C.M. Forbes Home, 1892

“They don’t make them like this any more” is certainly true of the C. M. Forbes home. This fantastically ornate home was build circa 1887 on the northwest corner of SW Vista Avenue and Park Place. Date of demolition is unknown but the high-rise now on that property was built in 1960.

(University of Oregon Libraries)

38 thoughts on “C.M. Forbes Home, 1892

  1. My copy of Progressive Portland, On the Move is still out on loan, but I think this house is one of the featured properties. If my memory serves, I think this house became the original OHSU, Good Sam’s or some kind of hospital/medical training center prior to its demolition. I could have this house confused with another.

  2. How dare they tear this down! First time I’ve seen this house. Reminds me of the Carson Mansion in Eureka.

  3. This house was of the short-lived architectural style known as “how many “goo-gahs” can I hang on my Queen Anne. It’s at once fantastic and ridiculous. I would have loved to have seen it in person.

  4. This astonishing house is one of my all-time favorites!
    The book “Vanishing Portland” has a different camera view of this house taken from the corner of Ford St. (later Vista Ave.) and Park Place. The same book dates this house as having been built in 1892 and its demolition in 1930. It also states that the apartment building(Park Vista) that replaced it was built in 1958. The book “Victorian West” says the date of construction of the Forbes house was in 1888. The book “Classic Houses of Portland, Oregon 1850-1950 has several views of this house and gives the year of construction as 1887. Confusing, no? “Classic Houses” also has a picture in it (page 167) overlooking the King’s Hill District which shows the back of the Forbes residence; the only such view I have ever found. Could you imagine having to paint, and repaint such a house every few years? The paints they had back then had a hard time withstanding our Northwest weather.

  5. The 1892 date probably comes from the fact that this photo appeared in the Oregonian Souvenir Book, published in 1892 to celebrate their new building downtown (since demolished). As with many images in the book, there is no other info about the house other than it was the home of Forbes.

  6. I have that wonderful book, “Classic Houses of Portland, 1850-1959, written by William J. Hawkins, III, and William F. Willingham, published in 1999, and autographed, with a special personal notation to me, by these two gentleman…it’s been a treasure and a fantastic source of information on some of the most beautiful homes this city has ever seen…ever!

    The picture of the Forbes home/house/mansion immediately sent me over to my bookshelf to see what information it might contain…the only problem was that I got a little carried away, a little distracted, looking at some of the other “grande dames” of our cities’ history and forgot my initial reason for getting out the book in the first place! Typical!

    However, when I got back on track, some of the information, the three photos, one of which is the photo this story shows, goes on to explain the “quintessential Eastlake design in Portland was the stupendous C. F. Forbes mansion of circa 1887, located at the northwest corner of Vista Avenue and Park Place.” It goes on to describe the various detail and design used to create this beautiful structure, phrases such as “the pierced and laced bargeboards were fanciful beyond belief”, and “windows were of extraordinary shape, with quatrefoils entwined with lancets, the wraparound veranda not only had spindles, but stalactite pendants and imaginatively adorned railings as well”. It also includes a reference to another house in the neighborhood, the James C. Van Rensselaer (c. 1888) house, once located on SW King Avenue and Park Place, describing it as “one of the first houses to strip away the extraordinary detail such as that displayed the Eastlake C.F. Forbes mansion, its nearby neighbor to the west on Park.”

    Quatrefoils: an architectural ornament or design with four petals or a leaf with four parts, often combined with that of a flower.
    Lancets: a narrow arch that comes steeply to a point.
    Stalactite: a conical pillar, its base being larger than its pointed top.

    While we can all go on, pay tribute to these beautiful homes, mansions and residences of days gone by, I often wonder if people will say the same of the split-level, ranch style, bungalow and so-called “modern style” homes of the 1950’s and 1960’s in the year 2050! And what will the styles be by then!?

    Chuck…yes, indeed, the Carson Mansion…a “must stop” along the way, if not an ultimate destination itself! What a house…what a landmark…what a treasure!

    Edmund…I was in the process of writing this when I caught your entry; I immediately went to page 167 to take a look! When I see the “circa” dates, sometimes I just figure that’s the date the photo was taken…makes sense? At any rate, the book is a great resource, a great trip back in time. Pity we didn’t have the color technology back then. Wow! I too, have often wondered about the paint, the color schemes, let alone the ladders and all the other equipment and the amount of time that was required in order to “refresh” these building every few years. If we simply compare our knowledge to the limited types of paint we had back in the 50’s, the wide selection of what-ever base paint we have today, it must have been a nightmare back then!


