If you walked down the tree-lined streets of Portland’s Irvington neighborhood 100 years ago, there’s no way you wouldn’t notice the grand Pennsylvania Dutch style home that graces the corner of NE Siskiyou Street and 18th Avenue. The home was built in 1912 by Frederick E. Bowman for the prominent Portland attorney, Roscoe R. Giltner, and his bon vivant wife, Sophronia. The Giltners were a charitable socialite family who hosted lavish parties supporting local artists and the cultural scene of the day. The owner of the home today is carrying on the tradition of the home’s philanthropic past, but he has only been able to do so following the incredible restoration that he and his team were able to perform…
In recent years, the home had fallen into serious disrepair (below). Rusted pipes, a leaking roof, and rotten window sills had led to extensive water infiltration, which in turn led to rot throughout the house. As a result, the house had settled significantly, leaving drastically sloping floors on every level. Outdated electrical and heating systems meant that the home was not only a potential fire hazard, but also cost a small fortune to heat and cool. And finally, a poorly renovated kitchen from decades ago was in stark contrast to the rest of the home’s once grand interior. All of this would need to be addressed in order to keep this Portland landmark alive for the next 100 years and beyond.
Enter John McCulloch. A veteran of countless home restorations and the owner of his own design+build firm, McCulloch and his team took on the daunting task of not only restoring the home’s crumbling infrastructure, but also expanding and updating it for today’s modern family. The result is absolutely stunning as it seamlessly blends the old with the new, all while respecting the home’s original style and grandeur.
The living room (above, seen during a recent charitable event for the Portland Rose Festival that I attended) appears today much like it would have 100 years ago. Original Honduran mahogany woodwork and leaded glass windows flank either side of a new marble fireplace surround that replaces the original cracked and damaged tile. French doors in the far left corner lead to a lovely conservatory where lush tropical foliage surrounds a small fountain and natural light pours in through enormous original wrap-around windows.
Adjacent to the living room, more original woodwork surrounds the home’s elegant dining room (above left). Beveled leaded glass is found throughout the gorgeous built-in hutch and in the windows above it. A well-lit breakfast room (above, right) occupies the space where the original kitchen (below) once stood. That kitchen was tiny and would have been used
primarily by servants back in the day, so McCulloch chose to reclaim this space and build the new kitchen in an addition that would be added to the west side of the home. Aside from the large barrel-ceiling kitchen (below), the addition would include an amazing two story library – complete with an immense floor-to-ceiling fireplace, spiral staircase, and upper
mezzanine (more on that in a moment). The widened galley style kitchen (below) has a generously sized island with a white marble slab top. The counters that run the length of either side are topped with an amazing zebra-striped marble, and the custom bevel-cut tile backsplash was made out of the same material. An industrial range completes the room.
Through the kitchen, you get your first real glimpse of the library (above). The floor plan (below) depicts the original footprint of the home (in white) and the new addition that includes the kitchen and library (in yellow). While the addition nearly doubles the square footage of the first floor, you’d never know it wasn’t part of the home’s original design.
A small garage (below at far left, seen during construction) was razed in order make room for the addition, and a new larger carriage house which includes a guest suite/home office above it was built in the southwest corner of the lot. More on that below…
The library is a magnificent space. Its soaring ceilings, near-cubic proportions, and wrought iron-railed spiral staircase harken back to classic estate homes of the European country- side. Oak hardwood floors laid out in a herringbone pattern, a massive fireplace (below), and a single two-armed brass chandelier all compliment the simple elegance of the room.
Three French doors lead out from the library to a brick terrace where another fireplace and reflecting pool await. With its stone walls, beefy columns, and wide second-story dormer, the exterior of the library mimics the facade of the original house and blends in seamlessly.
Back inside, the wall of built-in cabinets in the master suite (below) was painstakingly rebuilt to the exact specifications of the originals. A new fireplace mantel and surround made of that same zebra-striped marble anchors the room’s east wall.
The door at the far corner of the master bedroom leads into a sleeping porch that has since been enclosed to allow for additional storage. The master bath (below left) is adorned with classic white marble counters and a basket-weave tile floor that’s surrounded by an Old World Roman pattern border. A huge glass-enclosed shower fills out the space.
The aforementioned carriage house (below) continues the familiar look of the main house and library with the use of stone, columns, and a wide shed dormer. There is storage for
two vehicles on the ground level, and McCulloch uses the spacious and finely appointed second floor of the carriage house (below) as a design studio and office for his company.
The icing on the cake of this exceptional home is the exterior’s wrought-iron fence (below), which is believed to have been salvaged from the old Oregon City Courthouse. The courthouse was built in the 1880′s and later demolished, but fortunately its iron fencing survived at a time when most available wrought iron was scrapped and then melted to help support the construction of ships, munitions, and weaponry for World War I.
The three distinct parts of the Giltner House (as it looks today, above) coalesce to present a formidable architectural statement to the street. At a time when many of our country’s treasured historic homes have decayed beyond repair, it’s refreshing to see one that has fallen into the hands of the right person who has the commitment and wherewithal to not only restore – but reconstitute – one of Portland’s timeless landmarks.
On behalf of everyone in the City of Portland, thank you John, for your tireless efforts in bringing the Giltner House back to life. You’ve done an incredible job and now we get to enjoy the fruits of your labor for generations to come!!
© The Craftsman Bungalow 2013