It all started in 1851 when 24 year-old William Sargent Ladd left New England and struck out West to seek his fortune. Arriving in San Francisco, he found ithe City to be already too established for his tastes and instead headed to Portland, OR - still a true Wild West town at the time. With nothing but a box of liquor that he got on consignment from his friend, Charles Tilton, Ladd quickly sold the booze for a profit of $2,000 and established a mercantile store. From these humble beginnings, Ladd would eventually grow a large and diverse business empire, encompassing railroads, steamships, lumber mills, flouring mills, banks, hotels, furniture, telegraphs and more.
Beyond his contributions to Portland's early economic development, Ladd also was involved in policitics, serving twice as Mayor of Portland and on the board of the water commisson. He was also well known as a philanthropist - he contributed to the founding of the Public Library and the Oregon Humane Society, he commissioned a chair at the State's medical school, he donated land for the building of Portland's famed Old Church, served as president of the board of the State's agricultural college and, together with best friend Simeon Reed, owned and operated 13 model farms to encourage modern and humane farming practices.
In fact, he loved his animals so much, that when he had accumulated enough wealth, he decided to build "a palace for his horses." Ladd brought architect Joseph Sherwin from England to design his Carriage House in the English Stick style in 1883. The now-famous building has stood the test of time, outliving the original Ladd mansion and estate by nearly 100 years.
A Bit of History
William S. Ladd, a Portland Founding Father
The Ladd Carriage House: A Legacy
Due to illness later in life, William Ladd was unable to walk, and therefore depended on his horses, carriages and drivers for all of his transportation. His grand carriage house was built to house the horses and carriages on the ground floor, with a soaring vaulted hayloft on the second floor. The eastern portion of the building consisted of three floors built as a residence for the caretakers of his horses and his estate, including his Victorian mansion and expansive gardens, located directly across Broadway.
Upon his death in 1893, William S. Ladd's estate passed to his wife and children, and over the subsequent years was broken up and sold off. By the early 1920s, few Ladd buildings remained in Portland, as most had been demolished to make way for new modern construction. However, the Carriage House avoided this fate, as each new owner found good use for the building. Over more than 130 years, it has been used as retail shops, business offices, private residences, a warehouse, a music studio, and artist's studio, and even a prizefighting arena!
The staying power of the Carriage House was never brought into question until 2007, when plans to build a sleek new modern apartment tower on the block threatened demolition. The proposed Ladd Tower apartments included 5 stories of underground parking, located directly underneath the now slightly-neglected Carriage House. However, when word got out that it might be torn down, architects and historians alike gathered to sound the alarm. A group called The Friends of Ladd Carriage House was formed, and eventually support and funding were gathered and a stunning plan was put into place. The Carriage House would be moved to allow for construction of the parking garage, then it would be moved back and placed down on its original building site! The move was successful and the building sat for 16 months in a parking lot 2.5 blocks away. See below for a video of the amazing move!
Upon its return, architect Paul Falsetto with Carleton Hart Architecture and a team from Bremik Construction worked together to upgrade the structure and restore the exterior to its original historically-accurate configuration. In 2011, the Mygrant family purchased the beautifully restored building and began work on the interior to build out Raven & Rose restaurant and The Rookery Bar.
A fantastic team was assembled by Carleton Hart Architecture, Bremik Construction, and the Mygrant family, and great care was taken to retain the building's notable place on the National Register of Historic Places. The team also worked diligently to create a modern, efficient and sustainable building that would stand the test of time for this Portland icon. The result is a beautiful, timeless, LEED-Gold certified restaurant in the heart of downtown Portland. Here's to the next 130 years!