Visiting Portland, Oregon – The Pittock Mansion

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View of Portland City with a backdrop of Mt. Hood from Pittock Mansion

One thing so great about traveling in Portland (Oregon) was how easy it could be to use Google Map and navigate the way. After all, we were in the very land of Google, hence the best change to test its accuracy. Say, we, staying in downtown Portland, wanted to go to Pittock Mansion which was about 3 miles west of where we were. Using Google to map out our journey on public transportation one morning about 10am, we took their suggested route by taking a number 20 bus from Burnside and Stark, getting off at Stop #687 on NW Barnes and walked up to the mansion. It was a beautiful walk as you will see in our video. The weather was clear and cool then turned a bit warm when the day progressed.

For those growing up with newspapers, visiting Pittock Mansion was a tribute to the guy who once owned the Oregonian – Portland’s own main daily founded back in 1850. One of the pioneers who managed to cross the Oregon Trail to seek his fortune back in 1853, Henry Pittock became the owner and changed the format of the newspaper to be a daily in 1860. But this is not his only venture, for it also included real estate, banking, railroads, steamboats, sheep ranching, silver mining, and the pulp and paper industry. His mansion here was commissioned to build in 1909 and was not finished until 1914 with Henry at his prime 80 years old and his wife Georgiana 72. As one of the founding members of Portland city themselves, the couple decided to use all local elements in the construction of their mansion. They chose the 23-year-old Edward T. Foulkes, the son of one Oregonian newspaper employees, to be the architect. Trained in Standford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and then the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, Foulkes adapted French, English and Turkish designs into the Pittock Mansion.

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Gorgeous blooms at Pittock Mansion’s landscaped garden

On the grounds that is about 1,000 feet above the city of Portland, Pittock Mansion boasts a panoramic view of five distant peaks of the Cascade Mountain Range and the gorgeous view of Mount Hood. Around it is a lovely manicured garden and trekking routes which, when we visited, were in full blooms of all kinds of roses, wild flowers and so on. We could not keep our cameras still for the whole time we were there. Natures were too gorgeous and we spent hours wandering around their park after a walk-through in the house and enjoyed the personal preferences of their styles, how modern they were back in the day. The house has a working elevator, walk-in refrigerator (more for practical reason then because they were way out of the city, hence a big food supply was reasonable), walk-in closets, and even hydraulic shower system for Henry himself.

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Fresh chestnut found on the grounds of Pittock Mansion

Visiting a house of a prominent family of Portland was like riding a time-machine back to the day when the city was even smaller, with less cars, and much less buildings. It was also like reading a period novel, with the owners and their family members playing the real roles. The day we were there, they were exhibiting ‘Pittock Family Treasures,’ with letters, notebooks, swords and some other story-telling personal belongings of the family, too. We learnt that Henry Pittock, once an avid painter, stopped painting when he got caught up with his businesses and works, but still encouraged his children and grandchildren to absorb the arts of all kinds, particularly music and dance. We also learnt about their time’s manners of writing dace cards as a way to invite the ladies to dance. The culture of thank-you cards, the television-less time when family members gathered and talked and exchanged stories.

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Dense firs and forests on the way up to Pittock Mansion

Georgiana died in 1918 when she was 72 and Henry only a year later when he was 84. The mansion remained in the family until 1958 when Peter Gantenbein, a grandson who had been born in the mansion, put the estate on the market. Later, in 1962, the abandoned mansion was severely damaged by the Columbus Day Storm and threatened for destruction by developers. It was the efforts of the local concerned citizens that saved the mansion. In 1964, the City of Portland purchased the estate for US$225,000 and took 15 months of renovation. And now, as you can see, the Pittock Mansion has become one of Portland’s major attractions. It is a historic home museum with lots to tell and lots to see. You can even enjoy the day in the open-air in their landscaped garden and see the whole city of Portland with the magnificent backdrop of Mt. Hood. A good trip to make!

Pittock Mansion: Entrance fee US$10 for adults with some discounts for seniors and students. Members get in for free.

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