Exhibit Archive


Old-Growth Architecture: The Art, Craft, and Function of Wood


Presenting Sponsor:

 Versatile Wood Products

Supporting Sponsors:


Miller Paint Co.

With additional support from:

 Full Circa Inc.


Historically, abundant forested lands in the Pacific Northwest provided the raw material for construction in Portland and beyond. However, wood was not just for structural use. The development of local sawmills and woodworking machines coincided with the High Victorian Era interest in rich decoration.

Using artifacts and library materials from the Bosco-Milligan Foundation Collection, this exhibit explores the use of wood in our region’s architecture, from pioneer days through the 1960s. You’ll learn how important and prevalent wood was both economically and as a source of shelter. You’ll also find that wood was once used for just about everything from plumbing fixtures to siding, and quite literally, everything in-between!



A Glaze of Glory — the Artistry of Art Tile

A Glaze of Glory—the Artistry of Art Tile” opened with a special evening reception on Friday, January 20th, unveiling the rich variety of our collection of historic art tile. Numerous American tile companies were represented in the exhibit, including California’s Batchelder, Ohio’s American Encaustic Tiling Company, and Pennsylvania’s Moravian Tileworks. Our collections also include tiles of European origin—beautiful examples from England, Spain and France. The exhibit showed the visual “feast of art” of the many tiles saved through the salvage efforts of our founders, Jerry Bosco and Ben Milligan. And we welcomed back Ron Endlich, of Seattle’s Tile Antiques, as guest curator for this exhibit.

The history of tile dates back to the beginnings of human civilization, when Egyptians decorated their houses with blue glazed brick. By the twelfth century, decorative tiles were being produced in England, Spain, and Italy and used for large-scale architectural decoration. The Dutch tile industry was well established by the fifteenth century and England and the Netherlands were exporting tile for residential use.

Other countries, including the United States, began producing their own particular tastes of domestic art tile. Companies from Massachusetts to California pursued Victorian-era and then Arts and Crafts designs, all with color and ornamental designs of seemingly infinite themes and motifs—including Japanese and Classical subjects.

Sophisticated innovations in style, color, design, and production techniques continued until the Great Depression opened in 1929. The challenged economy and changing tastes again saw a downfall of art tile from fashion.

But, beginning in the late twentieth century, art tile is indeed back—and it enjoys a continuing interest in what is again appreciated as “durable,” “hygienic”, and “beautiful” as art tile is used for both practical and decorative purposes. Once again—we can’t get enough of it!


Fall 2010–Winter 2011

Re-Building South Portland

St. Lawrence Sheep stained-glass windowSouth Portland is one of Portland’s “lost neighborhoods” and an important part of the city’s historical memory. The neighborhood’s size and proximity to downtown made it the most visible immigrant district in the city from the late 19th century and well into the 1950s.

South Portland’s development and transformation encapsulate the immigration story for many Portlanders. Immigrant neighborhoods often shifted in character gradually through the upward mobility of second-generation residents or through gentrification. South Portland however, was substantially erased at a single historical moment through highway construction and Portland’s first Urban Renewal program. The lost and surviving remnants of South Portland—now the Lair Hill and Corbett Neighborhoods—also have much to tell us about the processes that re-made the socially conservative Portland of the 1950s into the more progressive city it is today. These areas played a vital role in the development of Portland’s system of neighborhood associations as they resisted further encroachment of downtown expansion. They were also the first areas to feel the wave of gentrification that has since affected much of the city.

After 50 years, it is time to remember and interpret the history of South Portland and its cultural “re-building” as a place and community. This exhibit shares the South Portland story and its community of people, through powerful photographs, interpretive text and artifacts from the Bosco-Milligan Foundation’s Collections.

Sponsored by:  Oregon Humanities and Portland Archives and Record Center



Artifacts + Archives

Not only did our founders Jerry Bosco and Ben Milligan leave us a wonderful collection of building artifacts, they also left us books, catalogs, photographs, drawings, and other materials that are tremendously valuable for understanding the Portland region’s architectural heritage. In recent years, the Bosco-Milligan Foundation has received additional generous donations, including the libraries of the late architects George McMath and Richard Ritz, as well as other longtime friends of the organization. The BMF archives have become a significant resource for researchers and for the development of our own education programs at the AHC.

