The Parker House
The Parker House, a 30-room, brick, Arts and Crafts home, was designed in 1929 by Morris H. Whitehouse, whose other surviving works include the federal courthouse at S.W. Sixth and Main, the Columbia Gorge Hotel, the University Club, and the Multnomah Athletic Club. Mary Evans Parker chose the site on an expansive lot (since subdivided) across from Reed College as a good place to raise her three children. Whitehouse “created a house with many of the elements common to the Arts and Crafts style, “ William Hawkins wrote in Classic Houses of Portland, Oregon, 1850-1950 (Timber Press). “His roof is steeply pitched and central hipped, with a hipped front extension. The upper roof of this extension descends via a catslide over the entrance portal. As with many of the Arts and Crafts houses, a ﬁne decoratively carved lintel spans the opening. All the woodwork is darkly stained, making for a strong contrast with the warm tones of the brick. Massive brick chimneys are located toward the back of the house on the north side. The original gardens were designed by landscape architect Florence Holmes Gehrke, and many original trees and shrubs survive today.” Other features, Elizabeth Usher Groff noted in the Sellwood Bee, are the “signature Whitehouse spiral with ornate wrought iron designs, beautifully carved wood reliefs, and a grand front entrance [making the house] a classic and significant Southeast Portland addition to Whitehouse’s legacy.”
Mary Evans left her native Kansas for Oregon in 1900 and in 1914 married Cyrus Jury Parker, a Missourian who had come to Portland in 1903 with $2.50 and enough drive to become a nationally prominent contractor. Parker and T. H. Banﬁeld, who met as employees of the Stokes-Zeller contracting firm in Portland, founded the Iron Fireman Manufacturing Company and the Portland Wire and Iron Works, later Portland Wire and Steel. Cyrus Parker died in a plane crash while he was on a business trip in Ohio in 1927. Widowed with three young children, Mrs. Parker carved out her own extraordinary story, taking an active role in her husband’s enterprises. She assumed the presidency of Portland Wire and Steel, a position she held at her death at 75 in 1962. She was active in community and church affairs and her philanthropy financed construction of the Parker Memorial Chapel at the downtown YMCA. Her family grown, she sold the house in Eastmoreland in the 1950s and purchased a home in Southwest Portland. There were several subsequent owners. After the last one moved out at the turn of the 21st century, the home remained vacant with no buyer in prospect until Reed College stepped in late in 2004, with the building and property betraying signs of deterioration.
General contractors Reimers and Jolivette tried to retain as much period architecture as feasible in what preservationists call “adaptive reuse.” They uncovered the original stone mantel after removing 1960s wood trim and found what appear to be Whitehouse’s plans for the home in the attic. Air conditioning, a modern kitchen, and elevator were added to increase comfort and public access. Some of Florence Holmes Gerke’s original plantings for the original lawn and gardens, which swept downhill to the edge of the Eastmoreland Golf Course, have survived and served as the foundation for current landscaping. The Parker House has three guest rooms for overnight accommodations, for guests such as out-of-town lecturers and members of visiting academic committees, and has multiple meeting spaces for campus-related meetings and events.
The house is well suited for sit-down dinners for 16, and the patio and yard provide ample space for outdoor receptions. Attendees at most events will walk from the campus; those who drive will be asked to park in Reed’s west lot on S.E. 28th Avenue with shuttle service available as required. We look forward to embracing the grand history of the Parker House and sharing its legacy with the Reed College community.