Portland architecture: The rise of the American Craftsman

A flurry of Craftsman construction erupted in Portland at the turn of the 20th century as interest in the Victorian era waned.

Dickenson House craftsman portland pdx.jpeg

The Frank and Emma Dickenson House, built in 1909 in the Alphabet Historic District, is one of Portland’s earliest Craftsman homes.

Photo by Ian Poellet

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The Rose City boasts a diverse array of architectural styles, but many neighborhoods feature one on repeat: the American Craftsman.

From their wide, covered porches to their open floor plans, Craftsman homes are pillars of Portland architecture. Let’s take a look at the story behind their rise to local popularity and the common traits that set them apart from other styles.

Where did it come from?

Inspired by the British Arts and Crafts movement, Craftsman homes first sprung up in the US in the early 20th century. They heralded a distancing from Victorian architectural opulence in favor of functionality, clean lines, and natural materials. The name “American Craftsman” comes from the interior design magazine The Craftsman, in which founder Gustav Stickley published the floor plans for his New York home now credited as the prototype for the American Craftsman style.

The Craftsman craze hit Portland in 1905, lasting for about 25 years — though it’s never really gone out of style. Original examples can be found in high concentrations in Ladd’s Addition, the Irvington, Piedmont, and Sunnyside neighborhoods, and the West Hills.

Portland PDX Craftsman home architecture

Craftsman homes are also peppered throughout Northwest Portland.

Photo by Cambrie Juarez, PDXtoday

Spot the style

Bungalows are sometimes considered synonymous with Craftsman architecture, but the latter is much larger. Telltale traits of a Craftsman include one or two stories, low-pitched gabled roofs with overhanging eaves, prominent fireplaces, large porches often with exposed supports, and handcrafted elements (think: carved nooks and window seats).

Read other articles in our Portland architecture series.