Wilson High School (Portland, oregon)

Wilson High School (Portland, oregon)
LC Subject
Architecture, American Architecture--United States
Woodrow Wilson High School (Portland, Oregon)
Edmundson & Kochendoerfer Edmundson, Donald W. Kochendoerfer, Neil R. Hoffman, W. Burns
Creator Display
Edmundson & Kochendoerfer (architecture firm, 1953-1962) W. Burns Hoffman (builder/contractor) Neil Ray Kochendoerfer (architect, 1911-1995)
This image is included in Building Oregon: Architecture of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest, a digital collection which provides documentation about the architectural heritage of the Pacific Northwest.
Oregon Historic Site Form. Prepared by Iris Eschen.
University of Oregon Libraries
Style Period
International Style (modern European architecture style)
Work Type
architecture (object genre) built works views (visual works) exterior views public schools (buildings)
Portland >> Washington County Multnomah County >> Oregon >> West >> United States Oregon >> West >> United States United States
Street Address
1151 Southwest Vermont Street
1954 1960
Educational Use Permitted
Building Oregon
Primary Set
Building Oregon
University of Oregon
PPS Historic Building Assessment 2009
Oregon Historic Site Form Wilson High School, 1151 Vermont St, Portland, Multnomah County block nbr: lot nbr: tax lot nbr: township: range: section: 1/ 4: LOCATION AND PROPERTY NAME elig. evaluation: eligible/ significant primary orig use: School secondary orig use: primary style: International secondary style: primary siding: Concrete: Other/ Undefined secondary siding: Standard Brick plan type: School ( General) Portland historic name: Wilson High School primary constr date: 1954 secondary date: 1960 height (# stories): 3 total # ineligible resources: 0 ( optional-- use for major addns) current/ other names: Woodrow Wilson High School ( c.) ( c.) orig use comments: prim style comments: sec style comments: location descr: assoc addresses: vcnty address: ( remote sites) siding comments: PROPERTY CHARACTERISTICS farmstead/ cluster name: zip: total # eligible resources: 1 apprx. addrs resource type: Building NR status: RLS survey date: 6/ 26/ 2009 external site #: 126 ( ID# used in city/ agency database) survey project name or other grouping name comments/ notes: HRI Rank II. ILS survey date: 6/ 26/ 2009 Gen File date: SHPO INFO FOR THIS PROPERTY NR date listed: GROUPINGS / ASSOCIATIONS Optional Information 1151 SW Vermont St Multnomah County ( former addresses, intersections, etc.) architect: Edmundson & Kochendoerfer builder: Hoffman, W. Burns NR date listed: ( indiv listed only; see Grouping for hist dist) 106 Project( s) PPS Historic Building Assessment 2009 Survey & Inventory Project West elevation Printed on: 10/ 14/ 2009 Page 1 of 4 Oregon Historic Site Form Wilson High School 1151 Vermont St Portland, Multnomah County ARCHITECTURAL / PROPERTY DESCRIPTION ( Include expanded description of the building/ property, setting, significant landscape features, outbuildings, and alterations) HISTORY ( Chronological, descriptive history of the property from its construction through at least the historic period [ preferably to the present]) Description Summary Woodrow Wilson High School is located 1151 SW Vermont Street in the Hillsdale Neighborhood of southwest Portland. The 26 acre campus includes the original high school building ( 1953, 126A). The two story, International Style school building is a U- shaped finger plan with the gymnasium, auditorium, and music wing all differentiated from the main classroom sections of the school by different massing, building materials, heights, and overall shapes. The classroom sections of the building were constructed of “ lifted” concrete slabs and the auditorium, gymnasium, and music wing were constructed using the more conventional tilt slab concrete. Most of the main classrooms lie behind a glazed curtain wall and the second floor library is cantilevered over the first floor. Architectural Description Wilson High School is situated in the Hillsdale neighborhood of southwest Portland. The campus occupies an expansive 26 acre rectangular shaped parcel that is positioned between SW Vermont Street to the south, SW Capitol Highway and SW Burlingame Avenue to the north, Mary Rieke School to the west, and a residential development to the east. Development in the surrounding area consists primarily of single family residences built between 1950 and 1990 ( www. portlandmaps. com). Playing fields as well as a football field and track are located to the west of the high school. A