Versatile Honors Historic Preservation in Portland & Beyond

Historic Preservation is More Than Restoration

Historic Preservation
Portland Oregon, 1890 Wikicommons

Portland is home to a rich and colorful history and historic preservation is vital to its safekeeping. The California Office of Historic Preservation defined its own purpose as “preserving, protecting, and honoring cultural, historical and archaeological resources.” Other sites, such as Pond Lily, have noted that the many rewards of preservation can be to:

  • Strengthen local economies
  • Stabilize property values
  • Foster civic beauty and community pride
  • Advance the education and welfare of citizens

To us it’s so much more than a project, it’s a privilege.

Here at Versatile we provide historically accurate custom wood sash, cabinetry, doors and millwork. We use techniques originated by 18th and 19th century craftsmen. We are proud to have worked on hundreds of historic buildings all over the West.

Versatile is committed to creating spaces that honor and make history. We preserve traditional ways of building and blend them with modern technologies and performance standards. We design and build solutions that harmonize aesthetics and temperament with function and utility. This what we stand for.

Here are a Few of Our Historic Preservation Projects

Historic Preservation

We have been able to directly contribute to the rescue and rehabilitation of at least one Endangered Place a year for the last 5 years. These range from the Pioneer Mother’s Cabin built in 1931 (as shown above) to the First Congregational Church built in 1895 in downtown Portland (as shown below), whose historic bell tower tracery was beginning to crumble.

Historic Preservation: Windows

Historic Preservation

First Congregational Church

Constructed in 1895, the First Congregational Church of Portland is a dominant Venetian Gothic icon along the city’s South Park Blocks. The church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a Portland Landmark.

The First Congregational Church turned to Versatile and Arciform to stabilize and restore the wood elements of this feature. As with any preservation project, the goal was to retain as much of the original fabric as possible. Equally important is the goal to maintain the character defining features of the original design.

All new pieces were made of Western Red Cedar, the same wood species as the original elements to ensure historic accuracy and material performance. Replacement parts were then fit in place for sizing and routed with the cove detailing to ensure the tracery appeared seamless.

This project was named one of Restore Oregon’s Most Endangered Places in 2015.


Historic Restoration

The Sovereign Hotel

For maximum accuracy in the Sovereign Hotel Restoration, we looked to our state-of-the-art CNC machine to produce the radiused pieces. The geometric precision on some of the slender pieces was so accurate and consistent, we have since adapted our production to incorporate this strategy. This is a perfect example of how Versatile strives to bring new technologies together with traditional building methods to create the best products possible.

Historic Preservation: Doors

historic preservation

A Tale of Two Historic Portland Doors:

It would have been simpler to replace many elements of Pink Martini‘s 135-year-old doors with new reproduction elements. Instead, Versatile respected the history of the door’s original materials, retaining and restoring as much of the original wood and detail as possible. A new lever handle and updated locking mechanism improved the security of the door while staying true to its Victorian aesthetics.

Historic Preservation


The Heceta Head lighthouse was built in 1894 and its light shines a beam 21 miles into the Pacific. Versatile’s component of the restoration project was focused on the “work house.” Versatile restored and matched the original wood exterior and interior doors, millwork, cabinetry and flooring while retaining as much of the original wood as possible.

Not a single surface was plumb, square or level on any axis. Door frames had to fit extremely close tolerances against the original masonry opening. Extreme wind and weather conditions (including snow!) caused tarps and other temporary weather-proofing measures to blow away. This required constant management. A complex design for the exterior door specified a herringbone pattern on the interior and a four paneled exterior. This single door required over 187 wood pieces to construct!

Historic Preservation: Cabinets

historic preservation
Historic Doors The Barnes Mansion

The Barnes Mansion

The Barnes Mansion is a national monument. The original kitchen, having been designed for servants, was since chopped up and worn. All upper cabinets and buffet cabinets were restored. The decorative tile was then salvaged and reinstalled into the backsplash. The new lower cabinets and the custom island match the mahogany in the home. Extensive decorative millwork now makes the kitchen as beautiful as the rest of the home.

historic preservation

Chic Historic Cabinets

Maintaining historic cabinets and also integrating new ones into the same space is an exciting project for Versatile. Space that was once not used but now has a specialty counter over the radiator. Full inset doors, exposed mortised hinges and fully integrated panels are all details Versatile will make happen for you.

Two of Oregon’s Valuable Historic Preservation Resources and Versatile Partners

The Architectural Heritage Center

The Architectural Heritage Center educates and advocates for the preservation of Portland’s historic built environment and diverse cultural heritage.  The AHC’s mission is to:

“Inspire people to conserve the art, craft, and context of historic buildings and places to promote our cultural heritage as a vital element of livable, sustainable, communities. We seek to preserve the historic character and livability of our built environment, and to promote sustainability through the re-use of period homes and buildings.”

AHC is owned and operated by the non-profit Bosco-Milligan Foundation. They empower people in the Portland metropolitan area to preserve more than just landmark buildings. Both regular “vernacular” vintage homes and storefronts define Portland neighborhoods, history, culture, and quality of life. Versatile is proud to partner with Architectural Heritage Center in historic preservation.

Restore Oregon

Restore Oregon was founded in 1977 as the Historic Preservation League of Oregon. Over the years their focus has always been on taking care of the places that make Oregon, OREGON. This includes historic homes and neighborhoods, bridges and barns, churches and Main Streets that make this place so authentic and livable.

“Historic places are a cultural, environmental, and economic asset. They need active stewardship or they will be lost to future generations. Our efforts to save Oregon’s Most Endangered Places are preserving historic structures from the Ermatinger House in Oregon City to the Egyptian Theater in Coos Bay. Our Preservation Roundtable engages hundreds of people each year, including developers, planners, government agencies, and property owners to revitalize Oregon’s historic Main Streets. Now we’re tackling the number one reason historic buildings are lost in Oregon: insufficient economic incentives.”

Versatile Wood Products Preserves the History of Portland and Beyond.

Preserving our culture and history is something we take pride in. Each of our talented team members honors Portland’s rich past so it can stand the test of time. Check out these two links for more information on our recent restoration celebrations:

Winning Together: Restoration Celebration 2017

2015 Restoration Celebration Honors Versatile