Stumptown Stumper

by:  KATIE HARTLEY, Now home to a pasta restaurant, among other enterprises, the Studio Building has an artsy past evident in the composer busts on its facade.

Every Friday in Stumptown Stumper, the Portland Tribune offers a trivia question and answer to help you boost your Rose City IQ.

Q: On what old downtown building can you find the busts of dozens of famous composers including Mozart, Beethoven and Bach?

A: Despite its quirky facade, the historic Studio Building, 919 S.W. Taylor St., is one of the better-kept secrets among the scores of famous buildings in Portland. Yet the 20th-century Baroque building, designed by Portland architect Luther Lee Dougan, is something of a novelty, according to various sources.

In his 2007 'Architectural Guidebook to Portland,' Bart King writes: 'The Studio Building is a favorite of classical music lovers, as it is the only building in town that displays the busts of composers in niches along the perimeter of the building. The nine-story building was designed for cultural uses in drama and piano teaching, hence its playful yet highbrow appearance. … The adjacent two-story Guild Theatre (originally the Studio Theater) was built at the same time. … At one time, its entrance served as the Studio Building's back door.'

In the 1985 book 'Frozen Music: A History of Portland Architecture,' Gideon Bosker and Lena Lencek note that the Studio Building, with its adjoining Guild Theatre, reflected Dougan's 'exploration of 'offbeat' stylistic combinations. … (Dougan) expressed his infatuation with decorative terra-cotta elements. Busts of composers set in niches, panels with composer's names and intricate medallions graced the exterior, while at the mezzanine level, the storefronts were arcaded with twisted columns and rounded arches. The grafting of an office building to a movie theater marked an intriguing exercise in contrasting functions.'

Today, the building is used for offices and managed by TMT Development. One occupant said the building's rich history doesn't translate to a good working space. The Internet connection is slow and it's showing its age, but if you look up at the facade from a block away, 'it looks like a painting.'

Next week's Stumper: Where in Portland is the burial place of Virgil Earp, brother to Western icon Wyatt Earp?

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