fence- enclosed outdoor pool is also situated to the west of the gymnasium. The pool is owned by Portland Parks and Recreation. The finger plan school's main entrance is situated on the west elevation. The school is approached via a parking lot located just off SW Vermont Street. Additional surface parking is situated to the east and north sides of the school. Two types of exterior sheathing are present on the school. Most classroom spaces feature a curtain wall composed of three part plate glass windows with an opaque panel below. The bottom plate is typically a functional hopper window. The remaining sections of the school – the auditorium, gymnasium, and music rooms are sheathed with face bricks laid in an all stretcher bond. The main entrance to the school overlooks broad athletic fields that sprawl to the west of the school. The topography descends from the school down to these facilities. The main entrance, consisting of two sets of double doors, is recessed into the building and sheltered by classrooms above that are supported by two columns. The west elevation also features a one story extension that houses administrative offices located immediately beside the main entry. This elevation also exhibits a cantilevered bay on the second floor which creates additional space for the library. The gymnasium also projects from this side of the high school. It is largely unfenestrated. The main classroom “ fingers” extend to the east forming a grassy courtyard with a central concrete planting bed. Due to changes in the site’s topography, these two sections of the school rise three stories. The music wing projects northward from the south finger and is differentiated from the other classrooms by its lack of windows, its projected volume, and by a series of round columns that support it. Between the two fingers is a one story projection that houses the school cafeteria. The exterior of the cafeteria is entirely glazed with plate glass windows. The south side of the high school is dominated by the auditorium. A curtain wall of windows projects from the south side of the auditorium, but this component of the building is otherwise unfenestrated. The function of this section of the school is communicated by its angular- shaped walls and double- height volume. The interior double- loaded corridors of the school form a U- shaped plan with the special function spaces such as the auditorium, gymnasium, administration wing, and music rooms extending outwards from the main corridor. The locker- lined corridors feature 12” by 12” tile floors with the main corridor exhibiting exposed brick walls. Several classrooms also feature exposed brick walls. The classrooms and corridors are illuminated by tubular fluorescent lighting and classrooms are generally square shaped and exhibit acoustic ceiling tiles. The stairs feature polished metal stairs with closed strings and curved metal balusters. Alterations/ Integrity Wilson High School has not been extensively modified and retains much of its original historical integrity. The lone addition to the building consisted of a classroom addition to the north finger in 1960. The addition is barely discernable as it used similar materials and construction methods. A slender brick wall, visible on the interior and exterior of the building represents the former extent of the original finger. Its exterior face is now left exposed in the classrooms. Classrooms have been extended or re- fitted to reflect changes in instructional priorities but these modifications are minor and do not diminish the building’s most important character- defining features. The school therefore retains its integrity of design, association, location, setting, materials, feeling, and workmanship. Printed on: 10/ 14/ 2009 Page 2 of 4 Oregon Historic Site Form Wilson High School 1151 Vermont St Portland, Multnomah County RESEARCH INFORMATION Significance Statement In 1945, the citizens of Portland approved a ballot measure that provided $ 5,000,000 over five years to construct, improve, and rehabilitate its public school buildings ( Portland Public Schools 1945: 2). The ballot measure enabled PPS to respond to the explosive growth in school- age children that had occurred in the city as a result of the arrival of defense plant workers and their families, as well as the deferred maintenance arising from the lack of funds during the depression ( Portland Public Schools 1945: 2- 3). Beginning with this initial bond measure, PPS embarked on an effort to improve its school facilities through renovations, additions, and new construction of