Structure Type: built works - exhibition buildings - exposition buildings

Designers: Whidden and Lewis, Architects (firm); Albert Ernest Doyle (architect); Ion Lee Lewis (architect); William Marcy Whidden (architect)

Dates: constructed 1904-1905, demolished 1964

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NW 28th Avenue and NW Upshur Street
Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition, Portland, OR 97210

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Building History

Organizers of the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition boasted that the Forestry Building was the world's largest log cabin, measuring 206 feet long, 102 feet wide and 72 feet high (approximately 7 stories). Its construction was said to have cost approximately $30,000. The lumber baron Simon Benson (1851-1942) paid for most of the giant logs that conprised the building, selected from old-growth trees in Columbia County, OR.

Architect Ion Lewis (1853-1933), of the noted Portland architectural firm of Whidden and Lewis, designed the Forestry Building for the massive log cabin. Architectural historian Henry Matthews, in his biography of the architect Kirtland K. Cutter said of the Forestry Building: "The Forestry Building at the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition of 1905 in Portland, Oregon, designed by Ion Lewis of Whidden and Lewis and his young assistant Albert E. Doyle, offered another precedent for rustic architecture on a grand scale. This building, described as the 'world's largest log cabin' or the 'Parthenon of Oregon' had an interior 'nave' of unpeeled logs forty-eight feet high. This veritable cathedral of giant trees was by far the most popular attraction of the exposition and confirmed the public taste for such architecture." (See Henry C. Matthews, Kirtland Cutter: Architect in the Land of Promise, [Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1998], p. 230.)

Building Notes

The interior of the Forestry Building featured colonnades of 54 massive, unpeeled Douglas Fir logs. The logs supports a 2-story center aisle, cruciform in plan, lit by skylights. The building housed an exhibit highlighting the forestry industry, local flora and fauna and Native American photos and artifacts.

A plan on one sheet attributed to Ion Lewis has been housed at the Davies Family Research Library, Oregon Historical Society, 1200 SW Park Avenue, Portland, OR. See Mss. 3110. According to the ArchivesWest database: "Collection includes: 1 drawing on 1 sheet of the Forestry Building forthe Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition in Portland, Oregon, scale:1/8" : 1', 1904-1905. The Lewis and Clark Exposition was held in 1905and the Forestry Building was one of the buildings erected for the fair." (See, "Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition Forestry Building plans, 1904-1905," accessed 07/31/2018.)


The Lewis and Clark Exposition's Forestry Building lasted until 1964, when it burned in a huge fire on the night of 08/17/1964. The web site Offbeat Oregon said of the fire: "It turned out that the fire had been started by some bad vintage-1905 electrical wiring. Had it broken out an hour earlier, the caretaker might have seen it in time to raise the alarm and possibly save the building. But that’s not what happened." (See Finn J.D. John, Offbeat Oregon, "Oregon lost world's biggest log cabin in spectacular 1964 fire," published 06/17/2012, accessed 07/31/2018.)

PCAD id: 13170