EDGAR M. LAZARUS, ARCHITECT: LIFE AND LEGACY

Edward H. Teague, Architecture & Allied Arts Library, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon.

Lawrence, Whitehouse & Fouilhoux. This site provides information about Edgar Marks Lazarus, Jr., an Oregon architect of some importance in the early 20th century.

Edgar M. Lazarus

Introduction: The Enigmatic Edgar Lazarus

Biography

List of Buildings, Projects, & Miscellaneous Works

Family Background

Presentations

Bibliography

The Enigmatic Edgar Lazarus

My interest in Lazarus started in April 2010 when I needed to verify some facts about an image I was cataloging for the electronic resource, Building Oregon: Architecture of Oregon & the Pacific Northwest.   I quickly found an interesting discrepancy:  Emma Lazarus, the poet associated with the Statue of Liberty, was identified in one source as his cousin, and in another as his sister.  I eventually determined that  Emma was not even remotely related to Edgar.  This revelation inspired me to study further the mysterious Edgar Lazarus.  I was struck by how often he was referred to as” the most prominent Oregon architect about whom the least is known.”  The increasing availability of digitized resources learning about Lazarus less formidable than it was in the recent past.  Today I’m going to share some of what I’ve learned about life and work of this enigmatic architect.

Early Life & Education

The story of Edgar Lazarus begins in Charleston, S. C., where his family was part of a thriving Jewish community that had existed since the early 1700s.  In fact, Lazarus claimed that his family came to the Americas from Spain in the 16th century with De Soto’s explorations.  Lazarus’s mother and father married in 1864 during the Civil War.  His mother, Minnie Mordecai, was the daughter of wealthy merchant Moses Mordecai, whose ships sailed throughout the Caribbean.  His father, also named Edgar, returned to Charleston to join the Confederate Army after studying at the University of Heidelberg.  Following the war’s end in 1865, the Reconstruction government made life uncomfortable for wealthy former Confederates.  The Lazarus and Mordecai families sold what they could and in 1867 moved to Baltimore.  They soon reestablished their fortunes and became an integral part of Baltimore society.

Lazarus Sr. achieved success in Baltimore as a commission merchant.  On June 6, 1868, Edgar Marks Lazarus (Jr.) was born.  After attending public schools he attended the architecture program of the Maryland Institute of Art and Design where he graduated in 1888.  He soon got a job in Washington as an architect with the US Army Quartermaster Corps.  In that role, he designed utilitarian buildings for the military.

Ellicott & Lazarus

In 1891, Lazarus resigned from his civil service job and moved Portland, apparently to work in real estate.  He soon teamed up with fellow architect William Ellicott to create the firm, Ellicott & Lazarus.  If Lazarus did not personally know Ellicott beforehand, he certainly knew who he was.   Born in Philadelphia, Ellicott came from a distinguished Maryland family whose ancestors founded Ellicott City.  Ellicott’s grandfather and uncles were Baltimore commission merchants just like Lazarus’s father. Ellicott’s educationa was impressive; he studied at Haverford, the University of Pennsylvania, and at a prestigious atelier in Paris.  What Ellicott & Lazarus designed is largely a mystery. Some of their known works include the first building for the Oregon Institute of the Blind (1893-94); the first Multnomah Amateur Athletic Club building (10th & Yamhill) (1893), and the Maryland University Hospital of Baltimore (1896).

Curiously, Lazarus alone is credit with houses designed while this firm existed.  An early example is the James Cook home of c. 1891, which demonstrates the Queen Anne Shingle Style typically associated with Lazarus.  Features include steeply pitched roofs, turrets, multiple gables, a great variety of window styles, very little ornamentation, all sheathed in shingles.  The Noble house is a lot of fun with its windows gone wild.  The house built for Edward McKee, historically called the George F. Heusner house, is a local favorite.  Divided into four condiminiums since the 1980s, the design of this house has fascinating eccentricities, such as an avoidance of right angles.  The two chimneys surging through a dormer is certainly distinctive.

Lazarus was certainly a man about town who enjoyed being member of  various clubs and who’s life can be tracked in Portland’s Society news.   His design for an 1895 bowling alley for the Oregon Road Club is an example of the work he could obtain through his various memberships.

Lazarus was also active in Portland’s sports community.  He was a founder of the Portland Hunt Club an organization that staged horse rides and races in a variety of venues throughout the city.  He was a natural pick to design the second, greatly expanded building and grounds  for the Multnomah Athletic Club which opened in 1901.   The short-lived building burned in 1910.

Following the departure of Ellicott, Lazarus returned to civil service as a Superintendent of Construction of Public Works for the federal government. This assignment made him the onsite manager of small-scale federal construction projects, such as post offices, courthouses, and quarantine stations.  This position helped him secure a larger project, service as supervising architect for the new US Custom House.  The building was designed by the office of the Supervising Architect of the US headed by James Knox Taylor and the legion of draftsmen that office employed. The custom house is a fine example of Italian Renaissance design with exuberant decoration.

