A Revealing Restoration

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The Daily Journal of Commerce had an intriguing cover story yesterday about the Witherspoon Building, a 123 year old downtown building on the Portland Historic Resource Inventory that is being renovated to serve as the headquarters for Parliment, an advertising and brand design firm.

The building has a fascinating history, including stints as a brothel, a speakeasy, and a  secret entrance to the Shanghai tunnels that were used to whisk unsuspecting sailors into a new life of press-ganged labor.

The article shines a light on the challenges of bringing such a historic structure up to current seismic standards, explaining:

“Hands down, the biggest challenge is the structural seismic upgrades that (need) to be done,” said LSW’s Esther Cho Liu, the project’s architect. “The building is quite old, so nothing is really lining up anywhere … It was actually pretty crazy. Not one of the walls on the exterior lined up all the way … All the existing floors, especially the second floor … it’s just a mess.”

Fortunately, Chris Erickson, Parliment’s owner, has a vision for how to make the most of this messy situation… and it comes with a cool project for Versatile Wood Products.

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As you can see in this image, the main floor facade of the building was entirely bricked over at some point in the building’s past. Erickson, in collaboration with LSW Architects and R&H Construction, plans to strip away the brick and restore the full original storefront facade. They have commissioned custom historic reproduction storefront windows and a huge 8 ft entry door to be installed into the newly revealed original facade.

Witherspoon elevation

A Uniquely Versatile Solution

The architect’s goals for the storefront were to maximize daylight and open up the views in the ground floor space while ensuring the long term durability of the windows and doors installed in the space.

The original specs for the windows included installing separate manufactured windows side by side to create a bank of storefront-style windows. Versatile was able to design a single custom window with 4 large panes that will accomplish the same goal but will keep the mullions to a minimum between the panes of glass in order to maximize the natural light. This solution will be applied to all four banks of windows in the current storefront plan. Versatile will also provide a large custom entry door and two smaller side entrances to the project.

Careful selection of tight grain CVG fir, properly painted and pre-treated with benite will ensure the long term durability of the product.

Versatile’s expertise with turn-of-the-century architecture will ensure that every detail of the window’s design and construction will be in keeping with the original architectural style of this historic building.

How would 19th century craftsmen have constructed these windows?

Most likely, the original windows were site glazed in place. The Versatile solution mimics this look while providing a much easier installation for R&H Construction.

How will windows this large get to the site?

This is where R&H will reap the benefits of working with a local custom shop.

To transport these 17 ft long windows to the site, Versatile will build an outrigger frame on the delivery truck for safe transport to the site. This is feasible because of the relatively short distance the windows have to travel. An out of state manufacturer would have had a devil of a time finding a safe transport solution for such large pieces.

We look forward to seeing this beautiful building restored to its original look and we can’t wait to show you how the finished project looks!

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