Friday, December 5, 2014

The Pittock Mansion



Henry Lewis Pittock (1835-1919) was a prominent resident of Portland, Oregon, where he reestablished the struggling Oregonian and turned it into the state's preeminent newspapers. He was born in England and his family moved to the United States when Henry was four. At the age of seventeen, he and his brother headed west. According to legend, Pittock arrived in Portland in 1853, penniless and barefoot. He had worked in his father's print shop in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as a child and soon found a job in Portland as a typesetter at the Oregon Spectator. The newspaper owner, Thomas Dryer, was more interested in politics than the newspaper business and the publication was struggling to stay afloat. Pittock worked there for six months without salary - his only compensation being room and board, if you could call it that (his bed was a meager pallet located under the front counter.

When Dryer was given a political appointment by President Lincoln, he offered Pittock ownership of the newspaper for unpaid compensation. Pittock accepted and took over the business and all of its debts. He worked hard to turn the business around. He invested wisely in the latest printing equipment and began publishing the paper on a daily basis. In order to get new readers, he devised an elaborate pony express and stagecoach system that would deliver the news to Portland faster than the competing newspapers, who relied on the nearest telegraph line in California. 

Pittock married Georgiana Martin Burton in 1860. She was the daughter of a flour mill owner and her family had immigrated to Portland from Iowa six years earlier.

Pittock's business acumen paid off and The Oregonian became the state's most popular newspaper. He ventured out to expand his empire to include real estate, banking, railroads, steamboats, sheep ranching, silver mining, and the pulp and paper industry. Georgiana devoted her time to community service and help reach out to the city's women and needy children. The couple had five children of their own. They both loved the outdoors. Pittock claimed to be the first person to reach the top of Mount Hood and Georgiana loved gardening. She also organized the local Rose Society.

In 1909, near the end of their lives, they hired architect Edward Foulke to design their mansion which would overlook the city of Portland. The home was completed in 1914. It sits 1,000 feet above the city of Portland, the property encompassing 46 acres. The twenty-two room Renaissance revival mansion features a winding staircase and rooms and windows that take advantage of the stunning views. The home was equipped with the latest modern conveniences including a central vacuum system, intercoms and indirect lighting. Unique touches include a rounded Turkish smoking room and a complex hydraulic walk-in shower.

Sadly, the couple would only spend a few years living in the house. Georgiana died in 1918 at the age of 72, and Henry in 1919 at 84. The home remained in the family until 1958, when a grandson put it on the market. It sat empty for many years and a severe storm in 1962 did major damage to the roof and windows. The city of Portland purchased the property in 1964 and restored it to its former glory.



Pittock Mansion, Portland, Oregon

Pittock Mansion, Portland, Oregon

Pittock Mansion, Portland, Oregon

The home's furnishings are actually not original - they were donated by locals to decorate the rooms. Oddly, there were virtually no photographs of the home's interior while the Pittocks lived there.

Pittock Mansion, Portland, Oregon


Pittock Mansion, Portland, Oregon

The kitchen floor is a copy of the original which consisted of 8,000 interlocking puzzle pieces of rubber tile. The small display case (above) contains original tile pieces from the kitchen floor.  



Pittock Mansion, Portland, Oregon  


Pittock Mansion, Portland, Oregon  


Pittock Mansion, Portland, Oregon  
Although a large dining room was available for company, the family usually ate their meals in this small nook.

Pittock Mansion, Portland, Oregon

This is one of the original windows that was not damaged during the 1962 storm.

Pittock Mansion, Portland, Oregon  


Pittock Mansion, Portland, Oregon



Pittock Mansion, Portland, Oregon  


Pittock Mansion, Portland, Oregon
Pittock Mansion, Portland, Oregon  
This is the view from the bluff overlooking Portland. It was very cloudy the day we were there but you get the idea.

Pittock Mansion, Portland, Oregon  
The grounds surrounding the home are just as impressive as the house itself. Henry Pittock created miles of trails around the property which are still used today.

Pittock Mansion, Portland, Oregon  


Pittock Mansion, Portland, Oregon
Pittock Mansion, Portland, Oregon

Pittock Mansion, Portland, Oregon  
Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

6 comments:

  1. That's quite a manse, Phillip.

    Love the original window -- what character and style!

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  2. What a joint. The views are still magnificent. I bet the garden was lovely too.

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  3. Thank you for this trip back to my old stomping grounds. I worked at the Pittock Mansion for a couple of years shortly after I moved to Portland some 37 years ago. The damage from the storm was tremendous. Curved quarter sawn oak floors were badly buckled from water damage but they were able to restore them. When I worked there the house was available for catered events, so the kitchen was a more modern one where the small staff who worked up there could eat their lunch looking out at the view over the city. I don't remember the butlers pantry being painted but it was a long time ago. I moved to NE Alabama in 2007. This part of Alabama reminds me a lot of parts of Oregon. Oregon is a beautiful state and Portland is a lovely city, though also greatly changed from when I first moved there.

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  4. What a great story and beautiful photography.

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  5. So is this your new Portland house? We visited the mansion about 5 years ago and truly enjoyed walking around such a grand home.

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