Five out of four Portlanders agree: coffee is a staple part of the modern diet. The city is known nationally for having a virtually never-ending supply of coffee shops to get a fix. All of these options can be a bit overwhelming, so leave it to Restore Oregon’s occasional series “Intern-Approved” to solve your indecisiveness.
Everyone loves to see historic buildings rehabilitated, but it can be especially exciting when historic houses are reused in creative ways. Beyond just architectural merit, historic houses are often places that embody the cultural, biographical, and social stories of past generations. Although unique and creative places like coffeehouse houses have helped make Portland a city people flock to, they have oftentimes enabled the preservation, use, and accessibility of some of Portland’s more storied historic buildings.
Here is a rundown of five historic Portland homes that house both coffee and history.
1) Pied Cow
Location: 3244 SE Belmont St
This venerable coffee shop is as eclectic as the fantastic Queen Anne that houses it. The shop offers more than just coffee, with indoor and outdoor seating from which you can enjoy a dessert and some of the city’s more, well, unique attributes. For those that are inclined towards the full experience, Persian hookahs can be smoked in the house’s side yard. And be sure to say “hello” to the house pug!
The building, the J.C. Havely house, was constructed in 1893 and is significant for its masterful execution of the Queen Anne style. The property consists of a front facing gable with an offset, two-story porch and a rectangular, three-story corner tower. Although towers are common features in this style, there are very few examples in the area and rectangular towers are quite rare. The house is also significant for its association with Ben Milligan and Jerry Bosco, who donated a conservation easement in 1987 to permanently protect this house. Restore Oregon visits the property every year to ensure the conditions of the easement are being met. So grab an espresso float (yes, you read that right) and admire this excellent Queen Anne style home.
Location: 707 SE 12th Ave
If “Keep Portland Weird” were a business, it would be Rimsky-Korsakoffee. Each table in this turn-of-the-century dessert coffeehouse is named after a famous late composer (a mannequin of one such composer adorns the upstairs bathroom). Hidden behind a Plaid Pantry parking lot, this coffee shop has been around for over 30 years and, between the quirky staff and unique ambience, it’s a must-visit for any adventurous Portlander.
The house itself is a Colonial Revival Craftsman built in 1904. The house has a full-width front porch with stone piers and turned columns supporting a hipped porch roof. Be sure to check out the historic flooring and great staircase that have been retained inside the house.
3) Fehrenbacher Hof
Location: 1225 SW 19th Ave
This coffee shop is cozy with an array of coffees and breakfast foods. In keeping with the historic house vibe, there is a menagerie of outdoor seating options that spread across the front lawn and porch. The house is nestled among many other historic homes around the same size and is adjacent to the Kings Hill Historic District.
According to City records, the home was built in 1932. However, because of its American Foursquare look and feel, it was likely built a few decades earlier. One theory is that the home was moved to this site in the 1930s to accommodate an auto shop that was built a block away.
The Fehrenbacher Hof is an offshoot of the locally-famous Goose Hollow Inn that has been located next door since 1967. The coffee shop itself has been around for the past 15 years and is owned and operated by the Clark family (Bud’s son Nick says “hi”). Many of the house’s original architectural elements—windows, doors, stairs, etc.—are still remaining.
4) Coffee Time
Location: 712 NW 21st Ave
For those looking for a late night cup in Northwest Portland, Coffee Time has been the place to get it for years. Located within the Alphabet Historic District, the coffeehouse has a great historic context and is unique in that it’s both a commercial and a residential property. Records about the property are limited, though it is known that the house was built in 1907 and the storefront addition was added in the 1950s. In addition to residents (yep, people still live upstairs), the building housed some pretty interesting businesses in its time. For over a decade, starting in 1970s, it housed a Christian science reading room. For a year in 1995, the business was “Crazy River, Inc” before becoming Coffee Time.
Even though Coffee Time is ~technically~ a commercial addition to a historic home, there is still much to appreciate about the building’s historic storyline even if the space is a bit more mid-century than your grandma’s Queen Anne.
Location: 1400 NW 23rd St
Located in a part of Northwest home to many converted houses, this coffee shop is in the upstairs of an 1893 Queen Anne house. Many of the historic details of the former residence are evident throughout the coffee shop, such as detailed casing, wall registers, and stained glass windows. The pocket doors are still intact and usable (they have great hardware, so give them a pull). The building has housed many different businesses since the last residents moved out, but Vivace has been located here since the early 2000s. Before, it was the Pettygrove House Restaurant and an antique shop.
Interestingly, the co-chair of the national Preservation Caucus is a part-owner of the 1893 house. The house has not been designated or surveyed as a historic resource, but retains integrity such that it contributes to look and feel of NW 23rd and the nearby Alphabet District. The coffee shop is most known for its array of crepes from savory to sweet—The Nutella and strawberry is a local favorite!
With summer in full swing (including the heat), why not enjoy an iced coffee and appreciate a historic home? All of these shops add their own flavor to the coffee scene but even if you’re more Folgers than hairbender, we bet you’ll be able to appreciate the historic houses that house these coffeehouses (say that five times fast).
Next time on Intern Approved: Historic House Bars