In addition to being beautifully preserved examples of early 20th century residential architecture, homes feature unique stories of life in Portland.
By Brian Schaeperkoetter
Irvington Home Tour chair
The 35th annual Irvington Home Tour will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, May 21. The tour will feature six early 20th century homes, preserved and perfected for modern living. Tickets for the tour are $25 and are available online at www.irvigntonhometour.com and at Broadway Books, Caffe Destino and the Architectural Heritage Center. Proceeds from the tour benefit the Irvington Community Associations’ Charitable Giving Program, which provides grants to more than 17 local nonprofits and schools.
You’ll have an an opportunity to discover the true historic diversity of the Irvington neighborhood: homes built by some of Portland’s most prolific and well-known builders, including a Robert and Archie Rice masterpiece complete with signature arches inside and out, historic homes with light and bright interiors that have been skillfully adapted for modern family living, and one of the neighborhood’s most iconic condominiums – set high upon a hill with an imposing turret entrance.
Two of the homes featured on this year’s tour are especially notable, one for the deeply historic significance it has to the neighborhood (and the city of Portland) and the other – the oldest home on our tour – features the tour’s newest space, a spacious basement area that has been re-imagined as a sleek apartment-style ADU.
Arguably Irvington’s most historic home, which celebrated its 100th birthday in 2016, this classic colonial revival gem is built to museum-quality specifications and contains a treasure trove of furnishings from the original owners, which were some of Portland’s most prominent citizens. The home was built for John Coleman, a prominent attorney who made his fortune selling fire insurance after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. His sister was Abigail Scott Dunaway, the prominent suffragette. Upon his death in 1918, Mr. Coleman left the house to his daughter Elizabeth, who had married Leslie Scott, a prominent scholar, writer, U.S. state marshall, highway commissioner, trustee for the Oregon Historical Society, and the son of Harvey Scott, editor of the Oregonian from 1865-1910. This historically significant house is still in the family, currently in the loving care of John Coleman’s great great granddaughter and her husband.
The home was created by talented architect John Virginius Bennes, who also was responsible for the design of Portland’s rococo Hollywood Theater. Perhaps the home’s most stunning feature is the heart of this sprawling showcase – an elaborate built-in two story high Estey roll player organ, which is one of the country’s last surviving built-in working organs in a personal residence.
Nicolai Cake-Olson House
This beautiful 1905 example of one of Irvington’s earliest craftsman homes has a surprise – a spacious, fully remodeled basement ADU with amazingly high ceilings. The owners of this home worked closely with the city of Portland and the Irvington Community Association’s Historic Preservation Committee to design a space that meets city regulations and maintains the aesthetic look of the home’s outside design. This home is a perfect example of how one of Portland’s oldest neighborhoods is embracing the city’s need for density while demonstrating respectful ways to adapt century-old homes in a national historic district for modern living.
Despite its distinguished pedigree, this house has had a “checkered” past, especially in the early-1920s when it was the site of a disreputable drinking establishment. A renter who lived in the home at the time, Alma Hopkins, ran a “drinking establishment” for presumably a short time, during the Prohibition era.
The Oregonian reported that during her subsequent trial, “Irvington was there … outraged, indignant Irvington, in whose exclusive confines Alma Hopkins, woman bootlegger deluxe, had set up shop in a liquor selling establishment.” Three prominent neighbors, one, the minister of Westminster Presbyterian Church, not far from the house, went to court to try to boot Alma out. According to the October 23, 1923 Oregonian, “Several months ago the Hopkins woman became their neighbor … Then Irvington was no longer quiet … High-powered cars came and went from the Hopkins residence at all hours of the night. Drunken men and women bothered neighbors at unseeming hours of the morning, with their requests for information as to where the Hopkins woman lived. All-night revels were staged at the house, it was charged … Saturday afternoon the police raided the house, arrested the Hopkins woman and seized 60 quarts of choice whiskey.”