Kamm Block, circa 1900

The 1884 Kamm Block was one of Portland’s most richly decorated cast-iron buildings. It was situated on the north side of SW Pine St. between Front and 1st Avenue; this undated photo looks northwest. The building had an imposing tower above its mid-block entry; an 1892 fire destroyed that. Another fire, this time in 1939, destroyed the eastern end of the building. The remaining, 1st Avenue end, was demolished in 1948. As is so often the case, the site is a surface parking lot today.

(University of Oregon Libraries)

16 thoughts on “Kamm Block, circa 1900

  1. Wonderful photograph and gorgeous building. I love the gothic element to the top floor window arches and the cloister-style covered walkway (entry?) facing Front. The Multnomah County library displayed some Minor White prints of the Kamm Building several years ago. I’m not sure if the prints are still on display.

    The white building at the far left of the photo (at Second and Pine) still exists. Its name escapes me at the moment, but I believe it used to house the Old Spaghetti Factory when TOSF was still downtown. Most of the existing buildings on the south side of Pine along this stretch also appear to be of the same period.

    Thanks for posting Dan. This is one of my favorite buildings and there are too few photographs available.

  2. The remaining bldg on the far left was built in 1886 and now houses Kell’s Irish Pub. I don’t know the name of the bldg/block, however. What was the bldg in the middle between the two? It is also a parking lot now, was fairly distinctive with its cut off corner.

  3. Oh, book I have shows that almost all the bldgs along Front, First and 2nd in that area seemed to have cast iron decorations. They were repeated frequently so a lot of the bldgs have similar decorations.

  4. Well, I stand corrected, the bldg WAS erected in 1886 but Kell’s in in the next bldg to the north on the 3rd st. side. I need to pay more attention.

  5. Here’s an interesting bit of trivia. Apparently, at one time, the Kamm bldg, in the center of the south side where there is just sort of a pointed pediment in the photo above, had a tower about 2 stories high that looked rather like a church steeple. Illustration of the bldg from 1890 shows it.

  6. Rats, I need to read these closer before I comment. I’d try to send you a copy of the illustration with the tower in it but I cannot figure out, 1, how to scan it (too large for the scanner) and if I could, 2, how to make that small portion of the poster I have big enough to see it. I had to look at it with a magnifier as it is. I have one of the posters of the city in 1890 with the landmarks on it, I didn’t see the missing bldg to the west of the Kamm in the little vinettes around the outside edges but it appears to be in the print on the map itself so the age of the bldg would indeed be about the same.

  7. I got to browing on the Cast Iron Portland site you had above,they have a couple of photos of the Kamm Block with the tower on the bldg. Pretty cool. I recently purchased Classic Houses of Portland 1850-1950 and am very saddened at how many of the truly phantasmagorical Victorian and baroque huge old homes were torn down. I am so sorry I wasn’t born long enough ago to have seen them. I think I belonged in a slower and more gentile age…..Or I would have, if I had had enough money not to be a wage slave.

  8. A caryatid from the Kamm bldg sits at the west entrance of the old courthouse if anyone wants to see some of the detail from the now gone bldg up close.

  9. My wife’s family (McMonies) was the family operating McMonies Leather Goods (which later moved to Sullivan’s Gultch). If someone could direct me towards sources of copies of this and other similar photographs/stories I could surprise my wife and mother-in-law. :o)


    Louis – notoneoftheabove at yahoo dot com

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