For over 20 years, Washington High School stood vacant and deteriorating. Built in 1925, it’s graced by classical detailing and fantastic lion heads on the parapet made from glazed terracotta.
The Buckman neighborhood was eager to see Washington High returned to active use and Art DeMuro (a Restore Oregon board member) was determined to figure out how to make it happen, though time-after-time, the numbers refused to pencil out.
When Art suddenly passed away in September 2012, the project was put in jeopardy. But Craig Kelly had promised Art that he’d get Washington High School done, and he keeps his promises. Thanks to Craig and his partnership with Pacific Realty Associates, the building is now beautifully restored as retail and creative office space, with an events and performance venue in the renovated school auditorium.
This project faced more than its share of challenges. Primary among them, schools are really hard to repurpose. The building is 116,000 square feet but only 83,000 square feet are rentable. A few changes had to be made that ran afoul of the historic tax credit bureaucrats, but they’ve been universally embraced by everyone else, and its hard to find a more respectful example of preservation anywhere.
During the project, the doors, windows, trim, terracotta, lockers, and other original building items were reused, replaced in kind, or salvaged. The building was retrofitted with new systems, and amenities were added such as an interior bike parking with showers, and a roof-top deck.
Remaining at the heart of the building, and adding economic benefit to the district, is the refurbished school auditorium now run by Mississippi Studios as Revolution Hall.
During the renovation, many people contacted Venerable to share their memories. Numerous artifacts from former students found their way into the third floor trophy case where they continue to tell the story of Washington High.
For overcoming every conceivable financial hurdle known to preservation; retaining the historic fabric of the school right down to the lockers and blackboards; employing extraordinary craftsmanship; enriching the neighborhood; and fulfilling Art’s dream of what this property could be we were delighted to present the 2015 DeMuro Award to Washington High School.