Nearly every artifact – or building – started with a drawing, whether conceptual, rudimentary, or detailed, intended for the craftsperson or builder to construct it. In a century before computers, the documents such as descriptive letters, catalogs, and eventually entire “mail order houses” were the means of acquiring materials and achieving artistry in the crafting of artifacts. Artifacts + Archives will illustrate the essential connection between paper-based archival materials in our collections and the artifacts themselves.

This exhibit draws upon the Foundation’s ever-expanding artifacts and archives collections, with emphasis on items that have not been seen by the public, including photographs, architectural drawings, maps, personal papers, and rare books.


Bringing Artists Together to Support Historic Preservation

Found Portland

Do your holiday shopping while supporting the fine arts and historic preservation!

Show and holiday sale runs through December 31st.

FoundPortland is a benefit in support of the Architectural Heritage Center and will showcase the work of a diverse community of artists as they re-examine and re-imagine artifacts and elements of our historic past.  All works will be for sale and there will be a great selection of items worthy of holiday gift giving.

Click here for pictures from the very successful opening reception.

Inspired by an Architectural Heritage Center exhibit entitled "Lost Portland", which featured beautifully crafted parts salvaged from homes and buildings that no longer exist, Found Portland celebrates the work of artists who have preserved elements of our past and explore them in creative new ways.



Cast Iron Portland

©2009 Bosco Milligan Foundation

See the exibit on-line

Cast Iron Portland Exhibit


This exhibit told the story of Portland’s rich cast iron history, and the local industries that developed to support it. Rare and beautiful cast iron artifacts salvaged by Jerry Bosco and Ben Milligan and others were exhibited in the context of the buildings they originally adorned.

Portland boasts the second largest collection of cast iron-fronted buildings in the nation, outside of New York City’s Soho district. Beginning in 1854, 180 cast iron buildings were constructed in Portland, using this marvelous “fire proof” material either structurally or decoratively, with the last built in 1899.

Local architects and foundries developed lavish patterns and created magnificent buildings that established a strong architectural unity that has never been equaled. It was not to last…the wrecking ball’s zeal erased more than half of these buildings in the rush to “modernize” downtown Portland, in the 1940s and beyond. But our city’s surviving cast iron legacy is so rare and remarkable that the concentration of these buildings in Skidmore/Old Town led to the district’s designation as a National Historic Landmark – the highest ranking for historic places in the United States.

The important surviving cast iron buildings were celebrated, along with the importance of the Skidmore/Old Town National Historic Landmark District, and other buildings in New Chinatown/Japantown and the Yamhill Historic Districts. Efforts and opportunities to encourage the reuse of entire cast iron facades - rescued by the late Eric Ladd, Bosco & Milligan, and the old Friends of Cast Iron Architecture – were explored.

Cast Iron Portland focused on an historic building materials that were not only “Made in the USA”, but “Made in Portland.”

Sponsored by:  Pro Photo Supply


Terra Cotta Portland

©2008 Bosco Milligan Foundation

Portland’s architectural riches include a grand collection of more than 40 buildings clad in glazed terra cotta. They range from the 1907 Wells Fargo Building at SW Sixth & Oak (Portland’s first “skyscraper” and first terra cotta building) to the last – the Charles F. Berg Building at SW Broadway near Morrison.

Many of these buildings stand throughout the retail heart of downtown Portland, from Oak to Yamhill Streets, and SW Fourth to SW Tenth Avenues, and all were built during the era of streetcar-oriented development. The rich collection of surviving terra cotta-clad buildings is presented in detail in Virginia Ferriday’s Last of the Handmade Buildings, which called strongly for a “terra cotta district” along with expert maintenance and preservation of this wonderful building material.

Given the various waves of redevelopment for a multitude of uses, all terra cotta buildings did not survive, including the Orpheum Theater and YMCA building. This exhibition will illustrate the richly decorative variety of terra cotta as a building material, through salvaged artifacts in the collections of the Bosco-Milligan Foundation, including those donated by Virginia Ferriday.

The exhibit will also celebrate the standing terra cotta buildings that define an important chapter in the development of Portland’s architectural character – from their construction over time and into today.

