Thursday, February 27, 2020

HGB Ep. 329 - Pittock Mansion Museum

Moment in Oddity - Monte Ne Ruins
Suggested by: Krystal Vines

William "Coin" Harvey was a very wealthy man and well, a bit of an eccentric. In 1900, he left his life in politics to begin construction on a health resort on land he purchased in Rogers, Arkansas. He dubbed the spot Monte Ne meaning Mountain Water. Before long he had built three hotels, a tennis court and indoor swimming pool. Two of those hotels, Missouri Row and Oklahoma Row, were the largest log buildings in the world. He built a secondary railroad line to bring people into the resort. Rogers was apparently not a place most thought of as a place to visit a health resort and the project slipped further into debt. Then Harvey went all in on his eccentric thinking and declared that he believed that humanity had reached its pinnacle - yes, in the early 1900s - and that civilization was going to collapse. He wanted to save all of this knowledge in a time capsule to show future humans what society was like at its peak. He devised a giant obelisk to put all this information inside of and called in "The Pyramid." He started an amphitheater at the same time. And then the Stock Market crashed. These projects going on in unison and a huge loss of money caused Harvey to abandon Monte Ne. Later, the White River was dammed to form Beaver Lake and Monte Ne was in the path. This means most of what was left of it is now on the bottom of the lake. That includes foundations and the tower of one of the hotels. And when lake levels are low, it is easier to see the ruins and the amphitheater usually emerges. The fact that Beaver Lake holds the ruins of a health resort and an amphitheater that emerges, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - The Napier Earthquake

In the month of February, on the 3rd, in 1931, the Napier earthquake hits Hawke's Bay, New Zealand. New Zealand lies along the boundary between the Indo-Australian Plate and Pacific Plates and those plates sliding against each other at 10:47 am on that day in February, reached a catastrophic 7.8 magnitude. The initial earthquake only lasted two and half minutes, but leveled nearly all the buildings in Napier and Hastings. Thousands of people were injured with over 400 hospitalized and 256 people were killed. The earthquake even caused the local landscape to change, even shifting up the coastline. There were many aftershocks in the following with weeks with 597 being counted by the end of February. In the wake of the Napier Earthquake, inadequate building codes were changed, no really tall buildings were built in Hawke's Bay again and most everything was rebuilt in the Art Deco style of the time. That means Hawke's Bay architecture is one of the finest examples of Art Deco in the world.

Pittock Mansion Museum (Suggested by: Michele Vaughn)

Portland would start as a pioneer town in the state of Oregon and grow into an industrialized modern city. One of the early families to make a mark on the city were the Pittocks. They were one of the wealthiest families in Portland society and they would use some of that wealth to build their retirement in the form of a chateau up on a hill overlooking the city. Today, it is a museum and reputedly haunted. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Pittock Mansion!

The West Hills of Portland are also known as the Tualatin Mountains and they separate the Tualatin Basin from the Portland Basin. They were named after the Atfalati/Tualatin Kalapuya Tribe. The highest part of the range is Dixie Mountain and rises to 1,609 feet, so for a former resident of the Mile High City who hiked Fourteeners in Colorado, that's well, not exactly a mountain. One of the other peaks here is Pittock Hill and this is where the Pittock Mansion is located. Through this gap in the mountain range, supplies were brought via wagon to the ships in the port. I found something odd when I was researching these mountains. In a 2018 article, Yvonne Addington wrote, "The entire range doesn’t appear on any recent maps that I can find. They were partially shown on USGS maps over 50 years ago but not currently. The loss of identification of the entire Tualatin Mountain Range on state and federal maps is not a new problem. I made calls last year to U.S.G.S staff which confirmed their existence and said they can be put back on maps at their discretion but to date that hasn’t happened." That is so weird! This mountain range has disappeared from Oregon maps and weather reports. I guess this could be because they're more hills rather than mountains? When Henry Pittock arrives in Portland, it was little more than a muddy little town just getting started.

