Home design Blogs are rife with gorgeous transformations of historic townhouses in places like New York City and Philadelphia. But in Portland? Not so much. Townhouses—a.k.a. a row houses or brownstones—became an enduringly popular form of urban housing in the late 1800s, especially in East Coast cities and in San Francisco. These homes were usually two to six stories tall, sharing a party wall, but each with their own street and rear yard access. While such historic townhouses do exist in Portland, they’re typically constructed of wood, making this week’s listing a veritable unicorn: according to historians, it may be the only example of a brick townhouse in Portland and the entire state of Oregon.
Erected in 1893 by builder Daniel Campbell, and now referred to as the Campbell Townhouses, these were a development of six attached units wrapping the corner of NW Irving and 17th Avenues in the Alphabet District. Campbell built them close to a string of mansions along NW 19th Avenue, probably to echo the poshness there but also to create something a little smaller in scale and more attainable. No one knows why Campbell made the uncommon choice of brick, although it may have been to evoke those popular eastern examples, or because he was working off of East Coast building plans. Whatever the reason, 130 years later, they sure are pretty.
This property is on one end of the units, nestled mid-block on NW Irving, rising two stories and with a finished basement. The wide front steps lead to an entrance porch, ringed with brick columns capped in decorative detail. A brick arch reveals the front door with transom above it, like a curtain being pulled back to appreciate the gorgeous stained-glass details. Two-story bay windows flank the right façade, and a single window above the porch roof is topped with a tympanum, a fancy word for the interlaced semicircular detail finished with a lintel and arch. (That’s the first time we’ve described a tympanum in this column—see, unicorn.)
The interior is equally special, having been updated in a sensitive remodel in 2014. The foyer begs a pause to appreciate how the sunlight comes through an upstairs skylight to illuminate the staircase. Then there’s the extra tall ceilings, coved plaster walls, and retained woodwork, like chunky baseboards and elegant trim, all from preserved old-growth wood.
To the right is the living room with bay window and more stained glass, then a parlor with a woodburning fireplace and decorative tile surround. Through a door, find the bespoke kitchen, with custom cabinets, Bertazzoni convection oven, and a charming window seat. Beyond that, the dining room has a built-in serving bar and access to a private deck overlooking the rear tree-dotted courtyard.
Upstairs, there’s three bedrooms and a fully updated bathroom with large walk-in shower, double vanity and heated floors. The primary bedroom has the bay window and custom storage, as well as a lovely sitting area with an interior leaded glass window shared by the hall.
So much of the house is an ode to its old-world craftsmanship, but that doesn’t mean the future is neglected. First, the downstairs offers nice flexibility. It has its own street access, generous ceiling heights, and is outfitted with a full bathroom, bedroom, and living area, so it could easily be extra guest quarters or more living space. Then there’s the potential of the roof: 738 square feet that could be converted into a dreamy lounge with views of the surrounding city.
Listing Fast Facts
- Address: 1719 NW Irving St, Portland, OR 97209
- Size: 3,144 square feet, 4 bed/2.5 bath
- List Date: 5/25/2023
- List Price: $970,000, with $471/month HOA dues
- Listing Agent: Calle Holmgren, Friday and Company
- Staging: Nicole Wear, Friday and Company
Melissa Dalton is a freelance writer who has focused on Pacific Northwest design and lifestyle since 2008. She is based in Portland, Oregon. Contact Dalton here.
Editor’s Note: Portland Monthly’s “Property Watch” column takes a weekly look at an interesting home in Portland’s real estate market (with periodic ventures to the burbs and points beyond, for good measure). Got a home you think would work for this column? Get in touch at [email protected].