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My husband's dad and grandfather, both doctors named Wilmot Foster, would visit this building weekly to minister to employees, my mother in law tells me.


Considering the tight-lipped responses over the past decade from company officials regarding their plans for the building, this is not a surprise. However, it is very sad. Perhaps the building is too far gone. With no occupancy a building will fall apart much faster. I have read accounts about the huge gas meter in the basement, probably long gone...but I always thought it would be a great visual element in a story set in early 20th century Portland. The building has character and its demise will be a great loss. If there was anything we could do to save it, move it, I would be on board.


"This building was purpose-built as a gasification plant, turning coal and oil into gasoline"

It wasn't making gasoline. The company was the predecessor to NW Natural and would have been making coal gas (or gas from oil, etc.) for things like gas lights and stoves. Today natural gas is used instead.

Quite Frankie

I personally feel that NW Naturals most important “sense of community responsibility” is keeping our stoves and furnaces on, especially when its 30 degrees out. 50 years it sat empty. I love this building too and appreciate the beauty and passion but more so I appreciate every mans right to take the ol’ girl out to pasture when it is no longer safe, economical or beneficial to the property owner. Its also anyones guess what might become of this river front property in 5,10 or 20 years. Detroit is dying everyday, I’d say Portland is pretty fortunate on the whole.

Brian Libby

Brian, thanks for the petrochemical clarification. Quite Frankie, I respect your evenhanded take on this - it's true that Portland is not Detroit and the loss of this building can be balanced against the generally good preservation record here overall. But watch those apostrophes. ;)

Michael Gregg

So sad. One of my favorite buildings in PDX. I had always hoped the McMenamin brothers would turn it into a gastropub/hotel/theater/day spa/etc. They could had out funky hazmat suits at the front desk. Just like Walter White. Hey, you forgot to include Richard Hoyen's beautiful watercolor of Gasco.


Fred Leeson

It's amazing to think of the care and design that went into a largely industrial building. We don't do it that way anymore, do we? I, too, am saddened by its prospective loss. I am also greatly saddened by corporate powers ducking responsibility to clean up the messes they've made. I know the web of responsibility is tangled, but notice how big business always gets somebody ELSE to pay for the clean-up.


Great story. I can only imagine the long list of chores cleaning this place up, wow.


This building was the inspiration for the Unthank Home for Wayward Youth in Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis' book "Under Wildwood." http://kateberube.blogspot.com/2012/10/busy-busy-busy.html

Susan Fitzgerald

Wow, the preservation society should raise money selling prints of that Jody Miller photo. Looks like it belongs in some futuristic, dystopian movie.

If you want to save something, there's a great wooden Italianate house on SW 12th, downtown, that needs attention. Drive by, it's got chain link around it and a banner with info. Across from the restaurant, Brazil.


In the years I oversaw Portland preservation functions, there was no building I so consistently received inquiries about than this one. Once or twice a year, an inquiry would come in, most wondering if there wasn't some way to preserve and protect it.

The building's been empty for decades. The great mystery for me has always been not what it was or whether it could be preserved, but why the company allowed it to remain for so long. As this chapter winds out, I think that'd be another worthy story unto itself.

Jeff Joslin

Ann Williams Thomas

Susan, that's the Morris Mark House. http://chatterbox.typepad.com/portlandarchitecture/2007/04/saving_the_morr.html

Jay Raskin

I have admired this building for years and I agree that it is sad that we are not preserving our industrial heritage that such buildings represent.

Interestingly,this building also represents problems associated with what is now called the Critical Infrastructure Energy Hub. It is the immediate zone that stretches along the Willamette River that contains not only NW Natural, but fuel oil, and electrical transmission lines, along with the petrochemical facilities. All of this built on alluvial soils and aging infrastructure.

It would be nice to imagine us reclaiming this land for the use of people. Right now, this area gives Portland's Bureau of Emergency Management nightmares of what could happen in a large earthquake with the mix of chemicals,fuel, and natural gas. All of this close to a the population of Linnton who would be trapped between this and Forest Park (itself a fire danger if the event happens in the summer).

The Oregon Resilience Plan identified this as one of the key risk areas in a Cascadia earthquake since the loss 95% of Oregon's fuel oil store there would impede both relief and recovery efforts.

The idea that we could reclaim this for the use people seems unlikely at this point. But maybe it is what we need to start rethinking where this hodgepodge of energy infrastructure and petrochemicals should be located. We are going to need to strengthen them to withstand an earthquake. Maybe we can spread them to multiple sites to get redundancy, and see if investments in alternative energy sources might look more attractive given the cost of upgrading these systems. Big plans might give bigger results. Whether this will save the Portland Gas & Coke Building is doubtful, but maybe it can lead to a greater awareness and discussion of this largely ignored area of Portland and Oregon.

Brian Emerick

This is one of those fantastic ruins that inspire the imagination, made especially vivid by the bleak landscape it's marooned in. As Jeff Joslin mentioned, it's surprising it has survived this long. For the record, we did include this in our 'Top 10 Most Endangered Buildings' when the Portland Historic Landmarks Commission addressed City Council a few years ago, so it has been on the minds of the Preservation Community and voiced in public as a concern for some time. Getting NW Natural to restore it for a user that doesn't exist on a superfund cleanup site seems highly unlikely. I do wish NW Natural would continue their previous policy however and let it remain, as it still has great value in its current state (as evidenced by all of the comments here) and seems to be causing no harm.

Brian Emerick, Vice-Chair, Portland Historic Landmarks Commission

Landon Abney

I'm not sure who this "Robert Piacentini" is that you credit the second picture to, but that is clearly a version of Paul Cedar's picture (found here) that has had the watermark partially cut from it.

Brian Libby

Landon, thank you for your concern, but the photo was actually used with permission. I did crop the image myself. Feel free to email me at [email protected] if this matter needs to be adjudicated further.


A story on NW Natural's plans to demolish this building was printed on Page 1 of the Northwest Examiner in November, a month before the Libby blog cited by Willamette Week as the first source.

Brian Libby


You're right: the NW Examiner was the first to break this story, and they deserve full credit. I did not realize they'd broken the story until reading your comment, so please understand I was certainly not trying to take credit. In fact, I couldn't care less about being first. I just care about spreading the word about the building.

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