This Month In Local History: The Vista House

April 27, 2017

Vista House dedication ceremony, May 5, 1918.

Did you know Henry Pittock played a large role in the construction of the Vista House?

The Vista House is located at Crown Point along the Historic Columbia River Highway. The Columbia River Highway, constructed 1913-1922, connected Troutdale to The Dalles and the scenic hiking trails and waterfalls along the Columbia River. An engineering marvel at its time, the highway made passage of this difficult terrain safer.

The Vista House was proposed as a viewpoint rest stop for Columbia River Highway travelers and a monument to Oregon pioneers. The Vista House Association, made up of local businessmen, was formed to raise money for its construction. Henry Pittock, an Oregon pioneer himself, was named president.

The Vista House was completed and opened with a dedication ceremony on May 5, 1918 despite missed fundraising goals and multiple increases in construction costs. Henry Pittock was among the dignitaries at the ceremony.

Today the Vista House, like Pittock Mansion, is a favorite destination for tourists and locals alike!


History in Bloom

April 27, 2017

Early rhododendron blossoms frame Pittock Mansion.

Roses will bloom in the coming weeks!

Pittock Mansion’s grounds are stunning year round thanks to Portland Parks & Recreation and volunteer OSU Master Gardeners’ hard work, but spring is an especially beautiful time of year with the rhododendrons and roses in bloom.

Pittock Mansion’s original landscape plan included 350 rhododendrons and 276 roses, and many rhododendrons and roses can be found on the grounds today.

Rhododendrons, in a variety of whites, pinks, and purples, begin to blossom in April and continue through June. The 100 different species of roses on the grounds, including the Gold Struck “Georgiana Pittock” Rose, bloom May through August.

Visit our Facebook page to see some of the early blooms, or stop by soon and smell the roses yourself!


Preserving Pittock’s “Other” Building

April 5, 2017

View of the Gate Lodge with Pittock Mansion in background circa 1917.

The Pittocks built the Gate Lodge in conjunction with the mansion to house estate staff. While the splendor of the mansion often overshadows the Gate Lodge, the architectural significance of a four-story building engineered and built into a steep hillside should not be overlooked.

While the mansion required substantial restoration when the estate was purchased by the City of Portland in 1964, the Gate Lodge was in even greater disrepair with mold, rot, and cracked and peeling plaster throughout the 1914 home. Workers completed the initial restoration of the Gate Lodge in 1977, and the following decades saw the installation and later removal of catering equipment to accommodate a tea house, roof replacement, and extensive repairs after pipes froze and burst.

Pittock Mansion’s Gate Lodge. Erosion of the hillside has destroyed what was once a tiered garden with stairs leading to the exterior kitchen door on the second floor.

Sandbags help protect the Gate Lodge from water infiltration until drainage systems can be improved.

Today the greatest threats to the Gate Lodge are water intrusion and erosion of the hillside into which it is built. The Pittock Mansion Society is working with Portland Parks & Recreation to engineer a drainage plan that will protect the Gate Lodge and take into account the eroding effects of storm water on the southern slopes of the Mansion’s grounds.

The Pittock estate’s rescue and restoration is an inspiring story of what can be accomplished when dedicated citizens value preserving historic buildings and the stories of the people who lived in them.


How Portlanders Saved Pittock Mansion from Developers

April 4, 2017

PARC members collect donations for Pittock Mansion in exchange for free haircuts. Published in the Portland Journal, 1964.

Rose Festival princess Gail Weyand waves a booster sign to show her support for Pittock Mansion at the antique car parade fundraiser. Published in the Portland Reporter March 25, 1964.

In 1964, demolition threatened Pittock Mansion. The mansion, empty and damaged from the 1962 Columbus Day Storm, caught the interest of developers planning to turn the site into a subdivision. After public outcry, The City of Portland agreed to buy the property and turn it into a park if citizens could prove widespread public support by raising $100,000 of the $225,000 price tag in 30 days.

Volunteers formed the Pittock Acres Retention Committee (PARC) to head fundraising efforts. Organized into women’s and men’s divisions, the women of PARC solicited neighborhood groups and the men solicited local businesses for support.

PARC organized many publicity events and fundraisers, including a parade of historic automobiles, a car wash, an afternoon tea at Pittock Mansion that served 5,000 visitors tea in paper cups, and a last-minute “Eleventh Hour Dance” at the Multnomah Hotel.

Contributions ranged from a few cents to $1,000. Despite PARC’s efforts, they raised just $67,510 of the $100,000 goal by deadline. Still determined to save Pittock Mansion, PARC convinced the city council of the merits of adding Pittock Acres to complete a chain of park land in the West Hills from Forest Park to Washington Park. On April 22, 1964, the city council voted to complete the purchase.

After 13 months of restoration, Pittock Mansion opened to the public. Thank you to the Portland community for their support in 1964 and today!

See more photo of the fundraising efforts in 1964 on our Facebook page.

Explore early Oregon through Kate Pittock’s eyes

January 3, 2017

Kate Pittock Hebard, Henry and Georgiana’s daughter who lived in Pittock Mansion, took a series of snapshots of Oregon life for her cousin back East, Jennie Priscilla Pittock.

Below are just a few of Kate’s photos, head to our Facebook page to see them all!

Hotel Portland

Chinese Actor

Wreck of The Regulator at the Cascades


See more of Kate’s early Oregon photos on Facebook


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