Gordon House

November 5th, 2008


(Photo by Brian Libby)

This last weekend Stacy and I went down to check out the Oregon Garden and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Gordon House. This Usonian style dwelling was designed by Wright in 1957 for Evelyn and Conrad Gordon of Clackamas County and finished in 1963. Evelyn Gordon spent her twilight years in the house and then her children tried unsuccessful to sell it after she passed away. In 2001, the house and property were finally sold, but the new owners, oblivious to the significance of the structure, prepared to raze it in order to make way for a skanky McMansion. Lucky, the new owners displayed a modicum of decency (despite their utter lack of taste) and granted the house a three month stay of execution — just enough time for the structure to be dismantled and moved by truck to the Oregon Garden about 21 miles south of the original location.

I have to confess, the Gordon House is a little underwhelming compared to the other Wright house I’ve toured: Fallingwater in Southwestern Pennsylvania. My lack of initial awe is probably due to the fact the house is now in a totally different environment. Like all good architects, Wright designed his homes with their natural surrounding in mind. And while Wright never actually visited the property where the house was originally located, he had seen numerous pictures and had met with the Gordons on a couple of different occasions. Another strike against the Gordon house is the sparse interior. Unlike Fallingwater, there is no original furniture, so you don’t get a sense of what it must have been like to live in the residence. But on the plus side, the restoration is pretty remarkable and one can still marvel at Wright’s quirky flourishes, like the fret board windows or the 15 degree angles everywhere. Like all Wright houses, the roof leaks, so no
surprises there. I would definitely recommended it as a day trip destination for Portlanders – tours are only about $5.00.

Orginal interior before move to Oregon Garden

(Original interior before move to Oregon Garden)

Just a couple of comments on the Oregon Garden seem in order as well. We didn’t have great weather, but I still enjoyed walking around and riding the cute little tram. Of course I got us lost a couple of times, but it’s a fun place to get lost in. Since the OG hasn’t been around for very long, it feels somewhat sparse and undeveloped. At times it felt like we were in a scene from Jurassic Park, wandering around a soon to be open theme park. We stayed at the newly built Moonstone Resort at the OG which was quite nice and inexpensive. I think our fairly large room was around $90.00 and included a pretty good breakfast at the lodge. That rate also included admission to the Garden, but not the Gordon House. Bookings should probably be done online to get that deal.

B-Love’s Architecture Week Article

Entry Filed under: Architecture

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. B Unit  |  November 8th, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    I’m apalled at those people who were just going to tear it down. Makes me want to scream!!

    I wonder if they’ll allow an exception to it being moved and place it on the NR anyway. Remember FLW stuff in Chicago?

  • 2. admin  |  November 17th, 2008 at 11:27 pm

    I don’t really remember much from our National Register nomination project back in Chicago. It was cold. I did a lot of walking. I spent some time in the Cook County Assessor’s Office making photocopies. That’s about it. Did that neighborhood ever make it on the register? When I worked in DC for the Park Service, I use to go to meetings w/ Carol Shull, Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places — that was a total trip after working on a nomination.

    People here in the West don’t have much use for historic properties. We’ve destroyed some great buildings recently here in PDX, like the St. Francis hotel, immortalized in Drug Store Cowboy, and the Rosefried apartments, immortalized by B-Love. It’s that bitch goddess progress we all lust after here on the left coast.

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