By Donna Pizzi | Photos by Blackstone Edge Studios
The stately façade was already familiar to them when Judi Heise and her son Brent viewed the 1908 house on the recommendation of their real-estate agent. Set high atop a knoll in Portland Heights, the house commands unimpeded vistas of the Cascade Range and the city of Portland. Its grand portico, formal window bays, and fully developed neoclassical detailing were intact. Inside, it was a different story. The house was kindly described as “a fixer-upper.”
The Colonial Revival manse was designed and built by Clifton R. Lewthwaite for John and Clara Annand; Annand was a Portland City Council member and general manager of the Postal, Telegraph, and Cable Company. Following the death of subsequent owner Lee B. Loomis, a pioneer in the armored car industry who lived here from 1947 through 1949, the house suffered from a modernization.
“Former owners had contractors remove many of the architectural details,” recalls Brent, who discovered vestiges of a significant slash pile in the basement. The Art Deco makeover had dispensed with Povey Bros. stained-glass windows, a dramatic staircase, classical fireplace mantels, and the old kitchen. Starting in 1994 and for 10 long years, Judi and Brent worked to restore the house.
Judi acted as general contractor, Brent as site supervisor. The basement pile—a jigsaw puzzle of molding pieces, mantels, balusters, and newels—launched an exhaustive search. They tracked down owners of other Lewthwaite-designed houses, attended Webfooters postcard club meetings, haunted the Multnomah County Library, and deciphered architectural footprints revealed during restoration. Over the years, too, neighbors returned pieces they’d bought when the house was remodeled. The effort was huge. The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.
Work on the kitchen was postponed until 2004, after all the structural repairs were complete. “We didn’t want work in adjoining rooms to damage the plaster and tile we intended to restore in the kitchen,” Brent explains.
Designed as a hub with six different points of entry, the kitchen was shrouded in layers of 1950s linoleum on countertops and floors, alongside dilapidated aqua appliances. The Heises had to take the room down to the studs. In the process they found paint outlines on plaster walls that indicated where the original site-built cabinets had been, along with plumbing indicating the location of the sink in the maid’s pantry. They’d also recovered some trim that had been in the kitchen.
A ca. 1908 postcard of the west façade revealed the original placement of windows in the maid’s pantry and adjoining breakfast room, and suggested that a wall had been removed. The butler’s pantry retained original cabinets (albeit with 1950s louvered door fronts painted chartreuse). These became the model for replacement cabinets built by a master craftsman for the maid’s pantry. All have been finished in the orange shellac favored by Lewthwaite, the builder.
The family of former owner David Eccles confirmed the original location of the stove. Now filling the spot is a Le Chateau range and hood, the focal point of the room. The stove was made by La Cornue, a Paris company founded the same year this house was built. Brent designed the pretty bracketed shelf over the hood, which follows the lines of the coved ceiling that was uncovered during the restoration.
The historical subway tile was made by the English company Candy Tile; no longer in production, tiles were found stockpiled in various distributor locations. It is punctuated by nine antique Art Nouveau tiles from Bernadette Breu Antiques. The flooring is composed of traditional 1″ hexagonal tiles. A salvaged 5′-long American Standard porcelain-over-cast-iron sink on legs runs the length of the restored windows. Walls are painted to match original plaster fragments.
Brent Heise says that his mother’s reward was “creating such a homey place, after so many years of living in a construction zone.”
For Brent, the greatest gift from the restoration started in the dining room, with the discovery of a Venetian-style mural. He searched for a painting conservator and finally found Elzbieta Osiak, who’d trained at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. When her remarkable restoration was complete, she and Brent married.
Stove ‘Le Chateau’ by La Cornue
Subway tile by British company Candy Tile, no longer produced. In U.S., contact Tile Source Inc.
Hardware Rejuvenation and Hippo Hardware, Portland
German silver sink from Salvage One, Chicago
Antique tiles Bernadette Breu Antiques, Portland
Stained glass David Schlicker, Portland
Paint conservation Elzbieta Osiak-Heise, Portland