Northwest Fence & Wire Works
- Development cost: $3.3 million
- Completion date: August, 2005
- VIEW PHOTO GALLERY
The 18,000 square foot building was constructed in 1911 originally for use as a livery stable called the Fashion Stables, advertised as “the most modern stables” in Portland. The stables continued to occupy the building until 1922 when they went out of business due to the advent of the automobile.
From about 1922-1959, the site housed one of Portland’s largest fence and wire manufacturers, Northwest Fence & Wire Works. The business was established in 1915 by H.W. Melius. When he purchased this property in 1922, modifications were made to adapt the building to their needs. For instance, the sawtooth light monitors with their metal sash pivot windows were constructed to improve the building’s lighting and ventilation on the second floor. The company produced a diverse line of products that catered to a variety of industrial and agricultural customers. In 1929 the business was bought out by a national firm—Cyclone Fence Company—and dealt primarily in chain link fence until they closed in 1959.
Purchased in 1960 by Rhodes Bakery Equipment Company, the building languished and was under-used for many years. Venerable purchased and listed it in the National Register of Historic Places in 2004 and then began a complete rehabilitation. It was listed in the National Register because of its significant role in Portland’s developing fence and wire industries during the first half of the 20th century.
The redevelopment preserved historic features adding modern amenities including HVAC, new electrical and plumbing and new insulated windows throughout. Much of the masonry was cleaned and re-pointed. Interior features include high ceilings, wood floors, wood beams, exposed brick walls, large windows and skylights. The original windows, in poor and deteriorating condition, were replaced with new, insulated windows compatible with the building’s character.
To return the first floor to its more open, historic manufacturing character, all the partitions that had been installed over the years were removed. The second floor was transformed into creative workspaces with wood floors, restored heavy timbers and period light fixtures. The distinctive light monitors and pivot windows on the 2nd floor originally constructed in the 1920s were restored. The existing stairway in the building was dark and narrow, so two new stairwells were built that add to the industrial feel of the property. Butt-glazed clerestory windows in the 2nd story corridor expanded views of the timber ceiling structure from within both the corridor and the adjacent tenant spaces.
Construction and permanent financing on the project was provided by West Coast Bank. The project also benefited from Historic and New Markets tax credit equity.
Venerable helped two tenants obtain funds for their tenant improvements through the Portland Development Commission (PDC) programs–Quality Jobs Program and Economic Opportunity Fund. With this project, we have increased rents and increased employment in this under-served area.
Now completely leased, Northwest Fence and Wire Works is another Venerable project that demonstrates great impact on the neighborhood as Portland continues upgrading this close-in Central Eastside Industrial District. The building is surrounded by other industrial buildings, some of which were built early in the 20th century and Northwest Fence adds to and preserves the industrial character from this period.