Thursday, March 26, 2015

Carnegie Library Architect George Post, not Polk, Designed McKinley Elementary School!

You probably saw the hullaballoo over House Concurrent Resolution 13 observing the 100th anniversary of McKinley Elementary School.

The anniversary was also celebrated in the most recent issue of the newsletter by the Historic Landmarks Commission.

Salem Landmark, Spring 2015
It was interesting to learn that during the 1918 influenza pandemic, the school was actually used as a hospital.

But there's one important detail that's not quite right.
The city awarded the contract to build the school to the firm of Snook and Traver. The total value of the contract was $20,130.13. The city also paid architect George Polk $400 to complete plans and specification. In October 1915, construction on the McKinley School was complete.
But the architect wasn't George Polk, he was George Post.

October 9th, 1915
The Capital Journal says
Designed by Architect George M. Post, the building is regarded as much the best in this district, and has been constructed with economy and efficiency.
And the Statesman agrees.

Statesman, January 1st, 1916: Geo. M. Post, Architect
One reason this is of, well, at least a little importance? Post also did our Carnegie Library.

Post's Carnegie Library, Belluschi's YWCA,
and Belluschi/Doyle Pacific Telephne and Telegraph
And since we have a special place in our heart here for old-time bike dealers, it's nice to point out that Post also did Paul Hauser's house in what used to be called the Sleepy Hollow neighborhood, the hollow at the end of Mission between Gaiety Hill and Fairmount Hill. (More on Hauser here and here.)

The house is still there today, near Kearney and Saginaw
Post didn't do a whole lot of design in Salem, it seems. The only other building that I've run across is the Moore building on Court Street downtown (distinct from the Arthur Moore building). Other than the library, his most notable building was probably the Derby building. It had a major addition and then became known more as the Senator Hotel building. It was demolished for Courthouse Square. (See below for a significant revision to this!)

Post's work is also at least somewhat related to that of Louis Hazeltine, as for a while they were in practice together, and without diving too deep into it, it seems that there might be some cross-or shared-attribution on some buildings.There's probably a few more houses of Post's out there still standing, too, but we don't have a very good handle on lists of buildings designed by the second rank of architects in Salem. The first rank of the Knightons, the Lawrences, the Belluschis are mostly known, but not the next tier. It's not like there's a bunch of masterpieces out there that we don't know about, but there's a lot of handsome construction whose history and associated names have just gone down the memory hole.


Here's another one standing! And it features a "vacuum heating system."

Post's McGilchrist Block, circa early 1950s
Salem Library Historic Photos
From a 1916 Domestic Engineering and the Journal of Mechanical Contracting:

Love these old trade journals!

Sp the just-renovated McGilchrist block was also designed by Post.

Interestingly, the National Register nomination for the Downtown Historic District is not aware of this, and the fact may not have surfaced during the construction and rehab.


Jim Scheppke said...

Thanks for setting the record straight SBOB. The Carnegie Library may be the best example of adaptive reuse of an historic building in recent years in Salem. Can you think of a better one? Willamette U. does not get enough credit for the outstanding job they did on the project. If it was Salem Hospital that bought it, it would be a surface parking lot today.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Agree! The institutional comparison between WU and the Hospital is a good one, and in the debates over Howard Hall, while it may not have changed anything, collectively we may not have pointed to the library's example enough. Glad you underscored that. We need to remember this for the future!

Because Hallie Ford is open to the public, I think I count it as more wonderful than the library. But that's probably splitting hairs. And significantly, both are WU projects.

Does the Kirkbride building as museum and offices at the State Hospital count as adaptive reuse? It's pretty grand!

We tend to forget about Garfield School, perhaps because it sits on a parking lot, and isn't surrounded by all that much.

The cluster of buildings Virginia Green calls the "North Mall Heritage Park" is very nice, but somehow it still feels underutilized.

We can't forget Painter's Hall at Pringle Creek Community. Hopefully the whole Fairview project will in time provide other examples.

Lyle Bartholomew's Temple Beth Sholom is a dance studio and Leslie Junior High a charter school.

The cast iron from Ladd & Tilton deserves an honorable mention for its reuse on Ladd & Bush.

Maybe there's a post in this. There must be other examples flying under the radar - not as many as we'd wish, but more than we think. Have othrer readers thought of more?

Also! A helpful wikipedia article on Post just showed up, and it turns out Post received the very first license for architecture in Oregon, license no. 1. There are brief notes on other buildings around the state, too.

Susann Kaltwasser said...

Some people lament the conversion of older homes to business uses, but at least the archtecture and the character of the once typical homes in Salem are being preserved. I have been in more than a couple of these former homes and am totally impressed with how they have been restored inside and although bedrooms may now be an office, the home as it was originally are usually not only preserved but fully restored to its original state. So much so that if they business moved out today, the house could be used as a home the next. This is something that Salem should be proud of.....not tearing things down, but repurposing them.

Some of the houses had been moved when they could not be retained in the same locations due to Capitol Mall construction.

Virginia Green is a wonderful asset to our community by documenting for us the many historic homes and buildings that we should never let fall to the wrecking crews.

If we let the North Campus of the State Hospital fall to the wrecking crew we are going to be sorry. I wish there was more people trying to stop the Legislature from wasting millions of dollars on buildings that still have plenty of good use in them.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Found another design by Post. I don't recall seeing discussion of Post in the talk about the McGilchrist and Roth building renovation, but the McGilchrist part was designed by Post.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

A reader has pointed out that in January there was a history piece on "The Illahee Country Club" in the newspaper, and that Post was hired to design "a rustic club house, a peeled log building" in 1915 or so.

That building and club folded, and the current "Illahe Hills Country Club" is a distinct enterprise separated by a little more than a generation.

The names of the initial member list from 1915 suggests Post was held in high regard by Salem's elite.

(Thanks for the tip!)