  7. Edmund: I also used to think the house pictured on page 167 of “Classic Portland Houses” was the Forbes house but after discusing it with Dan from “CafeUnknown” we agree that the house pictured is probably the Henry Green house. If you carfully compare the details to the known photos of the Forbes house you will see they don’t watch.

  8. I’ll have to check that out Bart; you and they may well be right. I’m an avid follower of “CafeUnknown and have much enjoyed Dan’s writing. If it is not the Forbes place, then we can perhaps agree then that there are several similar design elements, such as the tripane dormer windows, the Thai-tibetan inspired finials. the jerkinhead gable with a chimney coming out of one side. rounded eave corners etc. If the picture on page 167 is the Henry Green house; I’m convinced the two houses may have been designed by the same architect.

  9. BTW, Jim K. thanks for that. If you have access to the Book “Vanishing Portland”, check out the picture of the Forbe’s place on the top of page 56.
    You can see the other side of the house and further details of the jerkinhead dormer with chimney, the rooftop ironwork, and the edges of a small tower, or two-story bay projecting at about a 45 deg. angle on the rear corner of the house. It seems to support my case somewhat I think. Anyone know where I can see a pic of the Henry Green place?

  10. Edmund…

    Henry Green? No, but I’m now scouring my collection of Portland history and trivia books to see if I can find anything, I’ll remember…”Vanishing Portland”…page 56…I’ve made a post-it note to myself, not only to remember the page, but to check out the possibility of obtaining what sounds like a “great read!”

    As long as we’re all “on the same page”, so-to-speak, for a further bit of time travel to anyone reading who might be interested, there is also another such treasure, another tribute to the classic designs of Portland’s past; “NINETEENTH STREET”, by Richard Marlitt, first published as a hardbound book in 1968, and later, as a revised edition in 1978, sadly, as a softbound version of the original, but putting that aside, the attention to first class photography, similar to that found in Classic Houses of Portland, except larger, is fantastic! (One wonders what lengths they went to back then, to create these beautiful photographs…the clarity, the attention to detail!) A small map in the introduction shows the original location of these wonderful examples of architecture. We are not only introduced to the exteriors of this selection of manors of days gone by, but, occasionally, we are “invited in”, teased and seduced with interior photos…the high ceilings, the enormous chandeliers, the wall coverings, the staircases, and the simple ostentatiousness, (Now, THAT’S a paradox, isn’t it!? Simple ostentatiousness! Sorry!), the styles of furniture, and additional decorative examples of money, wealth and fortune along with an array of other items, possibly passed down from one generation to another. Oh, for the self-centered want of color photography!

    And one other thing that always pops in my head when “visiting” these residences…the vehicles, the various “means” of transportation that carried these people in and about the streets of Portland at the time…but that’s another topic altogether and I can much too easily get carried away with that one, so I’ll shut up now and immerse myself in a little Easter treat that has been staring me in the face and teasing me for the last hour or so!!


  11. I agree Jim K; “NINETEETH STREET” is a treasure, and a must have for any Portland history enthusiast or researcher. I also dream of being able to see many of the buildings and homes of this era in color. I build 3D
    virtual recreations of long vanished buildings as a hobby and having color pictures would make it so much easier. 🙂
    Last night I accessed the online Portland Oregon Sanborn maps with my trusty library card.
    In the 1908-1909 Volume 2, Sheet 101 shows the distinctive footprint of the Forbes mansion, with the outline of the bay, or tower with small gable projecting at a 45 deg. angle from the SW corner of the house, which matches the picture on page 167 of “Classic Houses”.
    The outline of the Bickel house, the front of which faced east, is directly across Vista Ave from the Forbes house. In “Classic Houses”, the Bickel house is described as being “immediately east’ of the Forbes house.
    The rear of St. Helen’s Hall Episcopal Girl’s School can clearly be seen in the far right of the picture. The footprint of St. Helen’s Hall is shown on the adjoining Sanborn Sheet 102, kitty-corner across the intersection of Park Ave. and Vista Ave. In “Classic Houses” St. Helen’s Hall is described as being “diagonally across the street” from the Forbes house, exactly as in the picture.
    I rarely find myself in disagreement with Dan Hanekow, and I love his
    CAFEUNKOWN blog, but I’m convinced I have enough “forensic evidence” to defend my case.
    Happy Easter everyone.

