Built in 1912, the year of the Titanic, the Giltner Mansion was likewise a glittering statement of vision, artistry and taste. Spreading across three lots and three stories high, the mansion cut a majestic figure. It welcomed visitors with impressive stone work, leaded glass, Honduran mahogany interiors and indoor and outdoor fountains.
The mansion’s grandeur emanated also from its occupants and events. The Giltners, one of the city’s prominent wealthy and philanthropic families, kept the mansion busy with parties of up to four hundred. These events were used for networking to help the less fortunate, while spreading education, sharing other cultures and music- all to help elevate Portland.
In 1912, most Portlanders were lumberjacks aged 17 to 21 whom, Sophronia Giltner thought, could stand civilizing. She combined a love of music with philanthropy by exposing citizens of all classes to classical music. Some of the most famous musicians in the world were guests at the mansion and performed there.
Visitors to this bastion of culture might hear a concert played on a Stradivarius, enjoy an educational puppet show, or wear costumes from other cultures and places.
A century later, however, the home had declined- water had seeped in through rusted pipes, the leaking roof, and from missing gutters to form a basement lake. The grounds disappeared under masses of vines, posts and beams warped, paint peeled, and a glorious piece of Portland’s history all but slipped away.
In the Giltner, McCulloch Construction tackled among the biggest East side remodels ever. The project was extremely complex because it restored, replaced, reworked, or built new, every inch of the detailed 8,600 square feet.
Within ten minutes of seeing the house, John was verbally in contract to buy. When he reached the third floor, on his first walk through, John’s heart raced thinking about the potential. We have never seen so much of a home in such bad condition.
We began with intense research: We photographed other works by the same builder, researched the former owners, and read deeply about the best architectural ideas of 1912.
The piece de resistance was to acoustically design the library so that it could also serve as a music hall. Continuing the original owner’s mission of helping Portland through music added a fifth dimension to the triumphant design. John has used the home and hall for fundraisers attended by five thousand people in the first year of the homes completion. Sophronia’s work has been taken up again!
Perhaps the greatest feature of the home is what we could not create: history. This provenance gives the Giltner a fascinating depth. The third floor West bedroom is where Sophronia’s niece held a desperate tete a tete with a burglar whom she awoke to discover purloining her jewels. One of numerous anecdotes surrounding the many storied place.
History, at the local level, is community. Preserving, adapting and improving upon it is a joy! In saving the mansion, it became too beautiful not to share. We have put it to work for numerous charitable events, leading to the formation of a foundation, to continue the work after John is gone. The once deeply decaying landmark home has been respectfully renewed in its entirety- it’s spirit and construction.