Henry Pittock was born in 1836 in London, England. His family relocated to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and that is where he grew up. His family owned a publishing company and he learned the ropes of the business starting as a young man. He set off west without a dime in his pocket and set his sights on Portland. He got there in 1853 and was only 17-years-old. His experience in printing got him a job with Thomas J. Dryer of Portland’s Weekly Oregonian. Of course, he didn't start out at the top. Let's just say, this was more like our modern day mailroom. He was mailing and delivering papers and working as a printer. And his pay was room and board, and when we say room, that's being generous. This was a space below the front counter. At least he had some blankets! His hard work paid off and he made his way to shop foreman. Apparently, the paper was not doing real well financially though. It couldn't afford to pay Pittock for this position, so he was made partner in the newspaper from 1854 to 1856. Thomas Dryer was heavily in debt with the paper, so he was probably relieved when President Lincoln appointed him to a position in his administration. By April of 1860, he had mortgaged the paper to Pittock and then transferred it completely to him in November. This is why Pittock is erroneously said to be the founder of The Oregonian. He didn't found it, but he owned it early and he would build it into what it would become.

That year, 1860, would be a great one for Pittock. Not only would he now own the newspaper, but he married Georgiana Burton who was twelve years his junior. Georgiana was the daughter of the man who owned the flour mill in town.  She was part of a pioneer family that had traveled from Missouri to Oregon in 1854. An interesting story from that trip is that Georgiana became lost and a Native American tribe found her and returned her to her family, but offered to buy her before they left. Not sure how true this is, but we wonder if the tribe figured the family didn't want her since she had become separated. She would found the Portland Rose Society that would eventually become the Portland Rose Festival. She was active in charities and her forming of a sewing society would eventually become the Women's Relief Society. And like so many active prominent women of her time, she was a suffragette.

Pittock had paid $300 for a plot of land in 1856 and this is where the couple would build their first home and have their children. They would build several homes on what became known as the Pittock Block. Their final home before the mansion was built, they lived in for fifty years. As the new head of the paper, Pittock decided that he wanted to take it in a different direction. He wanted to keep the politics out of the paper and keep the focus on actual news reporting. He wanted this reporting to be timely and he switched the Morning Oregonian to a six-day-a-week delivery. The way the paper was described was a paper that favored the Union, was “unflinchingly Republican” and that it would never purposefully injure an opponents’ feelings. Pittock had competition from two other papers, the Advertiser and the Times. Pittock worked hard to get advertisers and subscribers. The Civil War had broken out and he knew that he needed to get the latest news first.

Pittock came up with an amazing plan that would be costly, but very effective. The other two papers got their updates on the war via steamer, so Pittock looked to the Pony Express and stagecoaches for his updates. They would carry wire dispatches from the closest telegraph line. Pittock had such a good relationship with the telegraph operator that he got the scoop when President Lincoln was assassinated. The operator held back the information until The Oregonian published. Henry Pittock was driven and he would spare no expense to conquer the newspaper world in the Northwest. He pushed to get accounts current that the previous owner had allowed to become delinquent and he got subscribers to grow and grow, so that by 1880, 11,000 people were subscribed to the Oregonian, some of whom were far outside Portland. By the 1890s, the Oregonian was the most widely read paper in Oregon.

Pittock conquered other things as well. He was an avid adventurer and outdoorsman and was credited with being the first man to summit Mount Hood. He helped to found the Mazamas Climbing Club.  But there was also trouble. The editor for the Oregonian was Harvey W. Scott. Pittock had made promises to him about giving him interest in the paper, but Pittock actually gave it to another man because he needed an infusion of cash. This, of course, felt like a big betrayal to Scott. He would buy his own shares in the paper eventually, but the bitter feud between the men would continue between their two families for generations. Many times, Pittock had to mortgage his home to fund expenses for the paper. He eventually had to sell majority control of his publishing company, Oregonian Publishing Company to a group of other men. He and Georgiana had nine children, but only six made it into adulthood. The Depression of 1893 nearly bankrupted him. After mortgaging his home for a seventh time, he had to ask Thomas Corbett for a loan in order to hold onto his control of the paper. That was something he held onto with a vice grip, the paper. He wouldn't even give up control at his death.

Despite these money issues, Pittock did buy a lot of real estate in his lifetime and invested in lumber mills, paper mills, railroads, a bank and even a sheep ranch. These investments gave him enough wealth to build his dream home up in the West Hills in a spot overlooking the city on 46 acres. Construction on the Pittock Mansion began in 1909. Architect Edward T. Foulkes designed the mansion that would have twenty-two rooms and cover 16,000 square feet. The style is French-Renaissance and took until 1914 to be completed. An elevator was added late in the design after Georgiana had a stroke in 1913. The exterior is covered in Washington sandstone. The house is both architecturally amazing and had the upgraded technology of the day.

