AKA: Oregonian Newspaper Building #2, Downtown, Portland, OR

Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - office buildings

Designers: Reid Brothers, Architects (firm); James William Reid (architect); Merritt Jonathan Reid (architect)

Dates: constructed 1891

13 stories

view all images ( of 1 shown)

601 SW Alder Street
Downtown, Portland, OR 97205

OpenStreetMap (new tab)
Google Map (new tab)
click to view google map
Google Streetview (new tab)
click to view google map

Merritt J. Reid (1855-1932), who maintained the Evansville, IN-branch of the Reid Brothers architectural firm, sold the Midwestern office c. 1890, and traveled West to assist his brother with the ample work in the firm's San Francisco, CA, and San Diego, CA, offices. Merritt supervised construction of the Oregonian Building, completed in 1891.

At 13 stories (133 feet) high, the Oregonian was the tallest building in the City of Portland at the time. It has the distinction of being the earliest steel-frame skyscraper on the West Coast; architects began to investigate steel for its capability to resist fire, as these calamities occurred very frequently in big cities during the late nineteenth century. Commercial buildings in central business districts were, like houses, built of wood, their frames vulnerable to industrial processes in which open flames and flammable materials were commonplace. In large part because of the perils of fire, the Reid Brothers became early experts in steel-frame technology, and erected the Call Building (1897) in San Francisco, CA, another newspaper tower, notable for being one of the few tall structures not to collapse in the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 04/18/1906. Newspapers routinely built tall towers, in part as a constant source of advertising, symbolically watching over their cities. Towered newspaper buildings, like the Oregonian Building, were boosterish American expressions of campanilisimo. The early Portland radio station, KGW, began its broadcasting operations from its studios on the 11th floor of the Oregonian Building on 03/25/1922; this was the same year that Oakland, CA, station KLX began broadcasting from the Oakland Tribune's tower. The building had many familiar features of the Richardsonian Romanesque Style, particularly the rusticated masonry on its lower floors, firmly creating a solid visual base. Arched windows were much in evidence, as was its tower, rounded by turrets on each of its four corners. In many ways--its blocky massing and tower, rusticated base, and emphatically stratified elevations--it strongly resembled Sullivan and Adler's widely publicized Auditorium Building in Chicago (1889), but on a smaller scale.

Demolished; it was torn down in the 1950s.

PCAD id: 5104