2. Knapp House
Justus Krumbein (attributed), 1882 // Northwest Portland (demolished)
OF THE MANY Victorian houses built during Portland’s first wave of growth in the late 19th century, few achieved the craftsmanship and invention of this one, built by Richard Knapp with a fortune earned selling farm tools. As architect and preservationist John Yeon wrote, “How a building of such high style was conjured up in a land so recently a wilderness will mystify every visitor … It is full of surprises, wit, and folly within a framework of serious grandeur.” The house’s cone-topped tower reached more than three stories high. A trio of chimneys made of brick, stone, and terra cotta pulled off the engineering feat of wrapping around windows. Inside, the house was pure cabinetry, every surface carved and paneled in ash, oak, and maple or covered in gold-embossed Japanese wallpaper and imitation leather. The baronial entrance hall led to 16 more rooms, the most impressive of which was a grand ballroom on the third floor. Yet, for all the house’s architectural achievement and beauty, the Archdiocese of Portland bought it and tore it down in the 1950s to offer more parking for St. Mary’s Cathedral. Portland Monthly’s jury strongly argued for its inclusion as the greatest of the many grand Portland homes lost to the city’s changing whims.