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"At some point the hole becomes blight ..."

That time is long past. Director Park is indeed a gem. The Moyer hole is ... a hole. Blight, pure and simple. Wouldn't it be nice if the city had enough self confidence to do something about it?

Doug Kelso

Why not double the size of Director Park? The city could condemn the giant blight-y hole in the ground, fill it with underground paid parking, put an extension of Director Park on top, and pay for the whole thing with parking revenue over the next few decades.

Brian Libby

Good idea, Doug!

Alexander Craghead

Nice post, Fred. One question, though: according to my research, the hotel was originally designed by McKim, Mead, and White, and according to Stanford White the renewed effort lead by Markle used his designs.

Jim Heuer

Alex is right about the McKim, Mead, and White connection -- Villard (who had strong New York connections) did hire them to design the hotel. They sent one of their staffers, a recent MIT grad named William Whidden, to Portland (and to Tacoma where another hotel was under construction) to manage the construction... but Villard ran out of money and Whidden returned to the east.

In 1888 when William S. Ladd and other Portland financiers took over the project, the New York firm withdrew, having other more pressing projects. By this time, Whidden had moved to Portland and done a few designs here. Soon after his arrival here, he asked his fellow MIT grad and friend Ion Lewis to come to Portland to help with his projects. In 1889, the newly formed firm of Whidden & Lewis was given the job of completing the hotel more-or-less to the McKim, Mead, and White plans. The extent to which they actually followed the plans is not known, and we have to assume that with the passing of time, changes to the original program had to be made prior to the actual construction.

The managers of the hotel subsequently pursued expansion plans twice in its history. The first time was in 1910, when they hired Portland architect Emil Schacht, who had just finished a major remodeling of the venerable Perkins Hotel (now demolished), to prepare designs. The plans were advanced enough for the hotel to publish postcards showing the expanded hotel in several different views. That design adhered closely to the original architectural vocabulary, but for whatever reasons was never built.

Some years later, as Fred mentions, the owners hired A. E. Doyle to try the expansion idea again, and he created a design with a strongly classical revival tower as the new center element -- at best a rather odd juxtaposition with the Queen Anne style wings on either side. In the end, that expansion was not built either.

Had either of them been built, one might speculate that the revenue-generating capacity of the building might have been enough to save it in the 1950's in the face of pressure for more parking facilities which ultimately resulted in the demolition of the building.

More details of the Whidden & Lewis firm and their first years in Portland are covered in Richard Ritz's privately published book Architects of Oregon, available for sale at the Architectural Heritage Center.

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