Columbia Building, 1913

The Columbia Building once stood on the northeast corner of SW Washington Street and 9th Avenue. This photo looks east, and construction in the foreground is the Pittock Block across SW 9th Street to the west. According to the University of Oregon Libraries; “The Columbia Building was originally five stories and an additional two stories were added soon after construction. The building was demolished in 1972 to make way for O’Bryant Square which now occupies the site. Columbia Building was built for E. J. Blazier who operated Blazier Brothers Saloon, Burnside Street.”

(University of Oregon Libraries)

15 thoughts on “Columbia Building, 1913

  1. Love the construction equipment, another great scene. Area looks so, I don’t know… “solid” is the word that comes to mind? I like O’Bryant Square well enough these days, but I’d rather have the Columbia Building there today.

    “This building once stood on”…

    All too common a phrase, sadly.

  2. Check out that great old Italianate house on the far left. Bet it had been turned into a rooming house by the time this photograph was taken.

  3. Sanborn maps show the Italianate house located where the Quest building is today. The brick building beyond it is the original Oregon Hotel and the building with the “Hotel Oregon” sign is what we know as the main portion of the Benson Hotel today (built in 1912). The tallest building in the distance is the back of the Wells-Fargo building at 6th and Oak.

  4. In the early seventies I worked on the top floor of the Pittock Block and looked straight across the street at the empty and decaying building in the picture. As I recall, it was called the Mittleman (or Mittelman) Building then. First the building from which the photo was taken, a dark, gloomy, dirty, brick affair, was razed, and a few years later Bill Roberts tore down the Mittleman and donated the park.

    Roberts was a developer who owned property nearby, including the Morgan Building, and he wanted to spruce up the area with a park. In retrospect, the park may not have worked out as well as he had hoped.

  5. Love the things I learn here, thanks Carter! Never knew there was a connection (Mittleman) between my occasional summer lunch spot at O’Bryant Square and the JCC.

    Any pictures around of the building from which this photo was taken?

  6. The deep excavations for the Pittock Block in the foreground hint at the massive steam plant that was built by the Northwestern Electric Company under the building itself, to provide power to the city.
    I once toured the seemingly cavernous empty shell of the basement plant in the early 1990s, and it was one of the most viceral, haunting and evocative indutrial relic spaces I’ve ever seen (along with the old power substation on Alberta that is now Siam Society).
    Anybody been in there recently? I always thought that space was an architectural opportunity like no other for a restaurant or nightclub, and have wondered if anything was or would ever been done with it…

  7. This photo was actually cropped from a larger picture showing the construction of the Pittock Block in UO’s collection of works by A. E. Doyle. (I did the deed.) I have been researching Edgar Lazarus (architect of Vista House), and discovered that the Columbia Building is one of his works, and was happy to find this rare photo if it. Ed Teague, curator, Building Oregon, http://boundless.uoregon.edu/digcol/archpnw/

  8. My relative was a dispatch operator for Northwestern Electric Company circa 1920-1950. I have his photos of the generators in the Pittock Block basement. I would love to see what the space looks like now to compare with my images!

  9. I tried to send Ed Teague an email, but his email bounced. Does anyone have a current contact for him, or the library curator at U of O architecture library?
    Thanks!

  10. You might also consider the role of the Electric Building in Portland’s power history. BTW I recently succeeded in revising the National Register nomination of the Electric Bldg to identify David C. Lewis, not Edgar Lazarus, as architect.

  11. I was excited to see the Pittock Bldg. basement photos. Would love to know if Cabel also found any evidence of the power station or P G & E on those walls? I would recognize my relative’s hand writing if it was there. great share!

  12. I’m just now scanning my dad Laurie Leigh’s vacation slides from March 1968 and noticed that there is a picture of a large excavation which shows in the background a building with a sign MITTLEMAN BLDG. on it. The sign appears to be on the back of the building. My dad labelled the slide “Excavation – Port[land] MAR – 1968”

  13. My Uncle was manager for the Roxy Theatre in Portland in the early 1950’s. I have a shot he took just before they closed and I see that this theatre was in the Columbia Building. Is this the same building that housed the Roxy?

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