovations (and possible seismic retrofit).

Probably the big issue for buildings like this is that our Oregon state funding for educational institutions (especially for higher ed) is hopelessly inadequate.


I very much appreciate Brian's collage of the new, the old and the future of Portland that appears on this blog. Historic preservation is a vital component of building Portland's civic realm. Please continue to bring to our attention any efforts to erase historic buildings throughout the region.

Judging from the interior photos of Washington High, I would agree with Brian that gutting the interiors would be an unfortunate way to renovate the building. The room and halls appear to be spacious with good natural lighting, and filled with original woodwork, cabinetry and trim. Gutting all that, and inserting what I assume might be an inconsistent "ship in a bottle" would be unfortunate to say the least. How would this compare to the McMenamin's Kennedy School or Edgefield? I really don't know what level of seismic work was done in those buildings, but their preservation and reuse of the historic interiors is exemplary.

Brian, I don't believe you described why gut rehab was being considered. Would seismic upgrades require a total gut job. Or is a total gut rehab considered necessary by some in order to re-purpose the building?

Looking forward to learning more about this. Thanks.

John Russell

I'm just going to throw out Option M:
Sell it to McMenamins and let them turn it into a pub, theater, and hotel.


how many pub-theater-hotels can one city support? Turn it into a baseball stadium.


John Russell,
Good point. I didn't at all mean to suggest that Washington High should become yet another McMenamin's pub, theater, and hotel. But there is much to be appreciated in their restoration of buildings with a respect for their original character, materials and composition.

I agree that an ideal reuse for Washington High would be education, or at least some other type of public civic use.

Douglas K.

Actually, I kind of like the McMenamin's idea. They do a good job with historic preservation of their buildings, and can be a good neighborhood amenity (at least, that's my impression of the Kennedy School). The downside is that a hotel/theater/pub would require a fair amount of parking. But if built in conjunction with a park and community center, it could turn into a very lively and attractive space.


I have to say that I'm 100% behind what McMenamins did with the Kennedy School. Even kidding about them doing it again here would have me giddy.

That being said, I may fall in the category of those who think this blog is becoming a hysterical preservation blog.

Let the people in Buckman decide how they want to repurpose their building. I really hope they don't tear it down, but it doesn't sound like that's going to happen anyway. Fighting to preserve the interior of a space one never goes to seems rather mean spirited if you ask me. Especially when that building isn't even in the person's neighborhood.

If Washington High becomes a community center, I think it would be wonderful. Why should anyone care if they gut it if they then stuff it with a use that serves their community (key words: "their community")? Giving this elegant building a future as part of the community is a huge plus. And if the field around Washington High becomes a park... that would be phenomenal.

Talk about a win-win. The only ones who would lose out on that deal are those who value the building's history more than they value the neighborhood's future.

P.S. Don't worry. This is probably my last comment on your blog. I have no doubt that you're a great guy... I just suspect we differ in terms of what we value. I value people and communities above architecture alone. If gutting Washington High can lead to a repurposing of the building that helps to improve the community of Buckman along with the lives of the people who live in Buckman... gut it... even though I might be sorry to see it happen.

Scott A.

Looking at the renderings on the park website it looks like you could have a community center within the historic building that is surrounded by landscape that maintains the historic setting or a modern building that blocks the main historic facade and offers up the possibility to reuse Washington High in any manner you like. It's an interesting choice.


i think all of those are interesting options....I'm not sure why they position the new building in FRONT of the existing structure, effectively blocking it...why not situate it to the south of the school (which, I believe is where the original gymnasium was). At least then you'd still get to appreciate the original, handsome structure, regardless of what the new one looks like. I also question the need for 2 fields in the last one...if they were to go that way, I think it would be a great benefit to have something like a botanical garden (featuring xeriscaping and other green landscaping) some sculpture, and maybe a pavilion or other event space that people could use and perhaps rent for small/medium gatherings. Just a thought.

Steve L

Concerning the Kennedy School McMenamins, Portland Public Schools is now talking about building a NEW elementary school for the Cully-Concordia neighborhood a short distance from Kennedy School. With better planning and foresight, this new school could have been a remodeled Kennedy School.

Kennedy School may make a nice pub, but it would have made a fantastic school. If Rosa Parks School is the new model, the new “green” school PPS builds will not be nearly as nice as the historic Kenney School.

How many years will it be before PPS needs a new high school in SE Portland? Well no one knows because PPS is in the middle of “redesigning” their entire high school system.

These schools are not the property of the neighborhood in which they are located or PPS, they are the property of all the citizens of Portland and we should all be concerned about how our investments in public building and lands are being managed and maintained.

