Posted on November 14, 2019
6. The Pittock Mansion
Outside the Pittock Mansion in Portland, Oregon
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
The Haunted History of the Pittock Mansion
Tourists visit the Pittock Mansion in Portland, Oregon
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Near the beautiful Macleay Park and the Cumberland Trail Head sits the infamous Pittock Mansion. Framed on all sides by lush greenery and spectacular gardens the Pittock Mansion is a tourist hotspot. Don’t let your guard down just yet! Many visitors report seeing strange things inside of the mansion… It is easy to see why people are drawn to the Mansion year round. Henry Pittock, an Oregonian publisher, and newspaper editor, built the French Renaissance style mansion in 1914. Pittock and his wife, Georgiana Burton Pittock, desired a home in the West Hills of Portland but the 46 room estate proved to be an interesting build. Construction, which began in 1909, started with Tenino Sandstone. Hand picked by Edward Foulkes, a San Francisco architect, construction officially began. Pittock requested the most up to date electronics and luxuries money could buy. Because of this, it took Foulkes and his team an exceptionally long time to complete the mansion. The luxury electronics included a central vacuum system, intercoms in all of the rooms, specialty lighting, an elevator, and a restaurant sized walk-in refrigerator! The mansion’s interiors featured styles hand picked by Foulkes including French Renaissance, Edwardian, and Turkish architecture. After the completion of the mansion, Foulkes became a well known name in upper class circles. The mansion soon became a high class hangout for Portland’s upper class community.
Georgiana Pittock enjoyed being a socialite in these circles. She delighted in taking leisurely strolls with her friends around the many gardens on the grounds. Georgiana especially enjoyed tending to her many rose gardens. In fact, she helped to create Portland’s Rose Society which held the first ever Rose Show in 1889. Eventually, her love of roses led to the launch of Portland’s famous Rose Festival which is still celebrated to this day. Today, visitors can walk the rows of heritage roses which gardeners hand planted to honor Georgiana’s contributions to Portland.
Georgiana died at the age of 72 in 1918 and one year later Henry followed his wife. The Pittock Mansion remained in the family until 1958 when Eric Ladd and Peter Gantenbein decided to sell it. Both men, Pittock grandsons, struggled to keep up with the maintenance required to keep the mansion functional. Then, in 1962, the Columbus Day Storm hit causing millions of dollars worth of damage to the building. Ladd and Gantenbein decided to demolish the building but the city of Portland stepped in. The community came together and raised seventy-five thousand dollars in three months to save the mansion. Soon after, the city of Portland purchased the mansion for two-hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars. In 1964, after seeing how important it was to the community, the city made the Pittock Mansion a historic site.
Restoration and Nature Projects
Inside the Pittock Mansion in Portland, Oregon
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
In 1965, the Pittock mansion opened its doors to the public and became an instant favorite amongst Portlanders. Unfortunately, after the Pittocks died the mansion sat unused and in disrepair for quite some time. An estimated eight million dollars was needed to completely restore the mansion to its former glory. The Portland community banded together in 2006 and, within fifteen months, the mansion was completely restored. The mansion is located one-thousand feet above sea level, making it one of the most visited places in Portland for birdwatching. More than eighty-thousand visitors travel to Portland to experience its rich history but also its amazing nature trails. The Macleay Park Trailhead begins almost 6 miles from the northern slopes of the Pittock hills. Through the trail hikers will experience dense forests and beautiful scenery year round. Hikers end their trip at the Pittock Mansion where they can take a rest and enjoy the view!
Film Appearances and Political Scandal
The mansion is not only a popular destination for Portlanders but also a popular location for Hollywood movies! In 1977, the Pittock mansion appeared in the film First Love, starring critically acclaimed romance stars William Katt and Susan Dey. The mansion played a critical part in the story as the character’s home. In 1982, the mansion moved away from romance and on to the slasher genre with the film Unhinged. Shot primarily at night, the mansion’s interiors and exteriors were a large part of the movie. It became one of the most infamous movies filmed at the Pittock mansion because of its explicit content. Regardless of the content of the movie, Portlanders were happy to help and received their own spot at the end of the credits from the films production team. In 1989, the mansion became haunted in The Haunting of Sarah Hardy. Morgan Fairchild and Sela Ward starred in this spooky movie which received critical acclaim. Madonna and Willem Dafoe starred in the 1993 film Body of Evidence which was shot primarily at the Pittock mansion. Later, in 2008, the mansion was the finish line for the emmy-winning reality game show The Amazing Race!
Despite this positive history, Henry Pittock became involved in a political scandal in 1911. A Portland City Council member, Will Daly, accused Pittock of appropriating city funds to build a water line for a personal construction project. Despite having proof that Pittock constructed the water line miles outside of the city limits nothing of consequence became of the incident. This led to a life long feud between Daly and Pittock. Both men had popular standing amongst the community at the time but, unfortunately for Daly, Pittocks paper pulled in a lot of readers. This lead to the end of Will Daly’s political career. It seems that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword.
Paranormal Activity at the Pittock Mansion
Since the 1960s, visitors have been reporting strange activity in and around the Pittock Mansion. Grounds workers and visitors alike all agree that the ghosts are not malevolent in any way. Many assume that the ghosts are the spirits of Henry and Georgiana Pittock. After all, who wouldn’t want to spend eternity in a beautiful mansion?! Plenty of spooky occurrences happen daily at the mansion, some spookier than others…
The highest reported activity happens in the upper rooms of the mansion. Visitors report that upon entering the rooms they immediately smell the intense scent of rose perfume. Staff believe that this is Georgiana Pittock making her presence known. While most visitors report feeling surprised by the smell, most say that they felt that the presence wished them no ill will. Outside, near the northern side of the mansion, visitors report hearing the sound of a shovel hitting the ground. Soon after, the sound of heavy footsteps stomping away towards the mansion can be heard. Staff believe that these are the sounds of the groundskeeper going about his daily routine. Like the Pittocks, the groundskeeper lived and died in the mansion. Luckily for visitors, he is also a kind spirit.
Footsteps of unknown origins have also been reported. They happen at random, according to staff members, and at all hours of the day. Staff report seeing windows in the mansion open and close themselves almost as if they have a will of their own. Visitors and staff report seeing a portrait of Henry Pittock moving around on the wall by itself. Some of the strangest reports involve human like shapes moving furniture, pictures, and even house plants from room to room. One visitor reported hearing a picture fall off of the wall in one of the rooms. When she went to investigate the sound she watched as a woman wearing a long gown picked up the fallen picture from the floor. A staff member came up behind the woman and asked her if she was okay. The woman turned back around to see that the woman in the gown had vanished. One female employee got the scare of her life as she closed up the building for the night. Part of her job involved turning off all the lights in the mansion. After all of the lights were off she began locking all of the doors including the front door to the mansion. As she turned to leave for the night all of the lights in the mansion switched on. No matter what you believe, it is clear that someone or something haunts the grounds of the Pittock Mansion. Whether it be the spirits of Henry and Georgiana Pittock or that of their groundskeeper– you can be sure there is something supernatural taking place there. Staff and visitors agree that the spirits are friendly and happily welcome newcomers…as long as they don’t step on the roses!