The 137-year-old Morris Marks House will be getting some TLC within the next year. Owners Karen Karlsson and Rick Michaelson plan to give it a spanking-new design and list it on the National Register of Historic Places. That, however, may be the easy part.
The hard part? Moving the whole building across town.
Portland architect Warren Heywood Williams—who also built the Old Church and Temple Beth Israel—designed the charming two-story Italianate home in 1880 for local shoe merchant Morris Marks. It later was used as a rooming house, but as maintenance costs rose, the home was closed and boarded up. For the past 17 years, the house sat vacant on a prime piece of downtown property—on Southwest 11th between Jefferson and Main—as increasingly frenzied developers circled.
“For 20 years they have been trying to save this house and there have been several attempts to find a location to move it," says Karlsson, who says she and Michaelson were approached by advocates about the house. "At that point we got involved to find a location for it.”
Once they landed on a suitable site and secured an agreement from the city and Portland State University, workers cut the house into two pieces, disconnected it from the foundation, and towed it, every so slowly, through the Park Blocks. $444,000 and two days later, the house arrived at its new home at the intersection of Southwest Broadway Drive and Grant Street, currently owned by the Portland Water Bureau.
“We plan on building a foundation for it permanently," Karlsson says. "Fix it up and convert it to office space on the main floor and second floor, and the basement will likely be an apartment."