Great Estates: Pittock Mansion in Portland, Oregon

Editorial Staff Furniture & Decorative Arts

Pittock Mansion, a French Renaissance revival style house situated 1,000 feet above downtown Portland, Oregon, was built between 1909 and1914 for newspaper owner Henry Lewis Pittock and his philanthropist wife, Georgina Martin Burton Pittock.  The 16,000- square-foot mansion, located on over forty-six acres of parkland, features forty-four period rooms that incorporate original furnishings into a restored interior.  Visitors to Pittock Mansion encounter a pastiche that encapsulates both the story of a prominent Portland family and the history of the city they helped to build.

Henry Pittock was born in London in 1834, but as a child his family moved to Pittsburgh. After studying at the University of Western Pennsylvania, he traversed the Oregon Trail and arrived in Portland in 1853.  Two months later he secured a post as a typesetter at the weekly Oregonian newspaper.  In 1860 Pittock married fifteen-year-old Georgiana, herself a pioneer hailing from Missouri, and in the same year gained ownership of The Oregonian.  During the next sixty-five years, Henry transformed the publication into a leading news daily while simultaneously investing in real estate, banking, sheep ranching, gold and silver mining, shipping, and the pulp and paper industry.

Thirty-nine years into their marriage, the Pittocks hired local architect Edward T. Foulkes (1874-1967) to design for them a grand estate suitable for their eight children and eighteen grandchildren.  A graduate of Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and L’École des Beaux-Arts, Foulkes had designed a number of commercial and public buildings, but the Pittock house was among his first residential commissions.

A highlight of the interiors is the “of-the-moment” Turkish smoking room with an intricately decorated domed plaster ceiling, and walls that retain their original green, blue, silver and gold Tiffany glaze. They show no signs that the room was used for smoking.  The French oval salon-style music room has richly ornamented plaster moldings and a carved limestone chimneypiece mantel. The current wallpaper replicates the room’s original faux leather wallcoverings.  Here the 1887 Steinway piano is a Pittock family heirloom, while the period harp was a gift to the mansion. In the kitchen the original flooring has been replaced with a reproduction rubber floor that is composed of 8,000 fitted jigsaw puzzle-shaped pieces.  In their day, the Pittock grandchildren were permitted to roller-skate through the California marble hallways.

Included in Foulkes’s design for the mansion were several modern features: a central vacuum system, an intercom, a walk-in refrigerator, central heating, an elevator, and a dumbwaiter.  Interior window boxes were plumbed so that excess water could be incorporated into the house’s plumbing system.  Most of the lighting fixtures were designed by Frederick C. Baker, a young artisan who went on to become one of the foremost lighting designers in Oregon.

Georgiana, a founder of the Portland Rose Festival, made flowers a prominent feature in the gardens of her mountaintop home, where the landscape architect C.C. Colburn included a wide variety of roses, as well as flowering cherry, purple magnolia, azaleas, daphne, andromeda, viburnum, and honeysuckle.  Pittock, an avid outdoorsman, forged trails throughout the estate that can still be explored today.

Pittock Mansion was purchased by the city of Portland in 1964. It is located at 3229 NW Pittock Drive in Portland, Oregon.  The mansion is open daily (11 am to 4 pm; July and August 10 am to 4 pm) except on major holidays.  Admission: $7 adults, $6 seniors, $4 children ages 6 through 18. For more information, call (503) 823-3623 or visit