Friday, August 1, 2014

The twin underground rest rooms and their associated vent/drinking fountain are located at 6th Ave and Yamhill Street next to the Pioneer Courthouse.  Built in 1913, these structures are over 100 years old and remain remarkably intact.  They served as public rest rooms from 1913 until they were closed sometime in the 1960's.  Re-opened in late 70's and closed shortly after this due to vandalism.  Below are photos and information regarding the history of the two bathrooms.

Architect: Ellis F. Lawrence
Contractor: JH Tillman & Co.
Style: Classical Greek/Roman
Features/Materials: Cast Iron/Cresting/Pilasters/Metal and Glass Sky lighted Roof
Cost: $16,000

Inside the women's comfort station (circa 1913). Note kerosene heater, female attendant, arched sink alcove, fancy tile, louvered stall doors separated by marble slabs, porcelain sinks, latticework ceiling with abundant sidewalk lighting, etc.

August 2014

Men's entrance was on 6th Street (Ave).  The women's entrance was on Yamhill Street. Note the glass blocks inset into the concrete sidewalk that allowed daylight to enter and light the underground facilities. At night, electricity was used to light the rooms.

Note the ornamental roof cresting is now gone from both restroom structures but remains on the fan vent.

 It appears at some point, the bathroom ventilator was moved inward closer to the restrooms.  If you look at the pictures carefully, it is obvious.  Not sure if the ventilator still works or plumbing for the drinking fountain  (Benson bubblers?) still exists.  The water has long been shut off and the fountains now have steel plates covering them.

According to The Oregonian (1913), Comfort Station attendants were dressed in tan/khaki uniforms with a hat.  Duties included: keep a written record of the days temperature, weather, # of patrons and state of supplies.  Other duties: be able to handle emergency situations such as: fainting, lost children or articles, drunkenness, indecencies, improprieties and the like.  When you entered the station, a porter would brush your shoes and clothes.  Pay for the attendants or "porters" was $60/month.  No tipping was allowed.    

Notice the pedal powered sinks in men's station.

Picture above by Dan Davis/Vintage Portland 2011

Above the new transit mall opened in 1979 and the bathroom was freshly remodeled.