An Early 1900s Mansion with Modern Amenities

Portland’s Pittock Mansion was built in 1914 by Henry Pittock, owner and publisher of The Oregonian newspaper, and his wife Georgiana.

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The architect’s drawings are on display.
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The central staircase shown in the architect’s drawing.

Henry was given the newspaper as a gift because he worked there, as a typesetter, for no wages, only room and board.  The newspaper’s previous owner wanted out of the media business, and he was impressed by Henry’s hard work, so he gave him The Oregonian. At the helm, Henry made it very successful. Today, it is the largest news organization in the Pacific Northwest.

Stock photo Pittock Mansion
The Pittock Mansion is 16,000 square feet. An extended family of ten lived there, with a staff of four.

The mansion sits in a forest above Portland. Henry and his daughters were avid hikers and constructed trails on the property. Georgiana, however, was not so keen on moving from a nice Portland neighborhood to this more remote location. To persuade her, Henry hired a chauffeur to drive Georgiana to town whatever she wanted. Sometimes, the chauffeur drove Georgiana’s friends to the mansion, and the ladies enjoyed sewing together in her sewing room.  Georgiana was the founder and fundraiser for many charities and cultural organizations in Portland. She was very active in women’s causes. Henry also promised her an elevator.

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Elevator

Henry knew he would have to sweeten the pot for servants, too. By 1914, keeping female servants was a problem. Women were being hired to work in offices, shops and factories, and because they worked in the city, they could enjoy their leisure time there.

With a central vacuum system–the envy of most of us today–the servants had only to carry the hose and nozzle from room to room.

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A vacuum cleaner did not have to be lugged around the house. At right, a hole for a vacuum hose, and at left, its on/off switch.

 

It was important to keep a good cook happy. The spacious kitchen had a rubber floor that was easy on the legs and feet. It also had a window with a spectacular view.

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6082370 - view of portland, oregon from pittock mansion.

The home was built with central heating, a new invention, with not just one thermostat, but many.

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The refrigerator was an entire room. Look at the thick, heavy door. They grew their own vegetables.

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Some rooms and the hall were built with indirect lighting.

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The ceiling in the room below is silver leaf.

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For himself, Henry built a shower with all the bells and whistles.

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Henry’s shower.

The Pittock Mansion, now owned by the City of Portland, is open to the public, and you can picnic in front of the view.

 

 

 

6 thoughts on “An Early 1900s Mansion with Modern Amenities”

  1. Wow! I would love to tour this house (I’d also like to live in it!) I notice that Henry’s shower is similar to what today they call a rain shower. I didn’t know they had those back then. I really thought that all those modern conveniences were invented much later. For example, I thought the idea of a central vacuum system was really modern. I’d love to have one of those. I hate vacuuming!

    1. Yes, Brigid. The shower head looked just like a modern rain one. The horizontal tubes have needle-spray along their length. There is a “bidet fountain” on the floor of the shower; I could not fit it in the photo. Two waist-high shower heads “promoted good health by massaging the liver and kidneys.” There’s a separate faucet to test the temperature with your toe. Henry was an outdoorsman but he liked a luxurious shower.

      I thought central vacuum systems were new today. I’m with you. I would sure like one.

  2. You certainly have the “show – don’t tell” rule displayed here – beautiful photos and a few simple words of explanation. And Henry sounds like a husband who knows how to keep a happy spouse.

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