Real Estate

Property Watch: Adorable Apartment in a Historic Building on Belmont

The Belvedere in Sunnyside was part of a Spanish-influenced architecture trend a century ago.

By Melissa Dalton April 17, 2023

In 1904, a new form of housing started popping up around Portland: the apartment house. Built in anticipation of the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition in 1905, these multiunit buildings proliferated in the following decades. According to architecture researcher Ed Teague, there were four “apartment houses” listed in the city directory in 1904, as compared to 750 by 1930.

These buildings had more amenities than the boardinghouses that preceded them, like kitchen appliances and private bathrooms, and many were considered very modern and luxe. Built by a range of developers and architects, they came in a wide variety of architectural styles, from brick Tudor Revival to stucco-covered Spanish Colonial Revival.

Take this one: the Belvedere Apartments, now condos, on SE 29th Avenue and Belmont Street. In October 1926, the Oregonian noted that a permit had been pulled for its construction by local builder Hewitt Construction from plans by C. L. Goodrich, at a then-cost of $150,000. Completed the following year, the Belvedere reflects the mid-1920s “craze” for Spanish-inflected architecture; see the Hollywood Theatre for another example.

While not nearly as ornate as the Hollywood, the Belvedere exterior still has markers of its era, with a scored façade, at the street level, and a repeating arch motif, at both the courtyard entry and in several third-floor windows. The latter are surrounded by pared-down geometric details that neatly correspond with the gentle points of the roofline above.

The overall plan of the building is an H, with a central recessed entry accessed through a tiled courtyard behind an iron gate. (Such a plan allowed for windows and natural light on two walls for units located midblock.) Red clay tile, stained glass and wrought iron, and gold leaf on the lobby ceiling all speak to the building’s historic charms, while this particular unit for sale on the second floor balances the vintage with a few modern touches.  

These are primarily found in the kitchen, which has a compact, uberfunctional U layout, with rich navy cabinets, a butcher-block counter, and marble backsplash with eye-catching arabesque tile. Thanks to an interior window, there are handy sight lines between the kitchen and the apartment’s primary hall and front door.

Beside the kitchen, find an eating nook before a large window overlooking Belmont, and through a wide cased entry, the living room, also with windows on two sides because of that efficient courtyard layout. The bedroom is enclosed behind two sets of glass doors, and there’s a large bathroom down the hall, across from the in-unit washer and dryer.

In 1927, ads for available apartments in this building touted their modernity, with features like steam heat and Frigidaire appliances. But now we’re admiring the sweet historic details that have persevered, like the hardwood floors, arched doorways, cast-iron tub, and tray ceilings. Plus, for a 696-square-foot apartment built almost a hundred years ago, there’s a good amount of storage, including the hallway closets, bathroom built-ins, basement storage, and a deeded 20-foot garage.

Listing Fast Facts

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

Editor’s Note: Portland Monthly’s “Property Watch” column takes a weekly look at an interesting home in Portland’s real estate market (with periodic ventures to the burbs and points beyond, for good measure). Got a home you think would work for this column? Get in touch at [email protected].

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