Downtown Portland is nowadays much in the news for contentious protests and ongoing violent clashes between far-right and left-wing political activists, which have proliferated in the city since the May 2020 murder of George Floyd. Portland’s downtown area, however, has also long (and less divisively) been known for interesting and charming vintage homes, many of which are in the Craftsman or Arts and Crafts style.
This 1909 home is known as the Christine Becker House and was designed by prominent Portland architect Emil Schact. Presumably Christine Becker, the original owner, dictated the home’s somewhat unusual style; it’s a Dutch Colonial on the outside, common on the East Coast but not so much on the West, but freely combines classical Colonial Revival and Arts and Crafts touches on the interior. An odd mashup for architectural purists, perhaps, but the house is nonetheless intact enough and important enough to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Listed at $2.45 million, with Karoline Ashley at RE/MAX, the house is a spacious but still reasonable and manageable size, with four bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms in about 4,900 square feet. One of the nice things about the property is the generous 100′ x 100′ plot size, which is rare in the city and large enough to comfortably add a detached ADU. Also, good quality materials were used to build the house and they look mostly intact. In front are four massive columns framing the entrance, which looks almost Arts and Crafts, yet the foyer features lots of fluted Ionic pilasters, which have zip to do with Craftsman style. More flamboyant pilasters and a dentil molding frame the living room fireplace, which is tiled in the more organic Craftsman style.
The dining room, though, is wholly Arts and Crafts, paneled in South American mahogany, with a beamed ceiling, plate rail, and built-in cabinetry enhanced by art glass. More of the art glass cabinetry frames in the study, off which is a classical pergola with vase-shaped balusters and the same Tuscan-style columns that line the front porch.
The kitchen, which appears enlarged from its original size, maintains a vintage vibe but is entirely up-to-date with attractive blue cabinets and a mix of stone and butcher block countertops. Upstairs are four bedrooms that open off a wide hall, and there is a second-story balcony as well. One of the bathrooms in an en-suite bedroom is redone in a decidedly contemporary manner but, thankfully, another of the en-suite bathrooms looks original. Originally used for storage and fuel for the steam heat boiler, the basement is now a studio apartment with a full bathroom and a separate entrance. The self-contained unit easily serves as an in-law suite, teen hangout, or Airbnb.
The home’s namesake, a wealthy widow of a milliner who invested in real estate, was a rather dashing figure, driving among her various properties in a Buick touring car. She paid $7,500 for the lot in 1908 and hired Emil Schacht and Son to design her residence, which cost $14,060 to build, including the garage for her big ol’ Buick. The original residents of the house were herself, her son, daughter, and son-in-law.
The children sold the house in 1923, after Mrs. Becker’s death, and the current owners purchased the property in 1989 for just $165,000. While we’re sure Mrs. Becker’s eyes would have popped at that price, her reaction to the current ask, in the wake of a real estate boom, can only be imagined.