Historic house needs a new home

Downtown church hopes to relocate 122-year-old building

If the senior minister of downtown's First Christian Church-Disciples of Christ had his way, he would put a big red bow on the historic Ladd Carriage House, along with a sign saying, 'Free to good home,' and let someone take the Victorian building away.

To generate income, First Christian wants to reconfigure the block, bounded by Southwest Park Avenue and Broadway and Jefferson and Columbia streets, removing all of its buildings except for the sanctuary, and build an apartment or condo tower.

The expansion could doom the carriage house, an 1883 gray-shingled stick style structure that is one of Portland's most unusual historic buildings, as well as the 95-year-old Rose Friend apartment building on the east side of the block.

The church recently hired Emmert International of Clackamas to study the cost of moving the building and possible locales. Emmert hauled the Spruce Goose airplane from Santa Monica, Calif., to the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, and also has moved historic hotels and factories.

Company President Terry Emmert says two downtown Portland locations are prospects for the carriage house. He declined to elaborate, but says one is southwest and one is northwest of the building, which is located at 1331 S.W. Broadway.

The church also is in the process of getting a demolition permit that would allow it to be torn down.

But the Rev. Rex Loy, First Christian's senior minister, said he's optimistic the carriage house will be salvaged, after recent discussion of possible alternatives to demolition.

'Other people have started thinking, 'How can we help?' ' Loy says. 'Everybody I've talked to has been extremely positive' about finding a solution 'where everybody gets what they want.'

Loy emphasizes that no commitments have been made to anyone, but says suggestions for the carriage house range from finding a site in Portland to transporting it on a barge to a horse farm in Canby.

The building, which has housed offices since 1924, has its original beams and supports, but the interior has been renovated extensively. A group of Portland State University officials toured the carriage house on Friday, assessing whether the university could use the building.

Assistant Dean of Liberal Arts Robert Mercer, a historic buildings enthusiast, organized the effort, though he knows the money for such a project is scarce.

'I'd love to move it here, but the primary thing is saving it,' Mercer said.

Portland Development Commission staff, at the behest of then-Mayor Vera Katz, started researching the situation in November.

'We hope to help coordinate a solution with the interested parties and stakeholders,' said Kathryn Krygier, the PDC's project manager for the South Park Blocks Urban Renewal Area. She says it's not clear if the PDC would contribute money to the project.

The Portland chapter of the American Institute of Architects reviewed First Christian's early plans for the block last spring. Peter Meijer, then-chairman of the AIA's historic resources committee, said he's concerned the building is too big to move without damaging its historic integrity.

Meijer also called it a 'bad precedent for (the PDC) to bail (the church) out of their predicament.'

The church applied for a demolition permit in October just days before the city expanded its authority, allowing it to deny demolition of historic buildings. But the church is not in a hurry: It has applied for an extension of the maximum 300 days. Kara Fioravanti, Bureau of Development Services senior planner, said that's unlike most applicants, who want to move ahead with construction as soon as possible. The extension, if approved, would let the church raze buildings Sept. 12.

The Portland Historic Landmarks Commission is scheduled to consider the proposed demolition delay at a Monday hearing that will include public testimony.