bell tower current_Cite First Congregational Church

First Congregational Church


Repairs complete!

Restoration of the tracery panels at Versatile Wood Products workspace

Restoration of the tracery panels at Versatile Wood Products workspace

Tower bell and missing tracery panel (photo: Drew Nasto)

Tower bell and missing tracery panel (photo: Drew Nasto)

4_Image_Historic photo


  • Built: 1895
  • Architect: Henry J. Hefty
  • Designation: National Register of Historic Places

News and Updates

Summer 2015

SAVED! Thanks to an extraordinary fundraising campaign and contributions from a broad base of supporters, restoration of the historic bell tower is underway— work is expected to be completed in August

November 5, 2014

Listed as a Most Endangered Place by Restore Oregon


First Congregational Church was designed by local architect Henry Hefty and built between 1891 and 1895. Modeled after Boston’s Old South Church, the Venetian Gothic building has been a Portland landmark since the time of its construction. Furthermore, for six decades the 175-foot main tower stood as the tallest structure in Portland (the two side towers were dismantled in 1951). Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the building has undergone several significant rehabilitation projects dating back to the aftermath of the 1962 Columbus Day Storm. Although the building still functions as a church, it is home to a host of secular events and tours that occur year-round.

Why it’s Endangered

In the late 1990s, netting was installed along the tower to prevent debris from falling from the aging structure. While the netting contained most debris, the condition of the tower continued to deteriorate as the wood and metal structure was assaulted by wind, rain, and aging. In June 2014 a two-foot section of the tower fell to the street below. As a precautionary safety measure, the most deteriorated of the tower’s four decorative tracery panels was removed. If restoration funding cannot be secured, more of the tower will need to be removed out of concerns for public safety.

Near-term Goals

In February 2014 First Congregational Church formed a Capital Campaign Fundraising Committee to evaluate the feasibility of restoring the aging tower. The committee launched the “Restore a Portland Landmark” campaign in summer 2014. The campaign aims to raise $490,000 by April 2015 to repair wood framing, panels and grills, repair and replace sheet metal, tuck point and clean the exterior of the building, and repaint all exterior elements. With the assistance of several local foundations, fundraising has crossed the 50% mark. Donations can be made online to the “Restore a Portland Landmark” campaign.

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