Owner of Portland’s oldest building, the 1857 Hallock-McMillan, is looking for a tenant

Portland’s longest surviving commercial structure, the 1857 Hallock-McMillan Building, completed before Oregon was a state, is slowly being restored. But it’s not easy — reproduced elements are painstakingly handmade — and it’s not cheap. Recreating cast-iron adornments on the front facade alone cost more than $1 million, said owner John Russell.

“It looks exactly like it did in 1857,” said Russell, who would like to find a business to lease the landmark property at 237 S.W. Naito Parkway. The benefits: The highly visible corner lot faces the west bank of the Willamette River, and the structure’s historic character has been preserved.

The brick-wall interior can be finished at the tenants’ expense to be a restaurant, office space or housing, Russell said. But he’s in no hurry. “This is a labor of love,” he added. There is a banner on the 5,000-square-foot building stating it’s for lease, but no listing with a price on any commercial real estate listing site.

The Hallock-McMillan Building was designed in the Greek Revival style by the city’s first licensed architect, Absalom Hallock, and constructed by contractor William McMillan 167 years ago as a showroom for cast-iron architectural elements. Over time, the building has been a candy factory, longshoremen’s hiring hall and Peter Corvallis Productions event management, said Russell, who wanted the building decades before he could get the owner to sell it.

In 1974, Russell bought the nearby Dielschneider Building at 71 S.W. Oak St., where the bottom two floors date to 1859 and a third story was added in 1876. Russell used plans by the late Portland architect and urban designer Greg Baldwin to renovate the Dielschneider and he then moved into the newly created penthouse.

Russell, a Portland developer who has helped build or remodel some of the city’s notable downtown buildings, then purchased the Fechheimer & White Building at 233 S.W. Naito Parkway (formerly Front Street). The High Victorian Italianate landmark from the late 19th-century is similar to the Hallock-McMillan Building: Both are two-story masonry structures with innovative cast-iron features and are also included in the National Register of Historic Places-recognized Skidmore/Old Town Historic District.

Russell, whose Russell Fellows Properties provides “philanthropy with buildings,” also acquired the much-altered 1885 Freimann Restaurant Building at 240 S.W. First Ave. and rebuilt it based on historic sketches.

After Russell purchased the Hallock-McMillan Building in 2010, he then owned a full block of historic buildings. Today, he still owns the Hallock-McMillan and Fechheimer & White buildings.

In 2019, he hired Emerick Architects of Portland to bring the Hallock-McMillan Building up to code, especially seismic requirements, and restore original ornamental elements that had been covered by stucco in the 1940s.

“Well-meaning people wanted to modernize the look,” said Russell, 78, who served on Portland’s Historic Landmarks Commission. The precisely restored front facade, with columns supporting Romanesque arches on the ground floor and arches over the second-story casement windows, “is gorgeous in a very modest way,” but it wasn’t easy, he said. “You can’t just go buy parts.”

Missing cast-iron features designed by Hallock were replicated by reverting to old-fashioned methods: Architectural Castings of Portland hand-carved wood molds, and Silverton Foundry’s furnaces were fired up to 2,800 degrees using wood, coal and coke.

Architect William J. Hawkins III, who wrote “The Grand Era of Cast Iron Architecture in Portland” about the city as a center of cast iron architecture starting in the 1850s, offered suggestions and recommended qualified craftworkers to Russell.

Hawkins discovered architect Hallock used cast-iron elements from San Francisco’s Phoenix Iron Works on many early brick buildings he designed, starting with the 1854 J. Kohn Building.

The foundry was owned by Hawkins’ great grandfather, Jonathan Kittredge, and Hallock was the foundry’s Portland representative from 1854 to 1870. Hallock was also a founder of Willamette Iron Works, which produced many of Portland’s cast iron building fronts between 1865 and 1889.

Researchers with the Oregon Historical Society’s digital encyclopedia said cast iron, a “modern and fashionable architectural technology, which offered new decorative and structural options,” was used in 90% of the commercial buildings erected in Portland between 1854 and 1889. Eventually, cast iron was replaced by less expensive, higher quality mass-produced steel, according to the National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum in Pennsylvania.

Despite demolitions, Portland has the second largest collection of cast iron architecture in the United States, after New York City’s SoHo and Tribeca areas, according to the Portland-based Architectural Heritage Center and Melvin Mark Companies commercial real estate, where Russell was a partner with the late Melvin “Pete” Mark.

In 2020, the statewide preservation organization Restore Oregon honored the restoration of the Hallock-McMillan Building with a coveted DeMuro Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation. The annual awards demonstrate how restoring and updating architectural and cultural sites can create useful spaces, incubate new businesses and combat climate change through re-use.

Brian Emerick of Emerick Architects told The Oregonian/OregonLive that the restored and seismically strengthened building should last far into the future. “These old buildings are reference points that allow us to connect to our past and see how far we have traveled to get to the present,” he said. “This building already has a rich history and it will have many other new uses that we don’t even know of yet.”

The project team also included Bremik Construction, Grummel Engineering, Pioneer Waterproofing and the digital storytelling agency Wave One Films that documented the process.

Oregon real estate

— Janet Eastman | 503-294-4072

jeastman@oregonian.com | @janeteastman

This article was originally published by a www.oregonlive.com . Read the Original article here. .