Captain John W. Kern Home, 1949

Portland pioneer Reverend Clinton Kelly built this fine home for his son-in-law and daughter, Captain and Mrs. John W. Kern, on top of Powell Hill in 1892. By 1947, the old Queen Anne-style mansion on SE Powell between 29th and 30th Streets was empty and isolated as the hill around it was removed to level the area. Two years later the house was pulled to the ground. Read the article accompanying this photo here, and read a feature-length 1948 article about the house, and the Kelly and Kern families, here. Thanks to VP fan Edmund Veith for supplying these articles.

(The Oregonian. Retrieved from http://infoweb.newsbank.com)

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22 Responses to “Captain John W. Kern Home, 1949”

  1. Ann Williams Thomas Says:

    I the family name “Kerr” or “Kern”? Most sources, including your second link have it as “Kern”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clinton_Kelly_%28minister%29

  2. Dan Davis Says:

    Ann – You are right, of course. My cold-addled brain is again failing me. I’ve made the changes in the title and body of the post. Thanks for pointing out the error early.

  3. Mike Slama Says:

    Wow. I was bowling last night on the site of this house. I wander if the ghost of the Captain is hanging around there? (Maybe he could help me with my game)… Sad to have lost this house, but it’s interesting to read the article. People seemed to take losing houses like this in stride and only had an odd fascination with their history. I’m sure little if anything was salvaged, but I wonder if someone saved the weather vane? Sounds like it was pretty impressive. Great post, and nice to have a little insight on some of the street names in the area I grew up. Thanks Edmund and Dan.

  4. djwolski Says:

    Although the date on this 1958 painting by Portland artist Louis Bunce is a few years later (and some artistic license was taken with a few of the architectural details), it seems as if it may’ve been inspired by the photo: http://www.resaleart.com/title.php?ititlenum=1160

  5. Chris Says:

    Wow. interesting history there. Big thanks to Edmond for finding this and, and, of course, to Dan for posting it.

    Dan, there was a big discussion in an earlier post about a home on 54th and SE Morrison, that was torn down many years ago. I found an article which gives a little information about it, (a PDF file I saved) and would like to email it to you. My email is TheKobaltDuckATmsnDOTcom. I’ve been trying to find more about the man and family that occupied the home, so far to no avail.

    Maybe some VP fans can find some more information, that I may not yet have uncovered.

  6. Dan Haneckow Says:

    The article opens up a mystery- it mentions a “colonial type house” that succeeded the log cabin then was moved “a few blocks” to make way for the Kern house. In the article it says that it still existed. I wonder if it does now?

  7. Edmund Says:

    Thank you Dan Davis. I’m glad that you and others here also found the articles to be of interest
    I found the Kern Mansion Sanborn map on Proquest through my local library.
    The online Sanborn map that shows the footprint of the Kern mansion and its outbuildings is Portland+19241928+vol.+10,+1925,+Sheet+1007.pdf
    The outline of the Kern house is on the lot marked 5482.
    I did an overlay of this map on a Google satellite map of the same area using PhotoShop.
    It appears that the original footprint of the Kerns mansion would be right on top of the Food Mart section of that oddly shaped commercial building rather than the “hamburger stand”(McDonald’s) mentioned by Lambert Florin and other sources. Lambert Florin mistakenly identified the Kern mansion as the “Clinton Kelly mansion in his book “Victorian West”, even though the good reverend Kelly died in 1875 and could never have set foot in this mansion.
    The section of SE 30th just east of the mansion and shown on the Sanborn map between 5482 and 5483 has disappeared since then, and the entrance to Waverleigh Blvd from Powell Blvd is now a dead end, blocked by curbs and a bus bench.
    There are several 1 room shacks on 5483 (where the bowling alley now stands) which probably were the dwelling places of the Chinese servants mentioned in the Oregonian article.
    The outline of the Kerns residence seems to show evidence of a large porte cochere on the north side.
    The article mentions the original Kelly house having been moved further west from the top of the hill to make room for the Kerns mansion.
    I believe this was the building outline shown on 5466. This appears to be the Kelly home that would have been demolished to make room for the McDonalds.
    Here’s a link to a pic of that home.
    http://www.portlandonline.com/transportation/index.cfm?c=36416&a=65580

  8. Dan Davis Says:

    Edmund, thanks again for the initial input for this post as well as these great clarifying notes. I’m always amazed and how much I learn from the readers.

    I love the photo of the original Kelly house. It appears that the hill on which it sat is the hill the crews eventually excavated to isolate the Queen Anne house.