Sponsored by:  Precision Images



©2007 Bosco Milligan Foundation

Daily life today in the twenty-first century seems complex and so ever-changing…we are accessible 24/7, thanks to the latest technological gadgets. Economic stresses and the Northwest’s explosive growth, coupled with national concerns, all contribute to the sense that we are living in an especially unique era in history.

Life at the turn of the twentieth century was just as rapidly-changing and challenging. Technological advancements in construction – like electricity, indoor plumbing and telephones, and machine-made building elements – all made for the collective embracing of the “American Dream” of owning one’s home and embellishing it with everything new and modern for its day. Advances in lithography provided access to the latest design innovations and building materials through construction-related books and catalogs. The Northwest was stepping into a growth boom – stimulated and celebrated at the 1905 Lewis & Clark exposition.

This exhibit drew from our extensive collections of architectural artifacts and focused on all of the “new” building advances of the 1890s, and their application in buildings of the era, along with their effects on daily life. Portland’s physical and social growth as a city was also explored and demonstrated that we have quite a bit in common with our fellow citizens from the end of the 19th century.        

Sponsored by a grant from
: Trust Management Services



©2007 Bosco Milligan Foundation

From ancient times to the present day, every stylistic era has evolved its own adaptation of botanical images in its architectural designs. To symbolize new life, Greeks placed stylized versions of leaves from the acanthus plant on their buildings. Egyptians and then the Assyrians viewed the lotus as symbolic of new life, and frequently used it in their architecture and art.

In more recent eras, from the Tudor and Jacobean, that applied the use of vines in plasterwork and timbered ceilings, to the Baroque – which used symbol of natural abundance, such as bulging fruits in the carvings of grand staircases, technical improvements made possible the production of more sophisticated building elements. The result was more innovation in complex designs drawn from the natural world. The Georgians period returned to the more subtle forms of ancient Rome, with the growing use of pattern books to reproduce common classical motifs. The pineapple appeared as a choice motif and it carried over into the Colonial period. By the early nineteenth century, floral motifs exploded in variety, in elements such as cast iron and plasterwork.

During the latter half of the 1900s, American architects moved away from Greco-Roman classicism, adapting new domestic styles based on other building forms. These Victorian-era styles drew from design publications and mass-produced building parts.  Botanical ornamentation now appeared through decorative painting and stained and leaded glass, densely patterned wallpapers, and on cast-iron hardware fittings, or even in the borders of parquet floors and fireplace surrounds. The use of decorative woodwork, with abundant opportunity for carved and cut-out design elements, reached its zenith during the Victorian era and often looked to nature (using the sunflower, for example) for inspiration.

The Arts and Crafts movement followed, seeking more beautiful environments through fine craftsmanship. Sophistication was added from more exotic design motifs, such as flowing floral and bird designs, and curled foliate motifs. These were featured on everything from doors to windows, wallpapers and their stenciled friezes, plaster relief work, floors, and even downspouts and gutters. Gates often incorporated a trellis to promote use of “the real thing” – plant materials that became part of the man-made design features.

Sponsored by:  Baysinger Partners Architecture PC




©2007 Bosco Milligan Foundation

A dazzling array of fireplaces, mantels, light fixtures, and ornamental accoutrements such as grilles and registers showed that “looks” were as important as function in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Portland. This exhibit displayed the methods early Portlanders pursued in their efforts to survive an Oregon winter. The artifacts on display combined practicality with amazing design details.

In today’s world, where upgrading our homes’ insulation and weather-stripping are commonplace, a drop in winter temperature sends us to the thermostat. Invention and ingenuity were the order of the day in early Portland as people sought to improve the interior climate of their homes and other buildings. Heating was primarily from fireplaces and stoves and thermal insulation was rudimentary at best. The comfort level for occupants was often low, and there was a relatively small difference between internal and external temperatures.

The nineteenth century Industrial Revolution provided the technological means for better controlling one’s environment for the first time. Early central heating innovations included steam and low pressure hot water radiator systems, both in offices and residences. Ventilation became more efficient and the gradual evolution of gas to electric lighting helped lengthen the dark days of winter. The results, however, did not produce “tight” buildings, and people went to great lengths to add the latest improvement – beautifully designed and complimentary to their decor – to keep the winter chill at bay.  

Sponsored by:  NECA-IBEW local 48