Modern is Historic this Preservation Month
Editor’s Note — To celebrate National Historic Preservation Month we’ve asked several individuals and organizations from around the state to tell us what preservation means to their community. We hope you find inspiration for your next preservation project from these stories.
On Saturday, May 11, the Historic Preservation League of Oregon hosted the third annual Mid-Century Modern Home Tour in Portland to raise public appreciation and understanding of our state’s recent past architecture. This year’s tour provided a retrospective on the work of Saul Zaik, a Portland architect who has maintained his practice since 1952. One of the region’s few living architects from the mid-century period, the 86-year-old Zaik practiced during a time of great change in the design of buildings—not to mention change in the design of the region’s urban landscape.
While Zaik himself was present at the Modern Home Tour to provide a unique perspective on the period, Preservation Month brings a number of additional opportunities to appreciate the state’s high-quality mid-century designs. Two back-to-back sessions at the Oregon Heritage Conference explored the history of post-World War II architecture and outlined best practices in identifying and protecting the best designs from the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s. The Mid-Century Modern League is hosting a self-guided driving tour, Rejuvenation Hardware is sponsoring a cocktail Snappy Hour, and Corvallis is presenting an Atomic Ranch Homes Tour—all intended to celebrate Modern architecture as part of Preservation Month.
While historians and present-day designers readily acknowledge the significant role that mid-century architects played during the decades following World War II, considerable research and advocacy is needed to preserve the important places that date to the period. For example, while Saul Zaik was a primary contributor to the maturation of the Northwest Modern Style, none of his buildings have been designated on a local or the National Register of Historic Places. Furthermore, only five buildings from Zaik’s extensive portfolio have even been recorded in historic resource inventories, meaning the broader preservation community has much work to do to document and protect some of Oregon’s best designs from the recent past.
With events happening around the state, let this year’s Preservation Month expose you to Oregon’s great mid-century buildings and the important work that lies ahead in preserving the best from the period.
Brandon Spencer-Hartle is the Field Programs Manager at the Historic Preservation League of Oregon.