History of the Ladd Carriage House

The building is all that’s left of a once grand estate.

A Victorian era house surrounded by modern buildings and cars

The most recent restoration received a preservation award from the Victorian Society in America.

Photo by Steve Morgan

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William S. Ladd, Portland’s fifth mayor, also happens to be the youngest to ever hold the role. During his one-year volunteer term (1854-1855) he put into law 42 ordinances — twice as many as his four predecessors combined — to help bring stability to the city’s early government. What a lad.

But, this story is not about the businessman and philanthropist’s achievements, nor is it about the geometric neighborhood that still bears his name. It’s about the building where he kept his horses.

All the king’s horses

If you’ve happened across the Ladd Carriage House you’ve probably wondered what such an antiquated building is doing at the corner of Southwest Broadway and Columbia Street.

Did it get lost? It has been known to move.

Among the high rises and apartments of downtown, the Ladd Carriage House is one of several remaining buildings from the Ladd family’s grand estate, which once included a stately mansion and sprawling gardens. The Victorian structure was designed in 1883 by architect Joseph Sherwin to house not only the stables, but the carriages and the coachman who navigated the vehicles too.

An archive photo of a Victorian mansion surrounded by gardens and trees.

The mansion stood on the block bounded by Broadway, Columbia, Sixth, and Jefferson.

Eventually, the Ladd Barn (as it was also known) was renovated in 1926 and divided into specialty shops. The top floor and former hayloft became a dance floor

There and back again

In 2007, plans for a condominium tower and underground parking garage threatened the Ladd Carriage House, but a compromise was reached between developers and preservationists. The historic building (350 tons, 52 ft wide, 65 ft long, and 55 ft tall) was transported several blocks very carefully with giant dollies to a vacant parking lot, but returned to its original location 18 months later.

It received extensive exterior restorations, including a paint job that changed its color from a bluish gray to shades of brown, and was relisted on the National Register of Historic Places. The interior was updated in 2012, with a restaurant (Raven & Rose) and cocktail bar (The Rookery) opening that fall. Both have since closed.

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