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Fred Leeson

Thanks for the reference to the missing cornice, and the link to the archive photo showing what it looked like. I could never look at that building without wondering about its original appearance. I was told once, and have never confirmed, that the city government encouraged the removal of many old cornices in the 1930s or 1940s after some cornice pieces fell to the street. (I don't know if this is true.) But it is apparently that MANY older downtown buildings lack cornices. I would have thought that a terra cotta cornice on the Yeon would have been amply secured, but perhaps not. Or perhaps it was shorn for some other reason.

Jim Heuer

It's interesting that neither of the two signature tall buildings featured so far in this series was designed by a Portland architect. It's even odder that this fact was not remarked by Mr. Maule, even though there was a large, highly talented group of local firms from which the owners for these buildings could have chosen. We'll likely never know why a Portland-based firm wasn't chosen for either of these buildings -- perhaps the cachet of the out-of-town firm was important to the owners to establish their sophistication ...

In any event, even though the 12-story Wells Fargo Building was the tallest steel framed building in Portland when it was completed, it was not the first steel frame tall building in Portland. That distinction appears to be held by the building next door to the Yeon Building, the 8-story Swetland Building, for which the steel frame was already rising when the first permits were issued for the Wells Fargo structure.

The Swetland Building is striking for its dramatic horizontal banding and absence of ornament, marking it as strongly influenced by the then-new Prairie School and the modernists of the Midwest. If anything, it was a radical departure from the Classical Revival style buildings that surrounded it -- not the least of which was the Yeon Building, built 5 years later, with its bold colonnade in the Ionic Order along its upper stories.

Ultimately, most of the taller downtown buildings erected in the period from 1905 to 1915 were designed by Portland architects, including Whidden and Lewis, Emil Schacht (who designed the Swetland Building), and, of course A. E. Doyle whose stylistic conservatism locked Portland into the Classical Revival style for a generation.

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