The Workmen Temple: A Loss Which Should Have Been Avoided

Demolition of the Ancient Order of United Workmen Temple is well underway in downtown Portland today.

It did not need to happen.  Restore Oregon did as much as we could to stop it.  Though the preservation community and local government leaders objected in terms ranging from dismay to outrage, there is little recourse in Oregon when the owner of an undesignated historic building is determined to tear it down.

As reported in previous poststhis building is particularly significant – one of the last of its kind – and the office building that will replace it will not match the architectural significance and quality of materials inherent in the historic building.  What is particularly sad is the lost opportunity to convert the Workmen Temple into affordable housing, as non-profit developer Innovative Housing, Inc. has stated was feasible, even with the necessary seismic retrofitting.


How do we avoid demolitions of such magnificent buildings in the future?  These three things are on Restore Oregon’s advocacy agenda:

  • Repeal of the so-called “owner consent” law that prevents local communities and their governments from having a voice in the designation and protection of individual historic buildings.
  • Prohibit “demolition-by-neglect,” whereby an owner lets their property go to ruin so they can justify demolition under the guise that the building is beyond repair.
  • Pass a state tax credit for historic rehabilitation, providing a major financial incentive to restore and reuse buildings.  Such incentives work well in 35 other states, saving historic buildings and creating jobs.

Your support of Restore Oregon fuels our efforts to make these changes a reality so we don’t have to mourn the loss of more irreplaceable pieces of our heritage and community character. Please join or make donation today.

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