From 1898-1901 Lazarus was also designed the early buildings for three state schools: Eastern Oregon State Normal School (Weston), Oregon Agricultural College and the University of Oregon.

In 1901 Morrow County wanted an architect for a new courthouse, and Lazarus won the competition.
For Lazarus the courthouse project helped him secure future large institutional commissions.  The building opened in 1903.  The eclectic design demonstrates the skill of local craftsmen and materials.  The craftsmanship is reminiscent of Vista House.

In 1903 and 1904, Lazarus was engaged in the design and construction of another courthouse, the extension of the 1875 post office and courthouse known today as Pioneer Courthouse.  The unpopular design by the Supervising Architect was replaced with the two wing version designed by Lazarus.

Lazarus, Private Practice, 1904-1909

Lazarus was also supportive of the Jewish community.  He designed the first Neighborhood House, an educational and social center which provided special assistance to new immigrants to Portland.  The Ahavai Shalom Synagogue built in 1904, was a Portland landmark until 1978 when it was destroyed.

A design that one can attibute to Lazarus in 1904 is the home of  Judge Charles H. Carey best known as an historian and president of the Oregon Historical Society.  In the MDR archives is a letter from Mrs. Robert Latta who identifies the Carey house and others as a Lazarus work.  As someone who knew Lazarus, and was the daughter in law of his friend John Latta, Mrs. Latta has a great deal of credibility.

In 1904 Lazarus secured a major commission, the new courthouse for Clatsop County.  Designed in 1904, the building was not completed until 1908 because of financing problems.  In 1951 its dome was removed. 

The idea for a grand exposition organized around the centennial of the Lewis & Clark expedition began percolating in 1900. Portland’s leading architects drew lots for the major structures whose designs were completed by December 1903.   The building by Lazarus, the Palace of Agriculture at 90000 sf  was the largest building at the fair and perhaps the most spectacular with its massive gold dome. On June 1, 1905, The Lewis and Clark Centennial and American Pacific Exposition and Oriental Fair opened.  The fair ushered in a period of growth for the city; the value of building permits jumped 450% from 1905 to 1911.   

The Columbia Building designed by Lazarus in 1905, is emblematic of Portland’s growth after the fair.  The Columbia lasted until 1972 when it was demolished to make room for O’Bryant Square.

In 1905, Lazarus acquired property at 14th Ave. and Washington St. so that he could build a residential hotel the first of its kind in that section of Portland.  My research reveals that Franklin Hotel, the historic name identified for this building in the 1985 National Register nomination, is inaccurate, and is actually the name of another building a block away.  The correct names are more interesting.  In 1907, Lazarus leased the builting to Mrs. A. B. Norton, so for a year it was the first Nortonia Hotel before what is now the Mark Spencer got that name.  In 1907, Dan Moore leased the building for year, and the name changed to the Danmoore.  In 1909, Lazarus took over management, and picked the name Ramapo Hotel for the building. In 1909, Lazarus managed the property and renamed the building  Hotel Ramapo,  probably after a prize-winning horse.  In 1955 the Ramapo became the Taft Hotel and today is a residential facility for people with special needs.   Very little of its outward appearance has changed over the years.

This fine Arts & Crafts home, the Lawrence, Whitehouse & FouilhouxJ. S. Bradley residence, was also designed by Lazarus in 1906.

The most lavish home designed by Lazarus was the residence for Lawrence, Whitehouse & FouilhouxMrs. Solomon Hirsch, widow of a respected Oregon politician who was an ambassador to Turkey.  Mrs. Hirsch was a local benefactor and leader in the women’s suffrage movement.  In 1937, the last heir of the Solomon Hirsch family left the property to the Portland Art Museum.  After contemplating converting the house into exhibit space, the museum sold the property to Standard Oil.  Lazarus agreed with decision, saying that it would be too difficult to restore the home.  In late 1938, the house, a major landmark on Burnside, was destroyed.  The site continues to be used as a service station.

Inspired by the successful showing of Oregon livestock at the Lewis & Clark fair, the Portland Country Club and Livestock Association was formed in 1906 to create a venue for promoting national livestock shows and sales with the corollary aim of improving breeds. Other entities became interested in the concept, and the grand scheme was to incorporate quarters for the Portland Hunt Club, the Automobile Club, the Kennel Club.    By January 1908 Lazarus had completed plans for the project.  The site selected was adjacent to the developing community called Rose City Park. By September 1908, the work was largely finished.   The complex included a grandstand accommodating 8000, an elliptical track, a jockey house, clubhouse, entrance building, and up to  20 other structures including a paddock, a pigeon house, barns, stables, and kennels.  The site became known as the Rose City Racetrack and featured events such as auto and bike racing, Oregon’s first airmail flight, and even colliding locomotives.  Sold to the city in 1921,  this location is now the Rose City Golf Course.  The Jockey Clubhouse remains as a residence at 6134 NE Alameda.

