Architect for a Golden Age
The Lipman Wolfe & Co. department store, shown here under construction, was one of Doyle’s favorite buildings. Completed in 1912, it featured a white-glazed terra cotta exterior, marble staircases, and elevators—securing serious bragging rights for the proprietors.
Unlike the Georgian Central Library, or the Gothic Reed College campus, some of Doyle’s most architecturally influential work is considered notable for its seeming independence from the architectural language of the past. Beginning in 1912, Doyle designed and built four vacation cottages on the Oregon Coast near the remote Neahkahnie Mountain for his family; Mary Frances Isom, head librarian for the Central Library; Anna Bell Crocker, the first curator of the Portland Art Museum; and Harry Wentz, an artist and Doyle’s best friend. Some consider these cottages to be the foundation of what is now known as the Northwest Regional style. The cottages, especially the Wentz cottage, have received much attention for their open floor plans and resemblance to typical Oregon outbuildings. The Wentz cottage in particular influenced Doyle’s successor Pietro Belluschi, a leader in the Modern school of architecture. Belluschi’s son owns the cabin today. The Multnomah County Library System now owns the Isom cottage, and librarians who win a staff lottery can vacation there.
Though Niles believes the cottages had a tremendous influence on Northwest Regional style, he does not think Doyle founded the movement. Instead, he wonders if Doyle looked to the history of his beloved English cottages from his trip to Europe. “The English cottages represented the history of the available materials around that place,” Niles says. “Local material and local craftsmen reflect a fascination for the past of English cottages”—not, as some suggest, an interest in “indigenous rural architecture of Oregon.”
Doyle died in 1928 from what was then known as Bright’s disease, a catch-all term for chronic kidney disease. He was 51 years old. Shortly after his death, Portland entered the Great Depression, and, never again experienced the growth it enjoyed during its golden age. By then, however, Doyle had transformed the city he cherished. There is a stone epitaph set in the south entrance of Eliot Hall that aptly describes him: “Lover and Creator of Beauty.”
History major Catherine Hinchliff is now feverishly working on her thesis on the House of Commons in early Stuart England.