  12. I retrieved my copy of Portland Progressive – On the Move and can state that I was unequivocally wrong in post number 1. The house I was thinking of was the Bernard Stone residence that stood at SW 10th Salmon. It was not the progenitor of OHSU or Good Sam’s, but rather Emanuel Hospital. It was, however a magnificent pile of Victorian filigree and ornamentation. It’s featured on pages 30 and 31 of the book.

  13. I have all the books mentioned above and then some and I love the “Eastlake” style. I was trying to describe this to someone and ended up using “Victorian Gothic” on steroids. Friend of mine described it as someone having ornamentation for two houses but only building one and using all the pieces…The Bernard Stoen & Wm. Mason houses were of this type as were the Levi White and Wm. Spalding houses. The Bickel mansion was, just slightly, more restrained.The Caswell-Kirnan house at 19th & Irving and the Louis Pfunder house at 12th & Washington were of the “stick everything I can on this house style” but were smaller bldgs I think. They might be described as Moorish Goes Victorian.

  14. Once again, I’m searching thru my books on Portland…and making a list: the Bickel house, the Bernard Stone residence, the homes of Bernard Stone, William Mason, Levi White and William Spaulding, Caswell-Kirnan and Louis Pfunder, Portland Progressive, CAFEUNKNOWN blog, Portland, Oregon Sanborn maps…and here I thought I was going to spend the next couple of days, selfishly, yet discretely, searching for that last piece of Easter candy! I am familiar with most of these homes, but unfortunately and, as usual, my immediate curiosity calls out to me to peruse my small library, in fact, DEMANDS me to satisfy that annoying, yet satisfiable curiosity!

    “Victorian Gothic on steroids”…”having ornamentation for two houses but only building one and using all the pieces!” What a great definition and/or explanation! (There’s a clever, humorous and inspirational cartoon and/or poster in there somewhere!! I’ll work on THAT idea later! I have enough on my hands right now!)

    By-the-by…maybe I should have said “oxymoron” instead of “paradox! I think that little Easter treat was distracting me!!

    Oxymoron: a phrase in which two words of contradictory meaning are used together for special effect, e.g. “wise fool” or “legal murder”.

    Paradox: a statement or proposition that contradicts itself.

    So, with that all said, let me inject a little fun here: Can one have a paradoxical oxymoron, i.e., a contradiction that contradicts itself?

    And, for some reason, a one, Miss Emily Latella comes to mind…

    “What’s all this fuss I hear keep hearing about calling oxen morons? Don’t they have the right to the same opportunities of other oxen? Why should they be singled out and forced to…what…what…?”

    “No, Miss Latella, that’s OXYmoron, NOT OXENmoran…”

    …”Oh, THAT’S different. Never mind!”

    And, of course, let’s not forget “Paradox”…

    ”Miss Latella, YOU’RE ON!”

    “What’s all this I fuss I hear about a pair of doc’s……….?”

    Happy Easter…and always look at the bright side of life!


  15. What I have are “Portland Tradition In Buildings and People” by Fred De Wolfe; “Old Portland” ditto; “Vanishing Portland” by Ray & Jenanna Bottonberg; “Postcard History of Portland” by Walter Fortner; “Classic Houses of Portland, OR 1850-1950” by Wm J. Hawkins III & Wm. F. Willingham; “Matters of Proportion, The Portland Residential Architecture of Whidden & Lewis” by Richard Marlitt;; “Nineteenth Street” ditto; “The Grand Era of Cast-Iron Architecture in Portland” by Wm J. Hawkins III; “Historic Photos of Portland: by Donald E. Nelson and something called, I think “65 Years of Legends and Lore” by George Denfield about the area of “Upper Sandy Blvd” encompassing pretty much 57th to 82, Killingsworth to Sacramento? Anyway, that general area. Not to mention a small postcard collection of my own and the delightful resources of the Portland Public Schol, the OSU Library, the PSU Library, the City Archives, etc. And a hand held scanner that does some pretty good scans. Living in Portland for roughly 55 years doesn’t hurt either. And access to people whose memory goes even farther back. Chuck, I found that house I was talking about on 15th. It was 2117 NE 15th, had a Russian looking tower. Torn down in early 60th I think. Oregon Digital Library has a photo of it.

