Wouldn’t it be great if people lined up to see your house? If the demand to see it was so pitched that you could sell tickets?
Ya, that’d be great!
Well, it’s what the Pittock Mansion has going for it. On sunny days, the ticket office is busy, couples are wandering room to room, imagining living in this grand historic house. Families are picnicking on the grounds.
The house is 16,000 square feet on three levels perched atop a promontory with a staggering view of Mount Hood and the city of Portland below. Altogether 13 acres –some of it cultivated into beautiful gardens, the rest steep and forested. Around it is Pittock Park, another 30 acres.
The house has 11 bedrooms, 9 baths, and 9 fireplaces, all built in an ornate French renaissance style with heavy moldings, vaulted ceilings, curved walls and an interior dome so intricately painted that it resembles the detailing of a Faberge egg. A sweeping marble staircase is the house’s center piece.
For its time (1909), Pittock was the state of the art, with every bleeding edge technological advance available: Elevator, thermostat-controlled central heating, indirect electric lighting, refrigerator room (think walk-in refrigerator), central vacuum system, even an intercom of sorts.
And yet, when it came available to buy, no one would touch it. Home buyers stayed away in droves.
The situation was so dire that the house was slated for demolition in 1964, and only saved because the city bought it for the paltry sum of $225,000 and opened it for tours.
As it turns out, the house that draws thousands of visitors each year is not market-friendly. No modern buyer, no matter how monied, would buy it.
When you consider typical buyer trends, that makes absolute sense. After all, it’s dated!
The sash windows are original. Not energy efficient.
The entry, while grand, confronts a visitor with a staircase within a floor space of three feet, making the arrival of multiple people an inconvenient clot as arrivals decide which way to go: Take the staircase up or the one down, or venture left or right. While there is plenty of square footage on the main, it’s not a true split level, but the idea of an abbreviated foyer interrupted with decision-mandated staircases is, well, not a thing buyers like.
The use of gold leaf popular in the ’90s (not the 1890s, but the 1990s) has now fallen into disfavor and is even scorned now that oil-rubbed bronze and brushed nickel are fashionable.
In the basement, the heating is a radiator… on the ceiling. Ceiling heat!! Eek.
9 baths and none of them has a double-vanity. Not a single one. And where’s the counter space?
The shower has a deluge shower head – fantastic – but the stall is too narrow for, well, most of us.
There is no central color palette. Colors and wallpapers are different room to room. Even worse, nothing is neutral. Everything is spiked with color – vivid blues, greens and opera house reds. The cost of removing all that wallpaper would be Crazy.
There are 46 rooms. A modern buyer would fail to see the utility in having 46 rooms. After all, the current trend is to have as few walls as possible. Kitchen/dining room combination spaces are popular. All the rage: The greatroom, which eliminates formal dining rooms and the plethora of once-popular spaces like family rooms and rec rooms and pulls them all into One room with spaces that are defined only by furniture.
But the 1909 home buyer loved the idea of a room for every purpose – a sewing room, a music room, a sitting room, a library, a playroom. Most interesting: Pittock’s Turkish smoking room. Today’s buyer would be concerned that smoking had occurred in the room at all, which would mean new paint and potentially new flooring.
Of course, a house this old will need new fixtures, new plumbing, new electrical and heck, it looks like the baths need new grout!
All I can say is, the repair addendum would be a doozy!