Pittock Block Excavation, 1913

This massive excavation was a three-story sub-basement for the Pittock Block, which originally housed the Northwestern Electric Company’s electric sub-station and west side distribution plant. Portland newspaper publisher Henry Pittock’s home was on this site before construction began. This view looks down on the corner of SW 10th and Washington, facing northeast. I’d featured a cropped version of this image previously; VP fan Mike Slama was kind enough to point me to this full version.

(University of Oregon Libraries)

14 thoughts on “Pittock Block Excavation, 1913

  1. This is a great old photo. A lot of ‘sidewalk supervisors’ on hand. And I’m guessing that’s the Benson being built in the background? It must’ve been an exciting time for Portlanders watching their city evolve into a modern 20th Century city.

  2. I believe the building under construction in the center rear is what I believe was known as the Telegraph building (abutting present the present day Benson hotel). Not to be confused with the Telegram building on 11th and Washington.

    The upper windows of the finished tower bear a distinct resemblance to those on the Selling building. Does anyone know if the two buildings were designed by the same architect or firm?

  3. Has anyone been into the old power plant space in the sub-basement beneath the Pittock Block in the last year or two? What is happening down there at present?

  4. I work in the Pittock Building and about 2 years ago the property management company gave our company a tour of that area. During the internet bubble many of the large ISPs retrofitted the basement to house the emergency power generators and most of the emergency backup systems. Some of the rooms are filled with the disaster recovery equipment and many of the larger areas sit empty with a couple of relics of it’s previous life.

  5. My brother in law worked nights in the basement power plant while he was a student at Benson in the ’50’s. His job was to keep an eye on things. Apparently pretty boring, but he said it was a great job as he had lots of time to study. He has some good stories about his time working there. For years I’d have lunch at Martinotti’s, but had no idea they had a power plant underneath the building.

  6. Great pic Dan!

    As I understand it, most of Portland’s internet infrastructure resides in the Pittock block.

    I count at least 4 steam boilers at work on the site.

    Note the painted sign for “The Magazine of the West”. I wonder what magazine that would be?

  7. About 20 years ago I managed to explore the cavern of a basement of the Pittock. Hanging in the center was about a 60W lightbulb, Aside from my lantern that was it for lighting.
    Being an electrician, It was very interesting to see the remains of the steamboiler/turbine plant. Aside from some tank cradles and transformer bays with porcelin insulator tubes between them there was virtually nothing remaining.
    BTW, There was a well down there, Reached about 20″ diameter and 25′ down to watertable..

  8. Wow, fascinating stuff. I see Bull Run opened up in 1895, so I wonder why they needed a well? And who would want to drink it… 🙂 Maybe for the aforementioned steam boilers.

  9. I’m posting this on May 25,2012. I happen to be the current “Day Porter”, which is a fancy name for building janitor. I love this building. There are still a lot of artifacts from the building stored in one of the basements. It’s fun to look thru all this tuff at my leisure. Very nostalgic! They have quite a few pictures of the Pittock bldg. in various stages of construction and even a picture of some of the elevator operators. At one time they were going to convert the sub-basement into a parking garage!

  10. Thanks for sharing Frank. It would be fascinating if you could find a way to post some pictures! Without getting in hot water of course. 🙂

  11. Some very interesting details in this shot. The Mark O. Hatfield building can be seen slightly left of center, in it’s pre-Burnside widening condition, and to the right of that, the building with the “Magazine of the West” advertisement still stands on SW Park near Oak. It appears that the Wells Fargo building used to be decorated on the west face in almost the same fashion as the north and east sides, though without the fanciful terra cotta designs and brickwork. At some point it was changed to the flat white finish that we see today to the detriment of the buildings overall appearance

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