over fifty schools between 1945 and 1970. For the new building program, PPS adopted the call of architects and school planners across the country for new types of schools. Nationally known architects including Richard Neutra, the Walter Gropius led Architects Collective, and the Perkins Will architectural firm promoted new school types that reflected both evolving educational practices and design philosophies ( Ogata 2008: 567- 568; Perkins and Cocking 1949: 238- 246). Emphasizing the need for economy and rapid construction, the designers adopted new materials that were standardized and mass produced including steel, plywood, glass block, and aluminum. In many buildings, architects achieved flexibility through the building’s structure by employing non- load- bearing partitions walls and zoned ventilation and heating systems. Folding walls and moveable cabinets provided additional flexibility intended to enable teachers to rearrange rooms based on lesson plan and activities ( Ogata 2008: 568). Although many of the architects for schools in Portland continued to design their schools to be extensible, designers turned away from the two- story schools with centralized massing and the period revivals that were popular in the 1920s. Instead many architects adopted the principles of the Modern movement and its regional variant, the Northwest Regional style, choosing to express functional areas through massing and materials to create innovative forms ( McMath 1974: 628). Classrooms featured extensive built- ins that included sinks, slots for bulky rolls of paper, and coat storage. Many buildings incorporated interior courtyards which facilitated access to the outdoors and expanded the opportunities for passive ventilation and daylighting. In the aftermath of World War II, residential development in southwest Portland boomed as new, more suburban neighborhoods sprung up on the periphery of Portland’s city limits. In 1949, PPS acquired the former Fulton Park Dairy property in the Hillsdale neighborhood for $ 63,927.32 just north of SW Vermont for the new Wilson High School as well as an elementary school that would occupy another lot further to the west ( Mary Rieke Elementary) ( Oregonian 4- 12- 1953; PPS Chronology Binder). Due to the rapid increase in high school age students, PPS needed to act quickly as it retained architects Edmundson and Kochendoerfer to develop an architectural and structural design that would meet the needs of the district. A native of Oregon, Donald Edmundson graduated from Salem High School before attending North Pacific Evangelistic School and classes at the University of Oregon Extension School. In the mid- 1920s Edmundson gained experience in the office of Houghtaling & Dougan, the architects of Washington High School. During World War II he worked for the Vancouver Housing Authority. From 1943- 1953 Edmundson worked independently until he formed a partnership with Neil R. Kochendoerfer. The firm added Evan Kennedy, as engineer to the partnership Edmundson, Kochendoerfer & Kennedy in 1962. Edmundson is listed as the sole architect of Clinton Kelly School, Columbia School, and an addition to Cleveland High School. With Neil Kochendoerfer he designed Wilson High School. During Kennedy’s tenure, the firm designed the gymnasium addition for Cleveland High School. Other important projects designed by the firm were Morgan’s Alley and O’Bryant Park in Portland and hospitals in the Dalles, Hood River, and Pendleton, Oregon ( Ritz 2003: 122). For Wilson High School, the architectural firm of Edmundson and Kochendoerfer and builder W. Burns Hoffman employed the first use of lift- slab construction in the Northwest region. Pioneered in Texas, this form of construction was rapidly gaining popularity in California and around the U. S. The economical means of building eliminated the need for extensive formwork by instead pouring each slab on the ground and lifting them, beginning with top floor, into place. The use of the steel frame to support the concrete slabs of the roof and floors enabled the architects to approach the exterior as a curtain wall. In addition to extensive glazing, the school featured porcelain glazed steel panels hung between the steel supporting columns ( Oregon Journal 01- 01- 1956). Wilson remains one of the only post- war high schools that exhibit a near complete curtain wall composed of glass as well as a cantilevered second floor space. The unique design and construction of the school, which cost $ 3.237 million dollars, drew structural engineers, “ building men, and school architects