Conference & Events Planning

Parker House History

The Parker House, a 30-room, brick, Arts and Crafts home, was designed in 1929 by Morris H. Whitehouse.

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 noted by Elizabeth Usher Groff of 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 until her death at age 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 of the Parker House. 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 in the attic what appear to be Whitehouse’s plans for the home. 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 lawn and gardens, which swept downhill to the edge of the Eastmoreland Golf Course, have survived and serve as the foundation for current landscaping.