Property Watch: A Regal French Renaissance Condo in Nob Hill
Editor’s Note: Welcome to Portland Monthly’s “Property Watch” column, where we take regular looks at interesting homes on the market in Portland’s super-competitive real estate market (with periodic ventures to the burbs and points beyond, for good measure). This week: an immaculate Nob Hill condo with a storied past. Got a home you think would work for this column? Get in touch at [email protected].
When it comes to Portland architecture, how often does the word “grand” get thrown around? And yet, that’s the first adjective used to describe the 705 Davis Street Apartments building (which sits in the 2100 block of NW Davis—705 was its address before the citywide Great Renumbering of the 1930s) when it was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. See: “When completed in 1913 at a cost of $175,000, the 705 Davis Street apartment building was the grandest structure of its kind in Portland.”
This might have been because the architects were from the firm Whitehouse & Foulihoux, which was responsible for Jefferson and Lincoln High Schools, as well as the Keller Auditorium, the latter in collaboration with a New York firm and looking completely different before a ’60s-era remodel.
Or maybe the glamour came from Julia C. Hoffman, an artist of many disciplines and founding member of the Arts and Crafts Society of Portland, which eventually became the Oregon College of Art and Craft. Hoffman both co-owned and was a longtime resident in the building. While she lived there, many of the other units were occupied by friends of hers and other artists.
Designed in the French Renaissance style, the building is nicely proportioned, and anchored with a base of cast concrete and cream glazed terra-cotta, both scored to look like stone blocks. This cedes into a brick veneer, on up to a terra-cotta frieze and cornice at the seventh floor, where Hoffman’s penthouse was located. Entry is through a manicured courtyard tucked behind a wrought iron gate, styled after an Austrian design from the 1860s.
What can’t be seen is how the interior walls were constructed with hollow core gypsum blocks—no structural wood or lathe—which makes for excellent, if unexpected, soundproofing. Inside, with its decorative motif of gold-leaf medallions and fleur-de-lis, the shared foyer hasn’t lost its glam. Just down the hall, Unit 101 is currently for sale.
Owned by an interior designer, the apartment is two stories spread over 1710 square feet, and one of six two-floor units in the building. It’s been fashionably updated, yet still holds tight to its classic good looks, starting with all the preserved woodwork. There’s the solid gumwood doors with cut-glass knobs, the oak floors now stained a rich espresso color, and the original mahogany window trim framing the living room’s oversize arched window in the Palladian style—one of only three in the building.
The ceilings on the main floor reach 11 feet high, and looking closely at the fireplace façade, notice the handcrafted tile imprinted with bird and nature motifs, made by Arts & Crafts–era artist Ernest Batchelder, a fitting embellishment for the arts-loving Hoffman.
The kitchen has been updated with new custom cabinetry painted a lovely light blue, in a glossy marine finish for durability, as well as quartz counters, subway tile, and built-in appliances. Through a service door, find a convenient office space with built-in shelving, grass cloth-covered walls, and a petite half-bath.
The mahogany-detailed staircase takes you upstairs to a landing with two side-by-side closets, and an en-suite at either end. In the main suite, there’s a sitting room with a second fireplace, plenty of storage, and a new bathroom with walk-in shower and double vanity. Down the hall, the smaller bedroom has its own classically styled bathroom with pedestal sink and more marble tile.
Per the Historic Register application, 705 Davis Street was considered quite the “fashionable Portland address” when it was built, and it’s safe to say that’s still the case, given its prime location in Nob Hill on a quiet street just steps away from NW 23rd Avenue.
Listing Fast Facts:
Address: 2141 NW Davis St #101
Size: 1710 square feet, 2 bed / 2.5 bath
List Date: 9/23/2021
List Price: $999,000, with $1231/month HOA dues
Listing Agents: Schafer Nelson and Suzann Baricevic Murphy, Where, Inc.
Melissa Dalton is a freelance writer who has focused on Pacific Northwest design and lifestyle since 2008. She is based in Portland, Oregon. Contact Dalton here.