  16. Roxanne,

    For more different take on Portland history, I recommend Chuck Palahniuk’s “Fugitives and Refugees; A Walk in Portland Oregon.” The book provides a fun narrative of the alt crowd of more recent vintage.

  17. I know the house you cited Roxanne. I saw this distinctive home once as a small child. The somewhat squat, but interesting tower did look Russian in influence, rather like an old samovar, or my grandmother’s soup tureen. The veranda which wrapped around the tower was supported by fairly massive and elaborate columns and the balustades
    had thick, vase-like balusters. The upside-down arch shaped cutouts under the veranda looked like smiling mouths to me. The gambrel roofed wings were distinctive as well. I hope it’s OK to post a link to a picture of it. http://oregondigital.org/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/archpnw&CISOPTR=8308&CISOBOX=1&REC=11

  18. What amazing structures.

    Re: the house on NE 15th: this is the piece of… “work” that apparently replaced it:

    How sad that someone could live with themselves after destroying such a beautiful building. I guess back then they must have thought it was “old junk”.

  19. A couple of years ago, I lived a couple of blocks away (Stonewall apartments on 16th and Schuyler, next to the Gustav Friewald house). At that time, the apartment building that replaced the mansion, was a lttle more palatable with a faux-federal paint job. Amazing that it could go from bland with some architectural interest to blah. I guess it was starting to look “outdated.”

  20. Yes! Thanks for posting that! I remember that house so well. I was still in grade school when they tore it down. I was so sad to see them do that. I used to sit on the west side of the Jackson Park bus as it went down 15th so I could admire it. There was also a fine old house from that era across the street & down the block that was torn down a short time afterwards. It, too, was replaced with a cheap 60’s apartment building. It looked like it was made out of plywood.

  21. I was looking at the “footprint” of that house in the 1908 Sanborn maps and the addition on the SW side of the house was not there yet in 1908. Looks kinda like a schoolhouse, doesn’t it? I am wondering if it was a carriage house or even a garage. My aunt loved that house so much when she heard I had found a photo of it she asked me to make her a print!!!!! And the Oregon Digital Library doesn’t care if you post them as long as you aren’t using ’em to make money. I have been going thru all their photos and “finding” the ones that they didn’t know the location of, or had address errors, or name identifying errors. They have been real good about updating the files. Or if I only knew it was an error but not the correct info, they found the correct info and entered it. They do a good job.

  22. Ed, you’re right, they do look like smiling mouths…just like the machines on “Bob the Builder”…and don’t ask me how I know that, I won’t confess. My grandmother and I used to walk to Lloyd Center some times and walked past that house many times. I used to think it took up a quarter of the block but actually it only occupied 1/2 the space between 14th & 15th and only about 1/4th of the N-S Length of the block. Instead of thinking of the occupier/sellers as heartless heathens, I try to remind myself the amount of upkeep an old and elaborate building of that type requires, not to mention the amount of house keeping. If would require every minute of your time to individually keep it dusted and swept, etc. In the 1950’s no one wanted that kind of house. It was all simple to take care of stuff that was the rage. Not to mention the cost of the upkeep and taxes on that side property. I imagine many of the owners simply could not afford to keep them up any more and the children couldn’t afford to take it on. I know even the historical society have had to pass on some or destroy them, like the one that was moved to Couch Park at one time but they couldn’t raise the money to restore and it was finally vandalized so badly it was torn down. If they ever invent time travel, I’m going back to buy all those old places and turn them into bed and breakfasts or something to save them.

  23. Roxanne…

    The Captain John Brown House…THAT’S the house I was trying to remember the other day! I was telling a friend about this site, the photo’s, the memories that people share and I was trying to recollect a memory myself…”Remember that house they moved back in the early 70’s…it was over in the NW part of town…they finally had to tear the poor thing down because it had been smashed up and vandalized so badly?”

    We couldn’t immediately remember the house, I was a little too busy at the time to sit down and do any research and then your entry brought it back immediately! Oh, that was sad…I couldn’t even watch the news…I didn’t want to see what I knew was happening to that fabulous old home. There’s a subtle photo of the house in the publication: NINETEENTH STREET on page 40. Ouch! That really hurts!

    Oh…and Roxanne…save me a seat…I’ll bring some sandwiches! With all the comments that some of the others have shared here…maybe we should check out the possibility of a group rate, however, I don’t think the DeLorean will hold all of us at the same time!