Lazarus, Whitehouse & Fouilhoux

In February 1909, Lazarus joined Morris Whitehouse and J. Andres Fouilhoux to form the partnership, Lazarus, Whitehouse, and Fouilhoux (Lawrence, Whitehouse & Fouilhoux).  Morris Whitehouse as a native Portlander who studied architecture at MIT and in Paris and worked briefly in the firm, Whitehouse and Honeyman.  Fouilhoux was an engineer.  A major project of the firm was the Receiving Ward specifically the central domed section, of the Oregon State Asylum or State Hospital in Salem.  The Receiving Ward was planned so that three sections (the center and two wings) would be built over time. Major works also include the Mann Old People’s Home funded by Mrs. P. J. Mann as a memorial to her husband, and the Wickersham Apartments where Lazarus lived with his sister 1915-1921,   A major project was the design of another building for  Oregon State Hospital.    Several fine residences designed by Lawrence, Whitehouse & Fouilhoux have not been clearly linked to the firm although their complete plans exist in OHS’s architectural drawing collections. The Edward A. King House has been inaccurately attributed to Whidden & Lewis or otherwise described as “architect unknown.”  The George L. Campbell Residence is another work whose architect is listed as unknown in most documentation but it is without doubt a Lawrence, Whitehouse & Fouilhoux design.  Especially intriguing are these two houses designed and built at exactly the same time.  Because the sides of the houses face the street they are especially difficult to see.   Mrs. Houghton, a widow, was the sister of Robert Howard.  The Howard family home  of 1893 still exists at 1632 SW 12th Ave. Lazarus withdrew from the Lawrence, Whitehouse & Fouilhoux partnership in March 1910 and in May he went to Europe where he stayed for most of the year.  His companion for part of the journey was  world famous editorial cartoonist Homer Davenport with whom he shared an interest in race horses. 

About the Electric Building

In January 1910, the Electric Building opened.  Lazarus is credited as its architect while Carl Linde is identified as its superintendent of construction.  The original structure was a visual delight with terra cotta arches at its base, a  central section sheathed in a unique yellow brick, and its massive cornice embellished with lion motifs.  The 9-story structure was built above an existing power plant housed in the first three floors.  In 1941, Doyle Associates redesigned the ground floors and removed the arches.  The Electric Building initially puzzled me because its initial designs (drafted by Kable) were published in 1906 but construction didn’t begin until 1909.   The National Register nomination (1988) lacked information about the building history.  I dug into the Oregonian and found an article that cited David C. Lewis as the architect.  I followed up by consulting the Index to the Portland Daily Abstract and found, under Lewis, citations outlining the building history of the Electric Building, listed under the corporate name,  the Portland Railway Light & Power Company, established in 1906 after several mergers. A Feb. 1909 article in the PDA confirmed that David C. Lewis was commissioned to create the plans.  The Electric Building certainly fits well in Lewis’s body of work which includes several tall office buildings in downtown Portland.

Lazarus & Logan

Upon his return to Portland in January 1911, Lazarus formed a partnership with architect Frank Logan, an MIT graduate who had been a draftsman for Doyle and Lawrence, Whitehouse & Fouilhoux.  The major work of Lazarus & Logan was a South Wing for the State Hospital.  In 1914, Logan left employment with Lazarus, probably because an economic downturn made caused commissions to dwindle.

While commissions might have been few during the Lazarus and Logan partnership, both men were strongly involved in the two leading professional organizations of that time.  Lazarus was one of five individuals who found in 1911 the Oregon Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, a national organization founded in 1857.  Another architectural group was the Portland Architectural Club which promoted architectural awareness and education through exhibits and competitions.  In 1913 Lazarus was president of the Oregon AIA while Logan was president of the Portland Architectural Club. 

Lazarus was also a strong supporter of the Portland Art Museum where he was an occasional instructor in the museum school. Here he is pictured with art students in 1913, along with instructor, Sidney Bell.  Lazarus and others periodically loaned items from their collections for museum exhibitions.  Portraits of his grandparents by the French painter Daubigny were among items once exhibited. These ivory miniatures are now in the Gibbs Art Gallery, Charleston. 

Vista House

An automobile enthusiast, Lazarus was early on a supporter of the Columbia Scenic Highway engineered by Sam Lancaster and supervised by John Yeon.  In the summer of 1915 he was commissioned to draw plans for Vista House a memorial to Oregon pioneers that would also serve as a comfort station and observatory.  By October, his plans had expanded to incorporate the ideas entrepreneur R. R. Dabney who proposed the erection of a fine hotel on the site.   Lazarus described the Vista House works to be of a Tudor Gothic style.  In May 1916, Lazarus was contracted by Yeon to superintend the construction of the building. Vista House was completed on April 1, 1918, with its formal dedication, with great fanfare, taking place on May 5, 1918.   In 2005, after a five-year multimillion dollar restoration, Vista House once again displayed the fine craftsmanship that impressed its first visitors. 

