From 1914 to 1919, Portland pioneers Henry and Georgiana Pittock lived in the Pittock Mansion. Their lives and work paralleled the growth of Portland from a small Northwest town site to a thriving city with a quarter million people in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The Pittock Mansion, with its eclectic architectural design and richly decorated interior, including family artifacts, stands today as a living memorial to this family’s contributions to the growth of Portland and its people.
In 1853, English-born Henry Lewis Pittock rode a wagon train from Pennsylvania to Oregon, where, at the age of 19, and “barefoot and penniless,” he began working for Thomas Jefferson Dryer’s Weekly Oregonian newspaper. He married Georgiana Martin Burton of Missouri in 1860, when he was 26 years old. Georgiana and her parents had crossed the plains from Keokuk, Iowa to Oregon Territory six years before. Georgiana’s father, E.M. Burton, owned a flour mill and was a well-known building contractor in early Portland.
Together, Henry and Georgiana embarked on a 58-year journey of work, community service, and family devotion that would include six children and eighteen grandchildren. Henry Pittock, a consummate businessman, purchased the Weekly Oregonian in 1860 and transformed it into the daily paper we know today. He later built an empire that included real estate, banking, railroads, steamboats, sheep ranching, silver mining, and the pulp and paper industry.
Georgiana dedicated herself to bettering the lives of the women and children in the community. In 1867, she was a founding member of the Ladies Relief Society, whose Children’s Home provided care, food, and shelter for needy children. Georgiana also worked with the Woman’s Union and was instrumental in the construction of the Martha Washington Home for single, working women. The couple was well-known for their reserved demeanor, helpful demeanor, and love of the outdoors. Georgiana loved gardening and had a terraced flower garden at the mansion filled with every type of flower imaginable. She frequently decorated her home with cut flowers and is credited with starting Portland’s annual Rose Festival.
Henry was an active outdoorsman who rode horses in Rose Festival parades and was part of the first party to climb Mt. Hood, one of the spectacular peaks visible from the mansion. Someone suggested that the group sit down and rest on one of Henry’s climbing expeditions, to which Henry replied, “The man who sits down never reaches the top.” When Henry and Georgiana commissioned architect Edward Foulkes to design and build their new home overlooking Portland, the city they adored, they were at the pinnacle of their success.
In 1909, they began planning and designing their new home. The mansion was finished in 1914, with stunningly progressive features such as a central vacuum system, intercoms, and indirect lighting. Turkish, English, and French designs were also creatively incorporated into the house. In keeping with their commitment to their home state, the Pittocks used Northwest materials and hired Oregon craftsmen and artisans to build the house. The mansion, a three-car garage, a greenhouse, and the Italianate gate lodge servants’ residence were all part of the final estate, which was built on 46 acres of land nearly 1,000 feet above downtown Portland.
Henry and Georgiana moved to their new home at the ages of 80 and 68, respectively. The hardworking couple, who had lived in the heart of Portland as it grew from a forest clearing to a bustling business center, now lived high in the hills, with a stunning view of their beloved Portland. It was a welcoming and gracious home for both the family’s adults and children. Georgiana died in 1918, at the age of 72, and Henry died in 1919, at the age of 84. The Pittocks lived in the mansion until 1958, when Peter Gantenbein, a Pittock grandson who was born there, put the estate on the market.
The threat of demolition by land developers, as well as extensive damage caused by a storm in 1962, prompted concerned citizens to band together to raise funds to save the site. Seeing this popular support and agreeing that the house had tremendous value as a unique historic resource, the City of Portland paid $225,000 for the estate in 1964. It took fifteen months to restore. The mansion first opened to the public in 1965 and has since become a community landmark. The Pittock Mansion, a house of historical significance and visual magnificence, today provides us with a uniquely personal opportunity to peer into the past and study our world as it was – from the perspective of one Portland family.
Hilltop Home is Legacy of Early Newspaper Publisher Henry Pittock
The architecturally stunning historic home in Portland’s West Hills draws tourists for a taste of the lifestyle of one of Portland’s most prominent pioneer citizens.
Henry and Georgiana Pittock built their mansion on 46 acres of land overlooking the city near the end of their active lives at the forefront of Portland’s development into a major West Coast city. Completed in 1914, the mansion was designed and built by architect Edward Foulkes. It successfully fuses several styles and incorporates some of the era’s most progressive features including a shower that sprays from multiple directions, a central vacuum system, and intercoms.
The interior is richly ornate, with a curving staircase, wide windows, and many of the original period furnishings, including photos of the Pittock family.
Georgiana Pittock was an avid gardener and kept endless flowers blooming at the mansion. Today, beds are still abloom with flowers. There is no charge for strolling the grounds and taking in the expansive views of the city below and Mt. Hood in the distance.
Visitors are welcome to picnic on the lawn or stop at one of the garden benches to enjoy the scenery.
Oregonian Publisher & Business Entrepreneur
Henry Pittock was born in England and made the trip west by wagon train from Pennsylvania in 1853. Nineteen years old and penniless, he began work for the Weekly Oregonian, owned by Thomas Dryer. In 1860, Pittock took over ownership of the newspaper. Over the years he built it into the major daily that is familiar to Portlanders today.
Pittock’s business empire grew to include pulp and paper, real estate, banking, railroads, steamboats, ranching, and silver mining. His entrepreneurial adventures grew with the city, which changed from a small river town to a city of a quarter-million people by the time the Pittocks built their mansion.
Dedicated to Community Service
Like her husband, Georgiana Burton Pittock was an Oregon pioneer. As a child, she had come to Portland with her parents from Iowa. At age 15 she married Henry, beginning their long life together that would grow to a family of six children and 18 grandchildren.
Georgiana left a legacy of community service that is remembered even today. She helped initiate daycare for working mothers and housing for single working women and worked with the Woman’s Union. Drawing on her love of flowers and gardening, she is also credited with helping organize Portland’s signature summer event, the annual Rose Festival.
As an avid outdoorsman, Henry Pittock was part of the first documented party to climb Mt. Hood and was a member of the still-active Portland hiking club, The Mazamas.
Henry and Georgiana Pittock were known as being dedicated to family and their community. After their deaths, family members continued to live in the house until 1958 when it was put on the market. Citizens, concerned it would be demolished, called for its preservation. In 1964 the city purchased the home. It was restored and opened to the public in 1965.
In addition to the main house, there is a gate lodge where servants once lived and a gift shop.
The mansion stands 1,000 feet above downtown Portland at 3229 NW Pittock Drive. It can be reached by heading west on West Burnside Street, continuing uphill 1.2 miles past W. Burnside’s intersection with Northwest 23rd Avenue. A sign on the right-hand side marks the turnoff.
The home is open daily except in January when it is closed for the month. Winter hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. From July 1 to August 31, hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is closed on Christmas and Thanksgiving. Cost is $8 for adults, with senior and youth discounts. The phone number for the site is 503-823-3624.
Pittock Mansion, 3229 NW Pittock Drive, Portland, OR 97210.