from many parts of the country” ( Oregon Journal 01- 01- 1956). The school design was also published in the Architectural Record in 1953 ( Architectural Record 1953: 48- 3). Like many of Portland’s elementary schools erected during the period, the new Wilson High School featured a finger plan that effectively decentralized and segregated classroom instruction from other school functions housed in the gymnasium, auditorium, music rooms, as well as the cafeteria. The architects also changed building materials from glass to brick, varied building heights, and designed different patterns of massing to communicate the different functions of the building. Other noteworthy details offered by the “ Architectural Record”, aside from the lift- slab techniques, included the coordination of planning the school with a nearby park as well as the gymnasium roof construction which, through design efficiencies featured exterior walls that were ten feet lower due to the “ use of two carrying trusses with long- span joists on each side” and the use of “ penthouse construction around the trusses” ( Architectural Record. 1953: 48- 3). The most significant alteration to the high school occurred in 1960 with the two story classroom addition that occurred on the north finger of the school. The addition is not readily identifiable on the exterior due to the use of nearly identical building materials and methods. Given the high level of integrity and the school’s unique method of construction, Wilson High School is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places ( NRHP). As a resource eligible under NRHP Criterion A, the school is associated with the post- war suburban expansion of Portland’s neighborhoods and the simultaneous need for larger educational facilities to accommodate the increased numbers of high school age students. The school is also eligible under Criterion C as an excellent example of how post- war schools utilized new structural forms to erect larger, more complex schools. The school also reflects the design mastery of Edmundson and Kochendoerfer and the ability of builder W. Burns Hoffman to implement new forms of construction. Printed on: 10/ 14/ 2009 Page 3 of 4 Oregon Historic Site Form Wilson High School 1151 Vermont St Portland, Multnomah County Title Records Sanborn Maps Obituaries City Directories Census Records Biographical Sources Newspapers Building Permits Property Tax Records SHPO Files State Archives State Library Local Histories Interviews Historic Photographs Local Library: Multnomah County Library University Library: Portland State University Library Historical Society: Oregon Historical Society Other Repository: PPS Archives Bibliography: Bibliography Architectural Record. Woodrow Wilson High School. August 1953. McMath, George. “ A Regional Style Comes to the City.” In Space, Style and Structure: Buildings in Northwest America. Ed. Thomas Vaughan, 467- 499. Portland: Oregon Historical Society, 1974. Ogata, Amy F. “ Building for Learning in Postwar American Elementary Schools.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Vol. 67, no. 4, December 2008: 562- 591. Oregon Journal. “ School of ‘ Firsts’: Portland’s Woodrow Wilson High School Built with New Structural Techniques.” 1- 1- 1956. Perkins, Lawrence B and Walter D. Cocking. Schools. New York: Reinhold Publishing Corporation, 1949. Portland Public Schools. Repairing, Rehabilitating and Modernizing the School Plant. Portland: Portland Public Schools. Office of the Superintendent, 1945. _______. School Chronology Binder. Ritz, Richard. E. Architects of Oregon. A Biographical Dictionary of Architects Deceased – 19th and 20th Centuries. Portland: Lair Hill Publishing, 2003. ( Check all of the basic sources consulted and cite specific important sources) Printed on: 10/ 14/ 2009 Page 4 of 4 West elevation Entry West elevation South elevation East elevation Wilson High School Exterior Photos ENTRIX 2009 Entry hall Shop area Auditorium entry Music room Cafeteria Wilson High School Interior Photos ENTRIX 2009 Wilson High School 1151 SW Vermont St, Portland OR, 97219 Building Periods 1. Main Building ( 126A), 1954 SW Chestnut Dr 1950s photograph of Wilson High School looking northeast. Architectural model of Wilson High School, 1954 1 SW Vermont St SW 11th Dr View Site in Google Maps 0’ 50’ 100’ 200’ 400’ N Historical Significance and Building Integrity Contributing High Significance Contributing Moderate Signif. Non- Contributing Aerial photo © 2009 Metro, Portland OR Imagery Date: July 12, 2007 sandy Blvd Lombard st powell Blvd 82nd ave MLK jr b lvd