Wednesday, September 8, 2010

More about Historic Homes in Portland

A couple of housekeeping details:

1) This new blog background is so dark that I have had to enlarge the font and make it bold so as to avoid eyestrain on my middle-age-and-beyond readers.  Now it looks like I’m yelling, which isn’t nice, either .  The obvious solution is to change the background but it was hard enough to do in the first place and my DH only can be pushed so far.  I did like the fall leaves but they may be short-lived.

2) In an earlier post I talked about a beautiful Arts and Crafts home in Portland.  I have discovered a web site that shows it better than my photos did, if you want to see more.

This past weekend we were camping at Sunset Bay (doesn’t that sound romantic) and visited the nearby home –now public park- of Louis Simpson, called Shore Acres.  I will show and tell about this another day.  But the history of that home fits the pattern of hospitality and elegance with the house I will show you today.  Something about the party-going and giving, the social life with neighbors in pre-TV days, the idea of having a Ballroom in one’s home, all this charms me and fills me with a longing for those days.

The Harry Green House in Portland exemplified all the mystery and glamour of the 1920’s.  My dad was particularly intrigued by this palatial home on the edge of Laurelhurst Park when as a boy he roller-skated around its curving streets. This Mediterranean styled house had a golden scrollwork cage around its front door which fascinated him. A girlfriend of Dad’s lived across the street and I’m sure they were enchanted by all the dignitaries, movie stars, and politicians that came and went through that entry.  But Dad himself went through the front door in July, 2010 for the first time.

Sad to say, the house has fallen into disrepair and you have to look past the rusted gutters and electrical problems to sense the former grandeur.  (The owners since 1951 lived there until their deaths in 2000 and 2003.  In 2006 the mansion was listed for 2.8 million and the current owners bought it with an eye to restoring it.)  Dad and I can see they’ve got more money than sense.


The Harry Green House / Bitar Mansion was designed in 1927 by Herman Brookman, recently of NYC.  (Brookman was brought to Portland to design a home for Lloyd Frank, of Meier & Frank renown).  The architectural style is considered Mediterranean with splashes of Spanish Revival and touches of Art Deco.

10-07-31-10-34-14H Tiles in the bathrooms and rest of the house were made in the African Tile  Company in Tunisia.  They are vibrant in color!


Detail of the tile work


The round tower and stairway in the entryway has a domed ceiling with 24 karat gold paint. Original lighting.

10-07-31-10-48-39H 10-07-31-10-48-26H



10-07-31-10-24-13HSolarium fountain and sculpture

10-07-31-10-33-01HLeaded glass 

10-07-31-10-43-34H Master bath with leaded mirrors, bath and shower compartments, a gentleman’s shaving sink with special spigot for washing shaver…

10-07-31-10-43-11HThe other side of the Master Bath

10-07-31-10-35-37HThe Lady’s Bath

10-07-31-10-36-09H A built-in scale outside the shower door


Built in dressers beside the fireplace in the Master bedroom

10-07-31-10-53-06H   Art Deco detailing in the ballroom

10-07-31-10-49-41HMassive Art Nouveau piece in the vestibule  10-07-31-10-55-04HThe Gilded Entryway

I think the days are gone when we will have homes designed like this for art’s sake as well as function.  True, we have many huge homes built on hillsides and in subdivisions but they are peculiarly lacking in grace.

I just read that, after the divorce,Tiger Woods is moving into his $55 million dollar home which was designed for the family.  How much room can a person need (or want)?  Where does having ‘a place to hang your hat’ end, and a place to ‘Make A Statement’ begin?  Does it seem like our homes are getting more and more square footage without adding more charm?

I am wondering who are the architects of today, the Herman Brookmans and the Frank Lloyd Wrights, whom we will be admiring in 5o years. 

And I think I should give a party, even though I have no ballroom.

If you would like to read more about this house:

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