Henry Pittock was born in England and raised Pittsburg. At 17, he and his brother decided to head west. He landed in the Oregon Territory in 1853, completely broke. He started working for the weekly Oregonian newspaper shortly after his arrival – his only compensation being room and board. After six months he was granted a salary and continued to work for Thomas Dryer (owner of the paper) for another six years. Dryer, more interested in politics than his business, moved on to Washington, leaving the troubled newspaper to Pittock in 1861. Henry Pittock moved the paper from pending financial disaster to becoming the most dominant newspaper in the Portland area. In 1860 he married Georgiana Burton. They had five children and lived on a block of land he had purchase in 1856 for $300 (known as the “Pittock Block”). Georgiana died in 1918 at the age of 72, followed by Henry in 1919 at the age of 84.
In 1909 the Pittocks purchased 46 acres on a hill overlooking the city and began construction of the 22 room, 16,000 square foot mansion. Completed around 1914, Henry and Georgiana had only a few years to live in the mansion they had built as their summer retirement home.
After the deaths of Henry and Georgiana, the Pittock family continued to live in the home until 1958. Pittocks’ grandson and a longtime resident of the house attempted, unsuccessfully, to sell the property. Then the Columbus Day storm of 1962 caused so much damage, they considered simply demolishing the structure, but the surrounding community wanted to keep it as a historic landmark. Within three months they raised $75,000 to help the City of Portland purchase the property. The city bought it in 1964 for $225,000. It took 15 months to restore, and now accepts more than 80,000 visitors a year.
It has been the backdrop for several movies – First Love (1977), Unhinged (1982), The Haunting of Sarah Hardy (1989) and Body of Evidence (1993). More recently it was the final destination of the reality TV show, the Great Race (13th season).
There is a house that was built for the chauffeur and his family on the grounds as well.
Those that study the paranormal say that when so much work is put into building a home and the residents die without having very long to live there, the restoration process brings them back. Some visitors (and a few employees) have reported seeing Georgiana in the ballroom and roaming the halls of the house. Henry has been seen walking the halls and a photo of him as a child, reportedly moves from moment to moment.
Although I didn’t see any ghosts while I was there, I did see a beautiful home with a spectacular view – and learned a little of Portland’s history in the process.
For more information, visit their website – The Pittock Mansion