Steve L

Yes, I think Washington would make a great new high school. In a city that has never stopped growing and is becoming denser, why do we think we will not need more schools in the future?

Yes, the school age population is currently low, but it is growing again and there is a mini baby-boom from which we should (at least) try to attract our share of student, but once lost, these large parcels of land will be almost impossible to reconstitute, particularly in light of our density goals.


I second the idea of giving the building to PICA or some similar organization to do something like PS1 or the Mattress Factory.

I've sat in on the last few advisory committee meetings and have been generally disappointed in the process and outcome so far. Parks pretty much dominates any talk of the program for the building and all they understand is sports... When art is brought up (which it is often because of the strong artist community in Buckman) they find ways to shut down the conversation. The neighborhood representatives have not offered any vision for the project beyond an 18 year old master plan. And SERA architects don't seem to have spent the time to really learn about the neighborhood or the program, and have presented three options which are all flawed and lazy.

A couple months ago the committee eliminated option "B", which was the hybrid scheme where some program goes into the school and things like the pool and gym are built next to the school. Right now I think most people prefer some variation on that theme, but there was a belief that it would only be possible with the help of a partner with lots of money to rehab the school and occupy the top three floors.

All in all, I feel like I have been watching a collection of people who are not interested in identifying the critical issues or coming up with creative solutions to them. There is no strong idea that people are centered around, just a general sense that something needs to be done because people have been working on it for decades.


Another possibility: what if PPS moved its district hq to the old high school building, with its Dewey quotes engraved over the entrance? This would be part of a strategy involving sale and redevelopment of the prime Blanchard site.

As for the community center in SE, I know the neighborhood has been promised this, and I'm not at all against it. But with the future use of Memorial Coliseum also in play, and if a state-of-the-art public/amateur recreation center is still a possibility, there could be an outcome where less is expected of the SE community center, since more recreational needs would be satisfied at MC, not far away...

Buckman resident

Please attend the public meeting concerning what happens to the historic Washington High School building.

Central Catholic High School at SE 24th and Stark, Oct. 15th, at 7 pm.

Right now it is a toss up between the new community center building and placing it in the old building. NO ONE is thinking about saving the historic building in a meaningful way.

With the new building there is an opportunity for the sale of the historic building by the school district to a new owner that would preserve the building as is, but this is problematic at best due to the redevelopment costs. And the two very large bureaucracies involved seem petrified to find a creative solution. The public needs to weigh in with better options or accept the reality of the situation. After you attend this meeting look for the last meeting of the advisory committee that will occur around the end of October. You might also contact City Commissioner Nick Fish.

Doug Klotz

From the drawings I have seen, Plan C is to demolish the entire interior, including two of the floors, in order to make a two (giant) story building out of a four story building. They'd have a pool on one level and something else on another level. They'd only be preserving a shell, a facade, similar to the old Chevy dealer building saved as part of the Brewery Blocks.

The building should be saved, with it's existing four floors (and an auditorium within it, I believe). While Beam's housing/office proposal hasn't penciled out because of the economy, the building should be kept until a suitable use that captures all the embodied energy in the construction of those four floors and all that interior woodwork and plaster is feasible.

From my limited understanding of seismic retrofits, it would seem they would mostly be concentrated near the exterior walls, as well as tying the floor plates to these walls. I would guess that most of the interior framing, plaster and woodwork (and wood floors (?) would be reusable.

Reusing the entire building (all interior work as well) for some purpose, if not for the Community Center, is the greenest option, and I can't see that this complete "gut and stuff"(with seismic retrofit of the shell) would actually save much money over a completely new building elsewhere on the site.

John Wright

As a Buckman resident with school age kids and an Architect by trade, I prefer the option B as the most useful, beautiful, and sustainable option. The current option C has the possibility of reconnecting to the old High School, and allowing for some dynamic courtyard between the two buildings. PICA's enterprising performances during this year's TBA prove to me that Washington H.S. is a grand candidate for PICA or something similar such as an Art based community program like Multnomah Arts Center. The existing classrooms and theater are so well suited for use in this community. It would be unfortunate to save the building and lose the guts. The brick and terracotta shell of the High School is a pretty successful example of early 20th Century Academic style, but it doesn't seem to merit the amount of work and compromise required for the 'gut and stuff' option.

Carolyn Briggs

Not sure if this has already been posted, didn't read through all the comments, but, the Washington High School is not owned by Portland Parks Department. It is owned by Portland Public Schools. The land around it, the fields and parking lot, are now owned by the parks department.

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