The interior had many unique trappings and a mix of styles from French renaissance, Edwardian, Jacobean and Turkish. There were the marble floors and oak-paneled cabinets that one would find in many elegant mansions of that time, but there was also foil lining the inside of the entryway's ceiling. Georgiana was very frugal, especially when she and Henry were first starting their lives and she had saved foil from old tea containers. The formal living room was designed with a curving outside wall of windows, which provided great views of the Cascade Mountain Range and Mount Hood. The grand staircase branches off to the right and left after hitting the center landing and is absolutely gorgeous, made from marble with a wood handrail and wrought iron balusters. This goes up three floors. There are twenty-three rooms including five large bedrooms, a sewing room, a music room, library, Turkish smoking room and a couple of sleeping porches. The house also was equipped with a dumbwaiter and modern luxuries like intercoms, indirect lighting, a central vacuum system and a walk-in refrigerator. There is a Steinway piano that Henry bought for his daughter here too. Fireplace mantels are carved wood and the ceilings feature shaped embellishments with several unique chandeliers.

There is an interesting shower in one of the rooms that is circular shaped and has semi-circular steel pipes circling the interior edge. There is a circular bathroom too with porcelain items like the sink and bathtub and that bathtub is rather small based on the picture we saw. It looks only big enough to sit in with your legs pulled up. In another picture, there is a dome shaped ceiling with gold accents and really neat designs with olive and red paint. Georgiana loved her roses and so, of course, she planted many on the grounds. The mansion has formal gardens all around it. The Gate Lodge is an Italianate-styled craftsman home built from concrete that sits next to what had been the original gated roadway leading to the mansion. This was the servant's quarters. This house was restored and decorated as it was in the 1930s and 1940s.

Georgiana died in 1918 and Henry followed her a year later after catching the flu. He asked to be brought to a window in the mansion, so that he could see his beloved Portland one last time. The mansion went into probate and his estate would be valued at $116 million in today's dollars. The paper went into a trust for 20 years and then was divided among his heirs, with two Pittock family members and one Scott family member overseeing everything. And as was the case with all newspapers, it eventually was sold to a bunch of newspaper chains over the years. The mansion stayed in the hands of the Pittock family and the Pittock grandson lived in the mansion until 1958. He tried to sell, but there were no takers and the house was heavily damaged in the Columbus Day Storm in 1962. The grand home was left abandoned after that. Right before it was going to be demolished in 1964, the City of Portland bought it with help from residents who raised $75,000 and after extensive renovations, it was reopened as a museum that you can visit today. In 2007, the Pittock Mansion Society took over operations. The house has appeared in several movies. The 1977 film "First Love" starring William Katt and Susan Dey, the 1982 slasher movie "Unhinged," the 1989 horror movie "The Haunting of Sarah Hardy" starring Morgan Fairchild and Sela Ward and the 1993 film "Body of Evidence." When one visits the museum, they can see items from the family and they might even experience their ghosts!

The mansion opened to visitors in 1965 and that is when reports about weird activity started. Both of the Pittocks and their groundskeeper died in the home. Some of the paranormal reports have included seeing windows shutting and latching on their own. There is also the sound of disembodied footsteps in the hallways. One of the really weird claims is that a portrait of Henry Pittock moves on its own around the house, but maybe not so weird considering that boots have been seen walking around without anybody being in them. Both guests and guides have seen apparitions in the house. Georgiana loved roses, of course, so the scent of roses is often smelled throughout the house. This usually occurs on the upper floors. Georgiana's apparition is seen in the garden as is the spirit of the former groundskeeper. One consistency in all the reports is that the ghosts are not malicious and love the home. One of the reasons why people believe that it is family members haunting the mansion.

We have heard stories from staff at many haunted locations having this same kind of experience when locking up whatever location it is they work at. You all know the drill at this point. They turn off all the lights, lock the door and head for their car. They get in the car and look up only to see every light in the location blazing. This happens at the Pittock to staff. One woman heard a picture fall off a wall while she was touring the house. She went to investigate and saw that a picture had indeed fallen off the wall. She watched as a woman wearing a long gown picked up the picture. The guest must have looked odd staring into this room because a guide came up behind her and asked if there was something the matter. She turned to the guide and said she was fine and just watching a woman pick up a picture that had fallen. The guide looked confused and when the guest turned back around, she saw that there was no woman in a dress in the room.

Henry and Georgiana Pittock didn't get to enjoy their beautiful home for long. Is that why their spirits might still be hanging around in the afterlife? Is Pittock Mansion haunted? That is for you to decide!

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