Pittock Mansion, Part 1

Dear Liza,

Approaching the Mansion

On Saturday, we drove back up into the West Hills above Portland, this time to visit the most famous house in the city, The Pittock Mansion. This finely handcrafted, but not overly grandiose house was built by Henry Pittock, the Editor and owner of the biggest newspaper in town, The Oregonian. Like Mr. Hearst, who built the Hearst Castle in California, Mr. Pittock made a lot of money publishing newspapers and then used that money to make more money.

Even though they were very rich, Mr. Pittock and his wife, Georgianna, had lived most of their lives in much simpler houses in downtown Portland. They had raised kids and adopted orphan nieces. Mrs. Pittock did a lot of work for charities and cultural development. But near the end of their lives, in 1915, they created the Mansion they are known for and moved up the hill, living in it for only four years before they passed away.

View of the House

Theirs was the first house this far up the hill. They had to build the roads, lay the pipes, and run the electric lines. It was an incredibly expensive undertaking.

We knew that by going in February, we would not be seeing the grounds at their blooming best, but that there would be lots to see, anyway. We were right. The road to the Mansion was winding and not very steep, because it had been designed for horses to pull carriages up.

View of the City

The house is built in the style of a French Chateau, and both the house and the gardens around it were designed to take advantage of views of the city, the views of the garden, and the natural light that is to be had above the low fog that sometimes hangs over the Willamette River below.

Mrs. Pittock was known in town for her Rose parties, and she is widely credited with working to advance the rose culture of the 1890s. Sadly, none of her original roses have survived, but the caretakers have planted hundreds of roses, lilacs, azaleas, rhododendrons, and other plants that we will enjoy when we return in summer.

I will tell you more about the inside of the house tomorrow!


Grandma Judy

Making the forest into a garden

Getting to Know 1903

Yes, it was a laundry!
They saved the facade… Now what?

Dear Liza,

Yesterday was very cold, but not rainy, so Grandpa Nelson and I went on an explore. I wanted to get to know a part of Portland called the Central East Portland Historical District, because that is where one of my main characters, Henry, is going to live.

When I hear the term Historical District, I usually think of quaint, narrow streets, old store fronts, and shops selling old-time sweets or antiques. If that’s what I was looking for, I would have been disappointed.

But I know Portland by now, and I know that even when something is labeled historic, it is still part of a bustling city and won’t be wrapped in bubble wrap and set aside. This Historic District is BUSY, because it is right near the Burnside Bridge over the Willamette river, where hundreds of cars and trucks rush by every minute. There are no horse drawn carriages or sarsaparilla shops.

The historic buildings in this area are from “history” that stretches from 1892 to 1938, and all of them are considered equally historic. They are in varying stages of repair, some totally gutted and waiting a new interior, others working pretty much as they have for over a hundred years. And they are interspersed with incredibly new, modern buildings.

I took pictures for my own reference, but with busy traffic, sometimes I chose not getting run over finding the perfect shot. But I managed to get the beginning of a sense of what life for a boy in this part of town might have been like.

From the upper floor of North Central School, he could have had a clear view across the Willamette to the west hills, as well as east to Mount Tabor, because none of the current buildings were there. He would have been mere blocks from sailing ships and  fields, dairy farms and deep ravines. The Laurelhurst and Ladd’s Addition neighborhoods weren’t built yet, so open spaces were the rule.

Today I will read more old Newspaper articles about this part of town, so I can know what was happening. I am trying to let the city tell me a story, so that I can add mine to it.


Grandma Judy

Logus Block, 1892

Happy Birthday, Auntie Katie!

Dear Liza,

Monday was celebrated as President’s Day here in Portland, so Auntie Katie and the cousins and I got together for her birthday brunch at Slappy Cakes, down on Belmont.

Slappy Cakes is, believe it or not, a Do It Yourself Pancake restaurant. Every table has a non-stick griddle in the middle, and you order different batters, fixings, and toppings, and get to play with your food and create your own!

It was great for me, because I always eat pancakes too fast and give myself a tummy ache…this way, you talk and create, which slows you down, and it’s really fun.

Before we got in, though, there was an hour wait. This is Portland, and brunch is big….really big. So we went for a walk around the neighborhood and looked for flowers that were beginning to bloom. we found the first dandelion, some heather, and a dogwood tree ready to pop. We also found fairy mountains, of course, because if you look, you always do.

