It took five years to build Portland’s Pittock Mansion, a grand estate located in Portland’s West Hills. Henry and Georgiana Pittock, the newspaper baron and his wife who built the home, only lived there for four. But in the 96 years since, local history has taken up residence in the landmark’s sandstone walls, helping to tell the story of Portland’s founding and rise to prominence.
In 2014, the legendary Portland residence turns 100. The landmark birthday is a reminder of why the mansion is worthy of exploration, and from Feb. 1-10, visitors can tour the historic home and grounds for free.
Overlooking Portland (and providing some of the city’s most expansive views), the 46-acre estate was built to accommodate the Pittock family. The owner of The Oregonian, Henry Pittock had arrived in Portland “barefooted and without a cent” in 1853 at age 19. In the interim, he founded the Pacific Northwest’s paper industry, ran a bank and invested his returns in a wide array of interests. He had six children with his wife Georgiana, a philanthropist whose passion for roses helped give Portland its “City of Roses” nickname.
With a sweeping grand staircase, marble floors and countless hand-crafted finishes, the mansion was worth $7.9 million when Henry died in 1919. Their family continued to occupy the home until 1958, but unable to maintain it, the Pittock children were eventually forced to sell the property. Damaged by a massive storm and years of neglect, the landmark sat vacant until 1964, when the city — backed by the fund-raising of local citizens — purchased the estate for just $225,000.
Today, a tour of the mansion not only takes visitors through Portland’s colorful history, but also reveals forward-thinking home and design innovations that rival those found in modern dwellings. Constructed in the French Renaissance style, the home had features like zoned central heating, showers in each bathroom, electricity and gas-powered back-up lighting, intercoms, a central vacuum system and a refrigeration room with a freezer in the kitchen. The home also has remarkable touches of affluence, like an elevator, green houses, tennis courts and an on-site gas pump for the three-car garage.
With guided walks and self-tours, the mansion is open daily to visitors looking to peek into these influential Portlanders’ pasts. Periodic “behind-the-scenes” tours open up usually off-limits areas like the underground hallways and servants’ quarters. And on Sunday, July 13, vintage cars and live music will accompany free cake for guests, as the property officially celebrates its centennial birthday from 2-4 p.m.