James W. Cook House

James W. Cook House

1883 S.W. Vista Ave.
Portland, OR

National Register of Historic Places Multnomah County, Oregon
Date Built 1908
Historic Function Residence
Style Category Bungalow/Craftsman (Arts and Crafts)
Architect / Builder Bennes, Hendricks & Tobey
Owner Category Private

James W. & Ianthe Cook

James W. and his Brother Vincent Cook dropped the 'e' from Cooke for business reasons, but are in fact related to the other Cookes on this site.

Portland Heights has many houses built by wealthy Portland business leaders.

One of the most visible and imposing is the James W. Cook house at 1883 S. W. Vista Ave, prominent at a curving of the street and in view for blocks.

The massive house was built in 1908 in Bungalow/Craftsman (Arts and Crafts) style by James W. Cook, pioneer salmon canner, near the end of his career. The 4,591 square-foot structure was designed by Bennes, Hendricks and Tobey.

At first, residents were reluctant to locate homes on the inaccessible hill, for roads were steep and unpaved. Limited construction took place in the neighborhood until 1890, when the Portland Cable Railway Co. constructed a cable car, some of it on a 21 degree grade, parallel to 18th Street.

The easier access and the spectacular view caused building to flourish.

As the cable car and the trolley snaked up Vista, so did subsequent development.

The house has cross-gabled design with gabled roof dormers and overhanging eaves and balconies. The ground elevation features limestone facing repeated in the west, north and south chimneys and in the porch piers and patio. The porch is supported by heavy square timbers on rustic stone faced piers.

Beside the open stairwell is a built-cabinet with four doors containing glass spanels created by the famed Povey Brothers Art Glass Works of Portland.

The particular design includes zinc leaded clear glass, highlighted by pink and green opalescent glass in a pomegranate flower design. Long s stems cascade geometrically through the center of each panel in an Art Nouveau-inspired form, The house has a butler's pantry and a breakfast room.

The stairwell carries a six-part Povey window creation of a large floral bouquet in dogwood theme, a flower that was the particular favorite of David Povey.

On the second floor are four bedrooms, three of which have fireplaces. The third, or attic, level was originally servants' quarters.

Cook's Portland residence, is a visual impact symbol of the rewards of his efforts in what was once one of the region's most important industries.

Cook was born in Newark, N.J., in 1833 and moved to Portland from Chicago in 1854 with his mother, sister and brother Vincent Cook. Two older brothers preceded them to portland in 1852, and their father moved to the city in 1853. Cook's first business manufactured tents, bags and other canvas articles, the first such company in the city.

In 1870, at age 37, James and Vincent Cook built a salmon canner at Clifton, 20 miles east of Astoria on the Columbia River. It was the second canning business on the river, and others followed. By 1873, there were 14, with the salmon industry exceeded only by wheat in shipping importance.

Many of the workers at Cooks' cannery were Chinese laborers, and the little community of Clifton, about 250 people strong, was linked by rail road, telegraph and boat to other areas of the river and to Portland.

By 1877, the Cook firm was shipping canned salmon to England. Previously, the salmon canners had traded with Australia, China, Chile and Singapore. It seems the English, at first, hadn't really liked the red color of the Columbia River salmon.

The cannery flourished for a dozen years. After a record catch in 1883, fish supplies, depleted because of gill nets, horse seines, double bowed launches and upriver fish wheels, began to decline.

In 1897, Cook and six other cannery owners formed the Columbia River Packers Association. The seven companies turned their assets over to the new combine. Cook received $20,000 and 40,00 shares of stock.

In 1898, the packers association reduced the number of operating canneries by 25 percent and Cook decided to retire.

Subsequently the built canneries at Port Townsend and Blaine, Wash., on Puget Sound, where the fish were still in good supply.

His family used to live at Clifton and later at Port Townsend, finally returning to Oregon and the Vista Avenue house.

Cook packed more than 600,000 cases of salmon at an estimated value of more than $3 million during his career.

Cook had numerous real estate holding and was a stockholder in the Portland Guarantee, Title and Trust Co. James and Vincent Cook built the Cook's Block on East Front Street in 1882 and another office building in 1884 at Second and Oak streets. Both offices were known for their handsome cast-iron ornamentation.

James Cook also invested in the Guild's's Lake landfill.

In 1900, he donated seven acres in Albina for an industrial training school, to be open to students with out regard to race, religion or color.

He served on the City Council in 1864 and 1865, was prominent in Masonic orders and the Portland Heights and Commercial clubs. At his death in 1913, his personal wealth was assessed at $1,078,288. Real estate holding accounted for $900,000 of that.

Nearly a decade after her husband died, Ianthe Cook in 1922 sold her Vista house to Nan Robertson Warren, wife of salmon canner George Warren.

George Warren was secretary of the Warren Packing Co. founded by his father, Frank W. Warren, who drowned in the wreck of the Titanic in 1912.

Other owners have been Joseph C. and Grace Leibee, Raymond G. Kubitz Jr., Miles P. and Carol Englehard, Edward S. Holden, Rahul Sud, and Gus Van Sant.