Saturday, December 23, 2006

Looking for Paintings - Part 21

Christmas comes to Portland

The air is cold and crisp. My face tingles from the chill wind. People zig-zag along the sidewalks, bundled in scarves, hats, and big, bulky coats, steam pouring out their mouths, packages dangling from their arms. There's an energy in their walk, a youthful spring in their step, an enthusiasm brought on by the twinkling glitter of storefront decorations, holiday lights and general good cheer. Store windows are also dressed for the holidays, adding a festive look to an otherwise colorless downtown area. Restaurants, pubs and bookstores invite you and your fellow shoppers in for a hot meal, a perfect Martini, or a comfortable book to curl up with when you get home. It's Christmastime and this is the way it's supposed to be.

The Pittock Mansion.
Henry Lewis Pittock was born in England in 1834 and came to Portland by wagon train in 1853.

At the age of 19 he began working for Thomas Jefferson Dryer's Weekly Oregonian newspaper.

A consummate businessman, Pittock gained ownership of the Weekly Oregonian in 1860, changing it to a daily newspaper. In 1860 he also married 15-year-old Georgiana Martin Burton and they spent the next 58 years together. He went on to build an empire incorporating real estate, banking, railroads, steamboats, steamships, sheep ranching, silver mining and the pulp and paper industry.

In 1909 he started planning and designing his mansion in the Northwest hills overlooking Portland. Completed in 1914, the mansion contained some very progressive features, including a central vacuum system, intercoms, and indirect lighting. He hired Oregon craftsmen and artisans, using Northwest materials, to build the home. Georgiana died in 1918 and Henry died in 1919.

In 1958 the estate was put on the market. A severe storm in 1962 caused extensive damage to the home and the threat of developers brought concerned citizens together to raise funds to restore the estate. Recognizing the important historical value of the home, the City of Portland purchased the 46-acre estate in 1964 for $225,000.

After 15 months of restoration, the mansion was opened to the public in 1965. Every year at Christmastime, the Pittock Mansion Society calls upon local designers and interior decorators to take one room of the mansion and decorate it for Christmas. I feel very fortunate to have been here at this time of year so I could experience first-hand what a fantastic home this is, and to enjoy the amazing decorations done especially for Christmas. I spent a lunch hour touring the estate and took 98 photographs. Here are the best of them.

Merry Christmas, everyone, from Portland, Oregon, December 23, 2006.


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