Commissioning a custom house a century ago is similar to today. The landowners could work closely with an architect to create a residence that supported their wishes.
If the partnership was successful, the architect would showcase the project in a portfolio and the owners would live happily ever after in a home designed, constructed and finished to cater to their taste and needs.
Before 1926, Caroline and Louise Flanders, the unmarried daughters of one of Portland’s most influential early settlers, ship captain George H. Flanders, lived in their late parents’ massive residence. The 1882 Italianate mansion occupied a double corner lot alongside the family’s namesake Northwest Flanders Street in Nob Hill.
The sisters, however, who traveled by steamship to Europe and then on to Egypt, preferred a British approach to architecture and landscaping.
They wanted to live in a smaller, English Arts and Crafts-influenced two-story with few exterior adornments. Inside, they preferred unpainted wood that recognized the artistry of building and large windows to frame the view.
They commissioned prominent architect Jamieson Kirkwood Parker, whom the sisters called “Jamie,” and signed a contract that in more than 42 pages outlined the scope of the work, from excavating their newly purchased half-acre site in Portland Heights to terrace railings.
The Flanders then lived in their home at 2421 S.W. Arden Road, a private sanctuary not visible from the street and surrounded by an English garden, for decades.
The historic house has 6,150 square feet of living space, original oak floors, leaded glass windows and architectural pieces rescued from Captain Flanders’ Nob Hill mansion.
Former ship captains George H. Flanders and brother-in-law Captain John Heard Couch sailed the Willamette River to arrive in 1849 in the young city of Portland. Both men invested in the city’s future and left an indelible legacy.
Among the Flanders family’s vast holdings were acres of beachfront land where the sisters and their relatives had vacation homes.
The sisters insisted the new state park retain the historic name “Ecola,” used in 1806 by members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition based on the Chinookan word for “whale.”
The land donation “helped form the framework of the modern state park system,” according to historians whose research successfully earned the Caroline W. and M. Louise Flanders House acknowledgement on the National Register of Historic Places.
In the Portland Heights area, there are 14 houses designed by Parker, but experts with Oregon’s State Historic Preservation Office deemed the Flanders sisters’ residence to be “one of the architect’s finest endeavors executed in the enduring English country house manner where the Arts and Crafts Tudor has been adapted to American customs and materials.”
The well-preserved house has many original features as well as architectural keepsakes the sisters saved from their parents’ Victorian-era mansion before it was torn down.
Open the front door of the sisters’ house and walk through the entry straight to the library. Installed here are book cabinets and a marquetry-paneled chimneypiece from Captain Flanders’ mansion. Parker matched mahogany, birds-eye maple, rosewood and fir in the relocated pieces to finishes in the sisters’ home.
To the right of the entry are pocket doors to the dining room and to the left are lookalike pocket doors to the living room. The fireplace with a tile hearth and light yellowish-red brick front is crowned by a mantel, its face carved to represent grape clusters and vines.
Updates include a chef’s kitchen, expansive exercise room, third-floor studio and two home offices.
Green Gables Design and Restoration in Portland oversaw the renovation, says listing agent Menefee, “and their attention to detail is evident throughout, from the kitchen and mudroom to the cupboards, closets, nooks and crannies throughout the house.”
The primary suite on the upper floor has a fireplace, hardwood floors and walk-in closets. There are three more bedrooms, three more full bathrooms and a powder room.
In 2000, the old garage was replaced with a two-story structure designed by Duncan McRoberts of Kirkland, Washington, who is known for his expertise in classical architecture.
The new garage has carriage doors on the lower level and a finished second story that can be used as a work-from-home space, artist’s studio or guest quarters, says Menefee.
Connecting the carriage house’s upper-level terrace to the garden is an Alaskan yellow cedar bridge fashioned after one in the Portland Japanese Garden.
The property also has a tea house-like meditation space and a playhouse elevated and supported by a tree in the backyard.
“This could be the ideal home for someone who wants a home in Portland’s West Hills with an expansive yard, the loveliest garden plus a custom treehouse,” says Menefee.
— Janet Eastman | 503-294-4072
More on the Portland and Oregon real estate market:
• 1908 Colonial Revival house in Portland Heights where Eleanor Roosevelt stayed is for sale at $2.7 million
• Midcentury modern Rummer-built home sells for $1.2 million, $205,000 over asking price
• Prohibition-era Portland Tudor Revival house with a speakeasy is for sale at $1.3 million
• Homework to homebuilding: Eastern Oregon high school students sell eighth ‘Street of Dreams’ style house
• 1894 Queen Anne house, restored and upgraded with concealed modern luxuries in NE Portland, sells for $799,000
• Big house, low price: More bang for your buck by the square footage?
• Rebuilt West Hills fixer-upper with ‘defund the police’ and graffiti on crumbling walls is for sale at $2 million
• Architect Richard Campbell’s 1966 modern chalet in SW Portland is for sale at $1,465,000
• Modernist architect Neutra’s rare, restored Oregon house is for sale at $3,750,000