a.k.a. The Dekum
Architect: McCaw & Martin, 1892/renovation: MCA Architects (1987)
Building cost $300,000 to build, a sizable sum in its day. But that investment is still paying dividends, as it is still a very powerful Romanesque structure with great presence. And yet, within its strength are charming details like the Art Nouveau-derived floral terra-cotta friezes.
In an early nod to sustainability, this building was made from solely Oregonian materials. Cast-iron was the rage in the rest of the city, and the columns on the Dekum emulate the cast-iron fashion. Rough-cut sandstone makes up the first three stories; take note of its extraordinary design on the Third Avenue entranceway. The base of the building has both curved and flat entrances and openings.
The top five floors of the Dekum are red brick and unglazed terra-cotta with floral designs. The Richardsonian Romanesque features of the building shine through at the seventh-floor windows' arcade tops. If you look at the very top of the building, there are spaces in places in the parapet. These are known as machicolations; their original architectural usage was to allow the dropping of unfriendly items such as burning pitch, rocks, or a dead cat upon attackers below.
The alteration of the ground-floor piers took place during an exterior renovation after World War II. Celebrated ad agency Wieden + Kennedy maintained offices here in the 1990s before moving to new digs in the Pearl. During their stay, they opened up the Dekum's interior to the Hamilton Building.
Frank Dekum (1823-1894) came to Portland from Germany in 1853, and with Fred Bickel, opened a small confectionery shop, Portland's first. (The abundant leaves on the building are reminiscent of the confectioners' art.) As president of the German Song Bird Society, Dekum was instrumental in importing goldfinches, nightingales, and our beloved starlings to Portland. Very successful in finance and building, Dekum eventually lost his substantial banking investments in the financial panic of 1893, and he died a year later.Less Text