Friday, December 30, 2011

Loring Wood and the Log Portal of Sutherlin

I buy lots of postcards on the internet.  They provide a great source of graphics and with the new search sites, it’s pretty easy to pick up images that can guide restoration or rehabilitation projects.  Sometimes, oft-times actually, I find images of long-gone structures that pique my curiosity.  The amazing log gate at Oregon Woods Camp, near Sutherlin, would be in that category.

I picked this card up recently, which shows the 100’ long, 40’ tall log structure built from 32,000 logs taken from 464 trees, according to the sign.  Illuminated by colored lights, visitors were encouraged to “buy a postal” or picture “if interested in nature.”  Wow.  Roadside quirk at its finest, and right here in southern Oregon.  

The sign continues that the gate was built by Loring A. Wood, working alone, from a design that came to him in a dream.  A quick bit of research on Mr. Wood (I absolutely LOVE the internet), finds that he was born in Nebraska in 1891, served in the US Army during WWI, and after a stint in Idaho arrived in Oregon and set up a roadside camp, Oregon Woods Camp, with his wife Amy just south of Sutherlin.  The Arcadia book on Sutherlin, by Tricia Dias, describes Wood as a visionary.  “He had a series of five dreams, from their details he constructed his fabulous archway [and] it became the entrance to his Oregon Woods Camp, which was Oregon’s first motel.” (Dias, 2011:109).  Now, I don’t know if “first motel” is accurate, but clearly Mr. Woods had imagination.  In addition to the gate, he built log models of boats (Dias reports that these included the U.S.S. Constitution and the Mayflower), and toured them around the nation.  In May 1935, according to the Oregonian, Mr. Wood and the Constitution model, reported as being built from 18,000 pieces of wood,”  were on exhibit in Portland, in a “tent on SW Broadway and Columbia” but the city council shut it down as a fire hazard.

I have gone through all my collection of Oregon motels and roadside camps on the Pacific Highway and can’t find any mention of Wood or his Sutherlin campground.  Although Wood died in 1945 (and is buried at the Roseburg National Cemetery), I’ve yet to find his obituary or figure out what happened to fantastic creations in Sutherlin.  Clearly it doesn't survive.  Does anybody know?

As a side note, there is a gentleman named Loring Woods living in New Hampshire who operates a log home construction business, Log Restoration Worldwide LLC, that has a website called The American DREAM (  When I stumbled across this, between the name, the occupation and the dream bit, I was sure that there had to be some connection.  There wasn’t.  Mr. Wood, of Sutherlin, remains something of mystery.  I’d like to think that his log ship models, at least, survive somewhere.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Beautility- Beauty and Function Combined at BPA

“Beautility” is a word that appears to have been coined sometime in the 1950s, recognizing the productive marriage that was possible when things were both  attractive and functional.  I first came across the term doing work for the Bonneville Power Administration, BPA.  In the early 1960s BPA, having come to the realization that not everybody saw their transmission lines and substations as works of art, hired a noted Portland, Oregon architectural firm to help them come up with a better design model that would be, well, be-utiliful.  “Beautility" is what Stanton, Boles, Maguire and Church called their approach, published in that summer-blockbuster A Report on Appearance Planning for BPA, released in May 1966.  This is a sketch from that hard to find report.  I found mine at Powell's (and for just $5 too!)

BPA’s Beautility actually made waves in the electric utility world and there were numerous requests for the report during the late 1960s and early 1970s.  BPA took the advice to heart and looking at their control houses, and transmission lines, and substations, the educated eye can easily discern the impact the report had.  Today, as most of those 1960s-1970s era buildings near five decades of service, they are all potentially historic, despite their sometimes space-age design.  “Beautility,” like other works of so-called Mid-Century Modern design, is just now coming into its own.  I think some, like BPA's buildings at the Ceilio Converter Station, show below, already have.

Beautility isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, nor is it frequently what the average person conjures to mind as historic.  We’ll leave alone that electric transmission infrastructure isn’t what the average person often conjures to mind as historic either, other than to mention that you might try to imagine the Pacific Northwest (or anywhere) without it.  "Historic" and stunning architecture aren't synonyms and never were.

I am starting to work on a late Beautility period project for BPA…one clad in colorful panels that surely screams late 1960s.  While I am somewhat disappointed to learn that Stanton et al simply borrowed the term from somebody else, I am pleased to see the use of the word continues (though mostly for hair salons and grooming, according to Google.  Even Nike has a line of clothes under that term).  Still it seems there are few places where "Beautility" could be more appropriate than at BPA which is, after all, what most people consider to be a “Utility.”  One that during the 1960s made an effort toward beauty wherever it could.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Facades are Improving

Medford’s Façade Improvement Grant Program keeps moving forward and transforming downtown buildings one storefront after another.  These past few weeks I’ve been working on the eastern portion of the Hamlin Building, one of the oldest structures in downtown.  Built in 1888 it was originally a vernacular Italianate form, with exposed red brick, arched windows and central stairwell that divided the façade into two symmetrical bays.  

Fast forward to the 1930s, the second generation of the Hamlin family split the property after a legal dispute and the west half was modernized.  Not to be outdone the Miles family, the heirs that owned the eastern half, covered the old brick with a mixture of stucco and panels in the latest Art Moderne styling in the late 1930s, probably with the assistance of local architect Frank Chamberlain Clark.  Clark’s offices were on the second floor for many years.  

The east half of the building was again remodeled in the 1960s and 1980s and by early October was in need of some TLC.  The heavy metal awning, mounted on what turned out to be panels of Masonite loosely attached to the lower façade, was failing and threatening to collapse.  Once the awning was removed, the Masonite came down, exposing the series of remodelings, and even including a glimpse of the original brick exterior.
We’re working with the owners, a great-grandson of Mr. Hamlin himself, on a new façade treatment that will try to create a more unified, and durable, lower façade, while painting the upper to accentuate its fine detailing.  A new awning, and new signage, will help support the success of the current occupant, a restaurant, or any subsequent tenants.

The façade projects in Medford aren’t always strictly by-the-book preservation in the normal sense, but we certainly take the lessons of preservation and use them to create what are hopefully more attractive members of the streetscape.  The program has been incredibly successful, addressing more than 90 buildings in the past 8 years and winning the James C. Howland Gold Medal from the National League of Cities for excellence in “Urban Enrichment.”