The usual narrative about Vista House, in addition to associating the architect with poet Emma Lazarus, states that Lazarus was inspired in its design by early  modern German architecture specifically Jugendstil. What Lazarus himself said contradicts this assertion, and the building itself displays few characteristics of any variation of Art Nouveau.   Vista House is closely akin to medieval religious structures such as octagonal chapterhouses.  Its sensitivity to materials is in the Arts & Crafts tradition.  Marion Dean Ross like inspired the Jugendstil spin with a mild suggestion in his 1959 booklet, A Century of Architecture in Oregon, 1859-1959.

Professional Conflicts

For Lazarus, Vista House was a crowning achievement, but it was an achievement marred by two major disputes about compensation that played out in the press and encouraged the demise of this architectural practice.  Both disputes involved defining an architect’s fees as a percentage of the total cost of the work.  A 1917 auditors report revealed that the South Wing of the State Hospital cost 50% more than was reported in 1912 when it was completed.  Lazarus tried unsuccessfully to get paid the difference.  His suit against Multnomah County regarding Vista House pointed out that the projected 1915 cost ended with a final tab of approximately $100,000.  In 1919 Lazarus actually won additional pay for a disputed connected with the North Wing of the hospital.  But at the widely reported medication meeting, an embittered state employee lunged at Lazarus who was spared from assault by the intervention of Governor Olcott.

The most tragic conflict, not reported in the press, was among Lazarus and his colleagues in the Oregon Chapter of the AIA.  In 1918, the membership petitioned that Lazarus be removed from chapter membership.  The petition, led by Morris Whitehouse, was basically payback by members against whom Lazarus had filed complaints or otherwise slandered over the years.   Specifically, William Knighton, Harrison Whitney, White, Fouilhoux, and David C. Lewis had major conflicts with Lazarus. The probable tipping point was when Lazarus struck a colleague at an exhibition jury.   Lazarus’s AIA membership ended in 1919.

Marriage

Perhaps it was this growing alienation that encouraged Lazarus at age 53 to get married. Lazarus had probably known Fanny Hendricks for some time.  She was born in Long Branch, NJ, where his brother lived.  Her family, like his, were pre-Colonial Jews who kept in touch with each other over the decades. Fanny’s ancestors pioneered the use of copper especially in shipbuilding and the firm,  eventually known as the Hendricks Brothers, thrived for almost two centuries. On November 17, 1921, Fanny and Edgar were married in New York City.  The subsequent life of the Lazarus couple was one of leisure frequently reported in the Society pages.  They spent winters in California, traveled to Europe, Japan, Florida, and New York.  They spent most of 1928 living in Paris. Edgar became more involved in art and his prints were accepted in juried exhibitions. In 1928, Fanny’s uncle, a single man, left a large portion of his estate to his three nieces, making the Lazarus couple, by today’s standards, the equivalent of millionaires.

On October 2, 1939, Lazarus died after a brief illness.  His obituary listed a few of his works, but even at the time of his death, only one of those, Vista House, still existed.  In 1969, the first review of his work, albeit limited to a few houses, was written by Carl Gohs in an Oregonian article.  In that article, Gohs observes that Lazarus, surprisinglyis the least known among Oregon’s prominent architects.  Today I hope to have hoped to provide a glimpse of an architectural record that is slowly being revealed. By using resources that are increasingly available full-text online, such as newspapers and government documents, I have been able to increase the number of works built or planned from Lazarus from about 12 to almost 75.

Many of these works no longer exist but have importance in the social context of Portland’s history. Some works are disguised, like the Lowengard Factory & Warehouse which is now a fashionable building in the Pearl District. Some have historical and architectural importance, waiting to be confirmed as a Lazarus work, such as the Latta House at Waverly Heights, Milwaukee. Some are minor but indicative of the majority of works that occupied Portland architects in their careers, such as this Bakery, now Eugenio’s restaurant.

The discovery that inspired me early on to investigate Lazarus is this book, a catalog of the German architectural exhibit at the 1904 St. Louis’s world’s fair.  I found it in preparation for a talk about my library’s rare book collection for art history graduate students.  In browsing through the book I noticed handwritten annotations throughout, usually indicating color schemes and fabrics.

The bookplate indicated that Mrs. Edgar Lazarus gave the book to UO in 1941.  It was from the library of Edgar M. Lazarus who undoubtedly did all the scribbling.    I’m sure there is more about Edgar Lazarus waiting to be discovered.

Ed Teague