Portland is beautiful and we must preserve the old architectural styling that makes it unique.
The house stands prominently on an elevated double lot at one of the stately gates of Laurelhurst. Had we not saved it, the entrance to Laurelhurst would greet all comers with three units of production infill instead – an irrevocable loss to Portland’s distinctive sense of place.
John McCulloch was contacted by former clients and preservation organizations who asked him to intervene. The developer was not willing to sell until he toured one of McCulloch Construction’s projects. When he did so and understood that we would do superlative work pro bono, for the betterment of Portland, he agreed to sell to us.
The Markham had originally less than 1,400 sf of living space – it was built as a sales gimmick to pre-sell future large homes, giving the false impression of being a big house by means of a sham second floor. The little space there was, was largely consumed in impressive circulation areas.
Though Markham succeeded admirably for sales, being the sole office from which most of Laurelhurst was developed, it never lived well. Worsening over a century as architects and rehabbers tried to superficially correct symptoms of a bone-deep poor design, it suffered from neglect.
From dangerous irregular stairs that cause falls, floors destroyed by water, a smashed Povey stain glass window, all fixtures to even the furnace registers stripped, to broken windows, horrible remodels, rot and neglect, there was little to preserve.
The solution is building on what the house did right: it anchored a whole section of town through its once impressive street presence. The house will set the tone as a grand signature home establishing the quality, era and value of the neighborhood as it did in its bygone days of glory. While the exterior should be imposing and true to 1911, the interior must marry timeless romance to modern functionality.
McCulloch got involved because we have the precise combination of period knowledge, building skill, resources and commitment to undertake the epic project. We are molding the house into what it should have been.
We worked with the community to raise three percent of the cost of the project. While this is a tiny part of the funding, it is the most important part because it served to raise awareness and galvanize Portlanders in favor of keeping true to their roots.
Even before the long and grinding remodel began, by buying the ruin we had already raised awareness of thoughtful development. We can’t know how far the ripples from this pebble will travel in the future, but lots of hearts and minds are buzzing about good heritage stewardship, and that has got to have good ramifications for the community in the future.
Markham House awareness, thanks to the purchase, is city-wide. From the press who supported our efforts , to Mayor Hales, (who took time to thank us), to thousands of citizens who have expressed interest – this project has done much to foster understanding of the importance of period design in Portland.
Since before our 1905 World’s Fair, Portland hoped to beat Seattle as the great city in the NW. Today, because we grew more slowly and thoughtfully, we are. We are famous for food, walkability, wine and beer, activities, and bike paths, but our distinctive old buildings are the foundation of that success. However, with Portland’s influx of people and accumulation of wealth, we are increasingly facing the forces that make big cities less desirable.
Our Markham redesign is radical, but right! Countless hours of study of the best work in the genre ensure that the new design is true to the 1911 era and Spanish Mission Style. Where it differs from the original, it is better. We are converting the disaster into a great landmark as a permanent legacy project for Portland, and for the happy families that will live there for generations to come.