Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bickel Block Building

Bickel Block Building, 1883

The Bickel Block Building underwent a complete renovation the last couple of years. Many great old signs were lost in the process. Some of the signs attested to the building's early years: "BOILERS" "MACHINERY" and "LOGGING" were a few that were visible before being painted over. Read more of the building's history below. You can see this colorful building from the corner of NW Couch and Naito Parkway.







Thanks to thrift store cowboy for use of his "before" 2006 photos.

The gothic Bickel Block Building was designed in 1883 by Justus Krumbein. It has complex geometric patterns in its detailing and is an example of cast-iron architecture built in downtown Portland in the 1880s. The intricate cast-iron columns were made by Architectural Iron Works of San Francisco—the western branch of the famous foundry begun by Daniel Badger in New York in 1842.

The Bickel Block was owned by German candy-maker Frederick Bickel. He was a business partner of Frank Dekum, and the two opened their first confectionary shop in Portland thirty years before this building's construction. With the success of their candy business, both men began to invest in real estate development in downtown Portland.

The Bickel Block Building originally housed the Parke & Lacey Machinery Co., which used the north half for retail and the south half for manufacturing and warehousing. Parke & Lacey made and sold engines, boilers, sawmill machinery, logging cars, and so forth. The Fraser Paper Co. bought the building in the 1950s.

Three historic buildings—the Bickel Block Building, the Skidmore Block Building, and the White Stag and Hirsch-Weiss Building—will form the new White Stag Block that will house the University of Oregon's Portland programs.

(from: http://pdx.uoregon.edu/index.php?p=about/history)

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Riverfront Seawall

Without doubt, Portland's largest ghost sign (almost a football field in overall length), and in my opinion, the most unique.

In 2002 a 120,000 square-foot wood, steel and concrete dock on the river was demolished to prepare for construction of the Riverscape condominium project. That demolition uncovered this great "IBD" painted on the old existing seawall. The bottom photo shows Terminal 1 after the concrete had been removed, exposing the steel girders. Under the steel is the original seawall with the lettering.



Barney Blalock, webmaster of the very informative Portland Waterfront website, thinks this may have stood for "International Breakbulk Dock." Break bulk cargo refers to loose material un/loaded individually, as opposed to today's container carriers or bulk materials like grain or oil.

I discovered this ghost sign while coming downriver on the navy's USS Kidd (DDG-100) in June. You can see it from the river, or from across the river on N. River Street where I took the top photo.

(2002 Photo: DemolitionX)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Povey Bros. Glass Co.


In December 2007 I wrote about the "Office and Factory" sign that stuck up above the roofline of the building at NW 5th and Flanders. Thanks to thrift store cowboy who snapped a photo circa 2000, we know a little more about that business.

When the building at NW 4th and Flanders (bottom photo below) was demolished, it revealed this great "POVEY BROS. GLASS CO." sign. Brothers John and David Povey started their glass firm in 1888. John died in 1917, David in 1924. The firm was sold to a Seattle company in 1929 and disappeared soon after. Stained glass was commonly called Art Glass in that era.

Old Town Lofts was constructed on the site, covering this excellent ghost sign (2008 photo).



2000 (demolished building):

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Hotel Ray


I'd heard that the old Cindy's Adult Bookstore on the corner of NW 4th and Burnside was being demolished which got my ghost sign instincts all atingle. Instincts proved correct when I found that demolition had exposed this old "HOTEL RAY" sign on the adjoining building. That building, housing Chen's Good Taste Restaurant and Vegetarian House restaurant, dates to 1911.

I don't know what is being built on that site but I don't expect the sign to be visible for too long.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Biltmore Hotel

Biltmore Hotel, 1905

The Biltmore Hotel sign was restored during recent building renovation by Portland's Housing Development Center. The hotel originally housed dock workers and other men in single-occupancy rooms. It stands at NW 6th and Everett.



(2003 source: portlandmaps.com)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Foster Hotel

Foster Hotel, now Lyndon Musolf Manor, 1910

The Foster Hotel sign is probably on the endangered list. Built in 1910 as the working class Foster Hotel, the building is currently undergoing seismic and cosmetic upgrades. The side pictured here is under plastic wrap right now; once it's removed will the sign still be there?

The Foster Hotel was renamed Lyndon Musolf Manor in 1998 in honor of Innovative Housing Inc.'s founding Board President. You can see this sign, or what's left of it, from NW 3rd and Everett.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Packy Mural

Reed Building, 1890

This isn't really an old advertising sign but it's rapidly disappeared, going from full quality, to ghost sign, to gone, in a matter of just months. I decided to include it here because it's an iconic portland mural. The top started coming down in early April 2008 and by early May it was chopped up and sandblasted almost to extinction.

Also known as the Skidmore Fountain Building and the Packer-Scott Building, the Reed Building was constructed by Simeon Reed as a wholesale warehouse. The building is undergoing a $25 million renovation as it becomes the new headquarters for Mercy Corps.

The mural was painted in 1990 by North Pacific Sign & Design. It featured Packy, born at the Oregon Zoo on April 14, 1962, becaming the first elephant born in the Western Hemisphere in 44 years.



Thursday, September 4, 2008

Marble Works

Young's Marble Works, 1880

This ghost sign is barely visible now. It appears to have been painted over at one time, has suffered some graffiti damage, and has weathered significantly over the years. It is passed thousands of times per day by people crossing the Burnside Bridge yet you have to look closely to see it; it's tucked away from the street and overlooks a demolished building's garbage-strewn basement. It's on the south side of West Burnside between 1st and 2nd. Next time you are at Saturday Market, walk up to the bridge sidewalk and take a look.

In addition to the marble works, the two-story brick building has been used as a factory, warehouse, retail establishment, and is currently home to the Salvation Army.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Unknown, Holm Hotel

Holm Hotel, Circa 1890

Urban decay at its finest! Even the plaster on which the sign is painted is falling off the brick exterior. I can't make anything out except "WORK and SPORT" beneath the large letters at the top. See for yourself from SW 3rd and Ankeny.

From National Historic Landmark Nomination, Skidmore/Old Town Historic District:
This property has two distinct but conjoined structures on one taxlot. Both are three-story brick buildings surfaced with stucco, with streetcar-era storefronts at the lower level and two stories above. The southerly building is narrow, with a bracketed sheet metal cornice, segmental-arched windows and a belt cornice. This building has had some alterations, most likely when Burnside Street was widened in 1926. The northerly building has a simple cornice and rectangular windows with transoms. Alterations also include storefront modifications from the mid-1980s.