Decades of Doors at Versatile Wood Products

Written by Holly Cullom

Hollywood Theatre. Timberline Lodge. The Old Church. The Ladd Carriage House. The Hallock-McMillan Building. Harlow Hotel. Heceta Head Lighthouse. The Woodlark. The Fried-Durkheimer House. These are among some of Oregon’s most loved and recognizable places for their historic, aesthetic, and cultural value, and conservationists throughout our region have worked diligently to save them for the enjoyment of future generations. Whether these buildings are historic or new, commercial or residential, Versatile Wood Products has had a hand in keeping many of these doors opening and closing now and into the distant future.

Newer, more modern buildings are important too and deserve the same attention to quality, style, and aesthetics. Many Portlanders will be familiar with fine restaurants and breweries like Ava Gene’s, Full Sail Brewery, Woodsman Tavern, and Pine Street Market. Students study in the newly constructed Dundon-Berchtold Hall on the University of Portland campus. And people enjoy living, working, shopping, and relaxing in places like the Cook Street Apartments, Design Within Reach, Albina Yard, Penner Ash Wine Cellars, and the Spa at Salishan Lodge.

A custom Dutch door for a home designed around porthole glass that inspired the homeowner. Photo courtesy Versatile Wood Products.

There are also many gorgeous homes in Portland and the surrounding Metro area that are important in a more intimate, personal way to those who inhabit them. Some are historic homes over a hundred years old with intricate woodwork and ornate details, and some are new, modern, and sleek.

Erica Witbeck, Operations Manager for Versatile Wood Products, explains that Versatile’s craftspeople make custom doors “by hand using solid wood and traditional joinery methods, while using modern technology and materials, such as CNC for precise arches or cutout details and high-quality composite cores for flush doors. We have the talent and experience to come up with a design that meets your needs, and our process allows for the flexibility to create truly custom designs, while being fluent in traditional door construction methods.”

“The door we did for the restoration of the Fried-Durkheimer House has my favorite juxtaposition of salvaged original architectural details integrated into a solid new door that will operate smoothly and last another hundred years.”

-ERICA WITBECK, OPERATIONS MANAGER
The Fried-Durkheimer House, also known locally as the first Morris Marks house. Photo courtesy of Versatile Wood Products.

The Harlow Hotel (1882) in Portland’s historic Pearl District. Photo courtesy Versatile Wood Products.

HISTORIC

Versatile Wood Products has worked on multiple historic projects throughout Portland and the Pacific Northwest. They replaced the doors for the Ladd Carriage House (1883), the Harlow Hotel (1882), the Woodlark hotel (1908/1912), and the Hallock-McMillan Building, Portland’s oldest commercial building, which was built in 1857.

“When the boundaries of traditional design are tested, Versatile’s team comes together to determine what is feasible and find the best way to honor the design intentions while making sure the door will look great, operate properly, and remain solid and functional for years to come. Custom doors all come with their own set of challenges.

When we are working with very tall doors, wide and heavy doors, existing openings in old buildings that aren’t square and true, coordinating details seen in surrounding architectural elements, and addressing highly technical hardware requirements, this can be complex, but we love the work of identifying solutions and making them come to life.”

-ERICA WITBECK, OPERATIONS MANAGER
The Woodlark Hotel. Photo courtesy of Versatile Wood Products.

The craftspeople of Versatile have the necessary expertise to repair and restore original historic doors, both residential and commercial, including the ornately detailed door of the Fried-Durkheimer House, an 1880 Italianate; the beautiful landmark Heceta Head Lighthouse (1894); and the doors of several historic churches, including The Old Church (1882) and Westminster Presbyterian Church (1914).

Westminster Presbyterian Church. Photo by Jason Houser.

At the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Irvington, Versatile was hired to create a new door pair for the church’s grand entrance as part of a larger restoration effort. Erica Witbeck describes the process:

“The doors were pulled to be stripped of paint and restored, but once the paint came off we were able to see that the doors needed replacing; there was old chipboard in between the wood layers, which was part of the reason the doors were failing.

In the Gothic-arched entryway, there was a decorative wooden transom that is in very good shape, so it remained installed. Our challenge was to replicate the design of the failed doors, but re-design them to better align with the details in the original transom. Some of the panels did not line up well with each other, and this was a chance to improve on the previous door pair. The new doors continue the panel design as though they were made at the same time.

The transom is stained oak on the inside and painted red on the exterior. We made the new doors with triple-laminated stiles for strength and stability, and this permitted us to use quartersawn oak on the interior of the door while using a more paintable Douglas Fir on the exterior.

We created new jamb legs to receive new heavy-duty hinges that were up to the task of supporting these massive, heavy doors. The surface-applied strap hardware was salvaged from the previous doors and stripped of their years of paint, and were given a fresh coat of flat black to complete the look.”

-ERICA WITBECK, OPERATIONS MANAGER
The new doors at Westminster Church (left). Versatile’s carpenters create the new door for Westminster Church (right). Photos courtesy Versatile Wood Products.

CLASSIC

Classic designs reside between the more ornate historic styles and the streamlined simplicity of modern doors. Durable, elegant, and beautiful, classic doors lend a graceful and timeless air to an entry. Versatile has created classic door styles for Pine Street Market, Ava Gene’s, Fire Station #7, Hollywood Theatre, Full Sail Brewery, and many others.

Pine Street Market. Photo courtesy Versatile Wood Products.

MODERN

The artisans at Versatile can produce a wide range of styles for every application, both old and new. The hallmarks of Versatile’s modern doors are any combination of unusual operation, clever operating hardware, unexpected sizes, and designs that emphasize materials rather than elaborate details. Modern style doors are usually clear coat or stained, because the beauty of the wood is one of the major design elements.


In October 2015, Versatile built 106″ tall flush exterior doors and full lite doors for Portland’s Albina Yard. The doors feature Port Orford Cedar on the exterior and Fir on the interior, and a continuous Port Orford Cedar veneer and matching 34” transom panel above. In addition to their impressive height, both door types are approximately 40” wide and utilize offset pivot hinges to give these massive doors smooth operation and lend a seamless modern look.

Albina Yard, with its tall modern cedar doors.

In addition to manufacturing beautiful modern custom doors, they have also been entrusted with the restoration of artistic masterpieces, like this door created by artist and sculptor Leroy Setziol.

A Leroy Setziol door and the plans for its repair. Photo courtesy Versatile Wood Products.

In closing, Erica says, “There is a certain kind of joy that comes from being a part of historic preservation projects and knowing that we are helping keep our architectural traditions alive. There is also a sense of continued mission when we help bring wood back to the forefront of modern architectural design. Being a go-to supplier for classic designs permits us to keep traditions alive across all types of building and remodeling projects.”

There’s a reason Versatile Wood Products was chosen to repair, restore, and replace the doors of so many important buildings, both old and new: they produce a diverse range of beautiful, high-quality custom wood doors to suit any application. Whether you’re looking for a door to match a historic, classic, or modern structure, Versatile’s craftspeople can create a beautiful custom wood door that you will love for decades to come.

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