Build well & give back

February 2, 2010

There are not many places in Portland where you can observe and admire a true relic. Things in this city are mostly new, or at least of the 20th century. That is one of the reasons why I love to travel  – to see old stuff.

In Boston, you can walk The Commons and see a cemetery where two signers of The Declaration of Independence are laid to rest. In Charleston, you can view the slave markets where thousands upon thousands of slaves were imported and traded during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade of the 15th through the early 19th centuries. To get anything older than that, you really gotta cross the pond. Standing underneath an Gothic arch in Assisi or climbing the stairs of Brunelleschi’s Duomo in Florence, gives a perspective and sense of time that are truly humbling.

But in Portland, we just don’t have all that much old stuff. That’s why I’m happy to recognize, admire, and respect it when I run across something of note. This week I have re-discovered such a relic – The William S. Ladd Carriage House, circa 1883. I say re-discovered, because I went to college just a couple of blocks from this building and walked by it umpteen times. Back then, I admired it’s Victorian detailing and wondered about it’s significance. Today, I admire it’s newly renovated state and notice it’s prominent setting on one of Portland’s central city blocks.

The Carriage House sits at the corner of SW Broadway and Columbia, just five feet NW of it’s original foundation. The house underwent a two-year rehabilitation that finished in May ’09. Thanks to the united efforts and determination of preservationists, community members, and building developers, the house was spared from demolition and given a long overdue face lift. It now sits, juxtaposed to a beautiful 23-story glass and steel condo tower bearing the name of the original Carriage House owner, The Ladd.

The Carriage House is the last surviving legacy of a true Portland pioneer. William S. Ladd built well and gave so much back to his town & community. Over the decades, this building has housed horses, cars, artists, and architects. And while it may never again serve as a stable, it will shine on in the shadows of one of Portland’s newest city dwellings.

I think William would approve.

Check out this time-lapsed video of the Carriage House journey down Columbia Street.

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