    Jim K

  24. Hey Roxanne, please save me a seat as well. Maybe we could borrow the “Further” magic bus and retro-fit it with a flux capacitor so we can take a full crew.;) We’ll have to locate some era-appropriate vintage clothing (several online specialty stores sell reproductions) so as not to stand out too much from the Portland natives of that time. I’ve got a bag of lightly circulated 1880s era Morgan silver dollars so we could dine and rent a place to stay. We’ll have to use our knowledge of future events to gradually parlay our funds into a large enough fortune to buy the houses we all love. I think we better park the bus way out of town, and walk in.

  25. Just an interesting piece of trivia. The Browns who had houses in the “Nineteenth Street” area were related to John Brown of Harper’s Ferry fame. At least two of his sons lived here in Portland at one time, one committed suicide (newspaper notice). I have wondered if the John Brown here was a Jr…….

  26. Oh, Thank you. I love those old postcards. I have several of NW Lovejoy places that I have been tracking down the houses in. Also SW King and Vista, been locating those houses as well. A fun detective pastime. I have only one postcard that I haven’t found the house for yet, I think.

  27. That’s great Roxanne, I love old post cards too, and I’m fascinated by the areas you Mentioned. It is great that you can still find so many of the houses in your postcards.

  28. This was my great grandfather (Bernhard L. Stone) and great grandmother (Etta L. Stone) home. Such a shame that it no longer stands. My grandmother Lillian, and great aunt Madeline, spoke fondly of the many wonderful events (including weddings) that took place in this lovely home.

  29. Hello Sally Harman,
    Are you sure this is the correct house? The reason I ask is because in the book “Classic Houses of Portland Oregon 1850-1950” by William J. Hawkins & William F. Willingham, there is a picture of a somewhat similarly elaborate house(pg 179-180) listed as being the residence of the “well-known jeweler Bernard L. Stone”. The house was located on the west side of SW 10th Ave. between Taylor and Salmon Streets. I checked Sanford Insurance maps from 1901 to see where the house was located within that block and according to Portland Maps the house was replaced by a storefront circa 1918. Was your great grandfather the same Bernard L. Stone?

  30. My grandfather Graham Glass Jr. lived in this house with his father and mother up until early in 1930’s. As a child I lived in an apt on Green Street in the mid 40’s and I remember this location was a vacant lot with beautiful stone work and steps that led up from the northwest corner of Vista and Park Ave. There was a similar site with a stone wall of a school (St. Helens Hall?) that had been razed that was to be the home of the Vista St. Clair.
    I believe Graham Glass Sr. lost his money in the 30’s and the home was demolished. But I don’t know what year that was. I am doing some more research on the Glass family so I may come upwith some better info. I live in an old 1890’s farm house in Salem and have the dining room set that came out of that house. It has 7 or 8 leaves. I have other items that belonged to my grandfather’s family. The Glass Family were English and came to Portland from Canada. Graham Glass was not related to me by blood and he had one sister. There are no living relatives of this Glass family. Graham Glass raised me and died in 1970.

  31. Thank you for sharing this Irene. If you inherited any pictures of your Grandfather’s family in, or around the house I would love to see them. I’m sure that the inside of this house was probably just as amazing and spectacular as the exterior! I Wish I could have seen and recorded it all in person and I really appreciate the information on the Glass family.

  32. Irene, the Oregonian of May 11, 1902, carried the obituary of Graham Glass, Sr. (1830-1902), and mentions being survived by his son Graham Glass, Jr. – other accounts show the latter was already grown by the time of his father’s death and was an active lawyer. Glass, Sr., arrived in Portland in 1880 and was actively involved in the First Street railway with Adolph Dekum and C.E. Smith.

    I am trying to determine if he was also the Glass that owned part of Council Crest around the 1880s. If you (or anyone else) have insight into that or want additional info, please contact me via my Facebook page linked to my name.
    Ken H

  33. Hello Edmund,
    I stand corrected. The photo on page 180 in the book “Classic Houses of Portland, Oregon 1850-1950 shows the picture of my Great Grandfather Bernhard L. Stone home. Thank you for pointing that out to me. I have a photo of the Stone family setting on the front porch of their home.

  34. Sally Edwards
    This is my most favorite Victorian home of all. When I read it was demolished I was devastated. How sad! I can not get over how they could have torn this gorgeous mansion down!

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