This evening Katie, Jasper, Kestrel, and their friend Murray and his two little girls are coming over to have a birthday dinner. That should be a fun and noisy evening!


Grandma Judy

Happy Anniversary SideStreet Arts!

Dear Liza,

This weekend was the one year anniversary of the gallery that Auntie Bridgett shows her art in, and they threw a party! It was scheduled for last weekend, but postponed because of the predicted “Snowpocalypse” that never came.

It was a fine party, with cookies, sweets, drinks, guests, and games. The sweets were made by the artists. The drinks were wine, champagne, and a variety of mimosas.

The game was fun. There was a canvas that started pink, and everyone added a little bit….a lady in the style of Matisse, words, hearts, even a tiny dragon, which I added to.

We chatted with people, looked at really interesting art, and generally had a good time. Then we came home to rest, and get ready for Auntie Katie’s Birthday tomorrow!


Dear Liza,

You know how much I love making cookies. Well, cookies, bread, cakes… anything that I can play with that also comes out delicious, I love to do.

Yesterday Auntie Katie invited me over to make cookies with her and Kestrel. I walked to Hawthorne and caught the number 14 bus. I normally walk all the way, but I was feeling tired and knew that baking with kidlets can take a lot of energy. I was glad I did!

When I got there, there were two extra kids…very nice neighbors and sons of Alyssa, our real estate agent and dear friend of Auntie Katie. The boys played Chess and Codewords while we baked.

By some instinct, the boys knew exactly when to come into the kitchen….”May I have a cookie? Could you frost it for me? Could I frost it? Are there sprinkles?” Needless to say, they could, and there were. I frosted one and took it up to Auntie Katie, who had a business call, to make sure she got at least one!

Our whole adventure was overseen by Noodle, a tiny little stufftie. Kestrel likes to balance him on her head, or tuck him into tiny fairy places. But yesterday, he was watching us make cookies.

Always something going on up here!

Love, Grandma Judy

Valentine’s Day, Spring, and Rain

Grandpa Nelson, my Valentine for 47 years

Dear Liza,

Hello from rainy Portland! We are predicted to have about a week of above freezing temperatures , and then some more snow, before Spring arrives.

To pass the time, we celebrated Valentine’s Day with cards to each other, cookies for Grandpa Nelson, and beautiful art from Auntie Bridgett. We talked about how blessed we are to have found each other and to be together.

Then we walked (miraculously, there was a break in the rain) to Chez Machin, a tiny French restaurant and creperie down on Hawthorne. It seats about 25 and offers sweet and savory crepes, boeuf bourguingnon, and luscious desserts like mousse au chocolate. The service was fun and quick, the food and wine yummy, and the bill, very reasonable.

We ate and talked, about Brexit and the Beatles, Louise Bourgeois and High School, and enjoyed being in a charming place in the city we love.

This morning, it is raining again. Stay dry, sweetie!


Grandma Judy

Handy and dessert
Auntie Bridgett with antlers!

Off With Their Heads!

Dear Liza,

Yesterday I went for a walk to see Auntie Katie and drop of Valentine’s presents and cards to the cousins. On the way, I saw two people working in one of the rose gardens in Ladd’s Addition, and I stopped to ask questions.

These two lovely people were pruning the scraggly, winter-dead roses down to about two feet high, and raking up the leaves around the base of the plants. They didn’t give me their names, but said they are part of the “Off with their heads!” group.

This dramatically named group of volunteers usually meet on Saturday mornings between May and September, “deadheading” roses as the blooms fade. Deadheading means taking the spent roses off so the bush will continue to make more roses. It keeps the gardens beautiful for months.

When we moved to Portland, I thought I would be joining a group like this. I had imagined missing my garden and wanting to get out in the mud. But I have been so busy with my history research and story writing, I haven’t gotten around to it! It is good to know they are still there, and that I can go play anytime I want.

Further along in my walk, I stopped at Backstory Books and Yarn, and found two different wools that I want to use to knit Auntie Bridgett a cowl like I made for myself. Stephanie, the owner of the shop, showed me how to knit with two strands of yarn at the same time! It will take some practice, but I will persevere.

I hope you had a wonderful Valentine’s Day!


Grandma Judy