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Dedicated Preservation in Action: The Preservation Artisans Guild

Karla Pearlstein, a dedicated and passionate preservationist

Karla Pearlstein lives in a home that was built when Abraham Lincoln was president, and like all of Karla’s rescued houses, this building is as storied as the period items it’s furnished with.

In 1964, to save the house from demolition in the face of the new I-405 freeway through Portland, then-owner Margaret Powers had the Governor George Law Curry House moved to a property in Hillsdale, where it now sits.

In 2000, Karla Pearlstein bought this exceptional example of Italianate Victorian architecture and moved in to painstakingly restore it, top to bottom. Researching and tracking down period fixtures, draperies, furniture, and more. Hiring skilled craftspeople, fellow historians, architects, and designers to fabricate and recreate the rest.

As devoted to restoring a home to period as she is, Karla also understands that most people don’t want to live in a museum, and strives to incorporate the modern amenities that people want in their homes, while still achieving the look and feel of a chosen period as closely as possible.

The Curry House: 1851 Settlement-Era House

The Curry House is a shining example of Karla’s dedication to the art of historic restoration and
preservation, and it isn’t the only historical home Pearlstein has rescued in Oregon.

In the summer of 2017, Karla Pearlstein donated an easement for the Curry House to Restore Oregon’s historic conservation easement program – and then she donated two more protective easements on homes which had also undergone her meticulous restoration to period.

Inside the Curry House

Now protected under easement, the 1845 Delaney House in Salem is one of three of the oldest structures in the state of Oregon. When she learned the then-owners wanted to burn the building down to make way for a new home, Karla literally begged for a compromise. Invoking a rare clause that allowed an exception for homes on the National Register of Historic Places Karla purchased a small piece of the original land and moved the historic home to safety before diving in to restore it to period.

Delaney House in Salem

Also restored and protected under easement is a beautiful 1932 English Tudor cottage in Warrenton, Oregon called the Cherry House that Karla has been working on for nearly two decades.

All three of Karla’s easements protect fully the exteriors and the interiors of the historic buildings from future threats of demolition or other changes.

Why would one woman pour her time, energy, resources, and heart into preserving and restoring these “old” buildings? Karla Pearlstein believes that period homes and buildings should be preserved and restored because “Vintage structures are a form of living history, telling our cultural story, and as such they have a soul and belong not just to us, but to future generations…”

Cherry House in Warrenton

Karla is so dedicated to preservation that she will go so far as to knock on a homeowner’s door if she believes that educating the owners about the gem they’ve purchased will help keep a home intact.

It is this unwavering dedication to the philosophy of preservation in action that led Karla to create the Preservation Artisans Guild, an association of professional artisans committed to the highest standards in historical preservation and business practices. Guild members are skilled in a variety of traditional decorative arts and building crafts and offer services in a broad range of fields, from art conservation to building restoration and period inspired design.

After working with individuals and companies claiming to be experts in sensitive areas such as vintage building restoration or period furniture preservation, but who ended up creating more damage than repair, Karla Pearlstein knew she needed to curate a resource of true restoration professionals who are passionate about the preservation and conservation of period resources.

The Preservation Artisans Guild

The Preservation Artisans Guild was born in response to that crucial need to differentiate between those who simply claim to be “experts” in the preservation field from those who truly are.

Gwen Jones of Bolling & Company is a long-time member of PAG and currently serves on the non-profit’s board says, “I had heard of Karla for years before meeting her – she is legendary in preservation circles and has done an amazing amount of hand-to-hand combat, saving historic properties one-by-one. She is one of those individuals who has the impact of a small army.”

Perhaps no one utilizes the talent and skill found in this community of exceptional craftspeople more than Karla herself; tapping the Preservation Artisans Guild members for work on her numerous projects.

As the President of PAG and a benefactor to many local historical buildings and homes (including Portland’s famous Pittock Mansion) Karla Pearlstein is truly a heroine of the past, right here and now.

About the Author: Tess Strand

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