    I’ve uploaded the relevant bit of the Sanborn map here. The mansion is at center-right.

    http://vintageportland.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/kern_sanborn.jpg

  9. Roxanne Says:

    Not your fault the names were confusing, the one newspaper article about the demolition had the family as Kerr in print.
    What I find particularly horrifying is that the house was ONLY 57 years old!!!!!!!. Good thing they don’t figure that people aren’t useful anymore at that young an age. (Tho’ I’m beginning to think that that might be true as well. I was told that after 50 you aren’t considered to be easily trainable any more…..)

  10. Roxanne Says:

    I have looked and looked for something on the Doud house and had no luck whatsoever, only a mention of Mrs. Doud at some social something or other in an East Portland social column. And of course the article in the paper showing the house that was posted as a link on VP.

  11. Roxanne Says:

    PS..don’t you just love the names of the Kelly’s 5 boys?
    Plympton, Hampton, Archon, Calmet and Benjal. They sound like London tube stations.

  12. Edmund Says:

    @ djwolski- Thank you so much for adding that link to the Bunce painting! I think the painting, though impressionistic, is more than just inspired by the Kerns mansion and is actually highly accurate.
    The painting does show some logical added details that jibe with the architecture of the house and its outline on the Sanborn map, such as the jerkinhead gable on the north side. There is even a gap where the porte cochere could have been attached. I believe the artist must have seen the house first hand, or had a photo that I haven’t been able to find in archive searches. Thanks again.

    @Chris- I would love to see more information on the house on 54th and Morrison.

    @Roxanne- It really is horrifying that so many of these grand houses had such a short life-span. What I found gratifying is that the Kerns house was so
    stoutly built that, to quote the article-“Square nails about one inch apart make the tearing down a difficult process and the salvage of materials almost impossible.” The man who bought the property had every intention of using the wood from the mansion in the construction of his new commercial development. I highly doubt he was able to use much.
    Somewhere, Captain Kerns must still be laughing! ;)

  13. Roxanne Says:

    I noticed in the newspaper article about the twin to the Poulson house that it was pulled off it’s foundation without falling apart. If you look at the photo, the house itself looked to be pretty good shape even after having been pulled about by a tractor or whatever. They built stuff to LAST back then. Of course, if they put that much quality and workmanship into houses now days they would all cost at least a million dollars. I have a moderately cheap ticky tack and it is worth a quarter million. Hard to believe. My grandmother would die if she new her place in Irvington sold for $600,000 about 10 years ago when it last sold. I think she paid $12,000 in the 50’s.

  14. Jim Says:

    Edmund,

    Here is a link to a photo of the Inman House after it was pulled from its foundation. The photo is part of Dan Haneckow’s article “Fall of the House of Inman” on his cafeunknown blog. According to the article, the photo was originally published in Life magazine.

    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_Q5jG4MBzjac/RaGHVnpx1LI/AAAAAAAAACE/RB2o5thpfVQ/s1600-h/Fall+of+the+House+of+Inman.jpg

  15. Jennifer Says:

    Dan – Thank you for this magnificent post! LOVE LOVE LOVE it! I used to work nearby and would run on my lunch hour at the Cleveland High track not far from this home’s former location. I always wondered what that section of Powell looked like in the past. If you drive in any direction on this portion of Powell, this area is still the top of Powell.

  16. Roxanne Says:

    In the late 1960’s there was a man at the Lloyd Center Oktoberfest that did colored pencil (I think) drawings of the old houses of Portland. I did not have money at the time to buy them nor the maturity to appreciate them but I sure would like to have some of them now. If anyone in Portland knows who this person was or artwork of a similar nature, let me know, OK?

  17. Chris Says:

    I wonder if someone knows a source to find the full article from Life magazine about the Inman house.

  18. Jim Says:

    Chris, I don’t think there was an article. I believe is was just the photo of the week, or some such.

  19. Edmund Says:

    Thank you for the link to that picture of the late, lamented Inman House Jim.
    I had seen an online copy of this picture from the magazine before, but not reproduced with near this clarity
    Sorry to be so late to respond, but I’ve had to help move three households this last week within my own family, and I was temporarily offline.
    @Dan Davis- Always a pleasure. Vintage Portland is one of my favorite history portals. I learn something new each time I visit.

  20. Jim Says:

    Edmund (and Chris),

    Here’s a link to Dan Haneckow’s full post from whence I snagged the pic. The second article at the link is also personally interesting as my first attempt at living in Portland was in 1984. I moved here permanently (so far) in 1986.

    http://www.cafeunknown.com/search?q=inman

  21. Edgar Oscar Doud House, 1966 « Vintage Portland Says:

    [...] about both the Marcus Delahunt house and the John W. Kern house generated comments about the long-gone house on the southeast corner of SE 54th and Morrison. That [...]

  22. Marketing w Internecie Says:

    Marketing w Internecie…

    [...]Captain John W. Kern Home, 1949 « Vintage Portland[...]…

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