The Barnes Mansion: Beaumont’s Century Old Family Compound

We’ve had an opportunity recently to delve into the history of a Northeast Portland landmark home: the 106-year-old Barnes Mansion at 3533 N.E. Klickitat named for Isabelle Payne Barnes and Frank Charles Barnes, the visionary and driving forces behind this building and its surroundings.

The Barnes Mansion in 2020, 3533 NE Klickitat. Several of the houses in this photo were built by and for one family.

The story of this almost 12,000-square foot, 32-room giant is about more than just a house though, it’s the story of one family and an entire neighborhood established for its children.

We’ll begin with Barnes family history for a frame of reference to understand the magnitude of the initial vision. And here’s a clue to that: It’s big. Frank Barnes operated in big brush strokes in business, in family and in life.

Frank’s professional life was all about food: growing, raising and making it; packing it; distributing it; selling it. And in later years, his fortune came from investments and real estate. Together, Frank and Isabelle built a business, a family and a family compound that came to define the western edge of today’s Beaumont neighborhood.

Early Years

Frank’s story begins on the Oregon Trail. Born in Albany, New York in 1854, Barnes spent the first years of his life on the family farm in Clark County, Iowa. In 1858 his family—parents William and Elizabeth Barnes—set out with an ox-drawn wagon along the Oregon Trail, eventually making it to the Willamette Valley.

Isabelle Payne was born in 1857, daughter of a homestead-era farming and dairying family that lived along Columbia Slough.

In 1858 when four-year-old Frank Barnes and his family arrived, Portland was a small town with limited roads and commerce. Soon after arriving, William Barnes launched into the lumber and milling business and quickly found success in any business depended on transportation. He was elected Road Supervisor and opened the route known today as Barnes Road, connecting Portland with the Tualatin Valley.

With commerce connected by new roads, the Barnes family moved into the grocery business. Think of it as an early farm-to-table establishment where father and son—William and Frank—bought and sold produce from eastside and westside to a growing population, including lands they owned and farmed themselves.

In 1876 Frank and Isabelle were married and the couple began their own family. Isabelle took care of home and family and was clearly the center of the universe for the couple’s children and grandchildren.

Frank Barnes builds a food business

As a young man building on the family business, Frank Barnes established Portland’s earliest and busiest grocery market at the corner of SW 3rd and Morrison downtown. It was an integrated business with 40 employees, seven wagons, farming acreage, a poultry farm, a fruit packing plant, a commercial ice and cold storage facility, and a huge warehouse for salting, smoking and canning salmon.

Every Portlander knew Barnes Market and Packing, and most had done business with Frank in one way or another. It was the place to go for delectable items: check it out:

From The Oregonian, November 25, 1900

Over the years, Frank’s success and the influence of his businesses propelled him into public office, serving multiple terms as Multnomah County Commissioner, a state legislator, a roads commissioner like his father, and even as police commissioner. With accumulated wealth and influence, Barnes began to invest in real estate. On the home front, the children were becoming like a big company of their own.

In the 20 years between 1875 and 1898, Isabelle had seven children: Clara; Lila; Ivy; Gladys; Frank; Helen; and Irene. Six daughters and one son. It’s important to have this in mind as we contemplate how this place came to be. As the kids grew, they married and each took on different aspects of the family business.

Given Frank’s desire to think big, what was the logical progression? How about development of a family headquarters—a kind of sanctuary, shrine and safe haven—done in a way that extended both the reach of the community and the family businesses.

These were the drivers behind what happened next.

A family compound takes shape on the eastern city limits

Barnes lived the example of anticipating the place where opportunity would exist and then getting there before others. As John Jacob Astor wrote: “Buy on the fringe of a growing city and wait.” Which is exactly what Barnes did. He and Isabelle had earlier bought a piece of the prominent ridgeline on the eastside known as Gravelly Hill. And in 1911, it was time to merge the vision for a family compound with the family real estate development business. He was 58 years old and Isabelle was 55.

Here’s the official plat of what they had in mind: three square blocks between Fremont and Klickitat, 35th and 27th. 10 acres. They named the plat for their youngest daughter: little Ruth Irene.

Irene Heights Plat, 1911

First and foremost, this was to be a family bastion. Barnes carved out a property in the plat for each child all clustered around a main residence—like a central castle—which is what neighborhood kids in the 1920s called the big house: the Barnes Castle.

Remember, this was a sparsely populated area with dirt roads during the early years. The house was on its own septic system until sewers arrived in 1915. But the remote location didn’t hold Barnes back. He and business partner E.E. Merges owned this part of the forested slope. Their friends E.Z. Ferguson, Harry Hamblet, William Dunckley and John Bryce, with the Alameda Land Company, owned the slope just to the west. And in 1909-1911 everybody saw opportunity and acted on it with their own plats.

Back to Irene Heights…with the table set on the Barnes family acreage, construction started on the houses. First to be built in 1912 was the home for Gladys and her husband John J. Reynolds (who worked for Frank) to the north of the mansion at 3425 NE 35th Place, which has since been torn down.

Next came the big house for Frank and Isabelle; and the home at 3601 NE Maltby for daughter Lila and her husband Charles Starr, who ran one of the largest fruit packing companies in the northwest. These two houses were built at the same time between 1913-1914.

An undated but early view of the facade.

In 1915, young Frank Barnes—Frank Scott Barnes, for the record—and his wife Doris built the next family home at 3414 NE 36th Avenue. Young Frank ran the family salmon canning and packing company out of Wrangell, Alaska in the late 1920s and 1930s, where he served as mayor. Frank was killed by a grizzly bear in 1940 on a bear hunting trip in Southeast Alaska, interestingly hunting with his close friend Francis Marion Stokes, the son of the contractor who built all the Barnes houses. In a point of interest, in the mid 1940s, several years after Frank’s death, his wife Doris became the very popular and effective mayor of Wrangell, serving several terms.

Clara Barnes married Frank Collinson, who helped run the Barnes family business, and they built a home at 3460 NE 36th.

Helen married Alfred Allen and they built the house at 3526 NE Fremont. Alfred ran a subsidiary salmon packing company.

Irene married J. Wilbur Hendrickson, another partner in the salmon packing business, and they built the house at 3603 NE Klickitat.

Ivy married Louis Starr, brother of her brother-in-law (Lila’s husband) and they actually decided against living so close, a topic that probably riled Frank and Isabelle: Ivy and Louis built their home at NE 25th and Hancock, not too far away, but far enough…

And a point of order about the plat and street naming and numbering: Marguerite Avenue which you see on the plat was renamed when Portland went through a major re-addressing initiative from 1931-1933.

Here’s an illustrated map, revised in 2022 with input from family members, that may help put the pieces together:

Barnes Family at Irene Heights (revised)

Design and construction of the Barnes Mansion

Some have attributed design of the Barnes Mansion to David L. Williams, who designed the Lytle house located on NE 22nd, known today as Portland’s White House. Researchers have not come across conclusive proof, but there are certain family resemblances.

But we’re not from that school of thought, and tend to believe the home was designed and built by Stokes & Zeller, which was a large architecture and construction company in Portland during those years.

A few reasons behind this hunch: Francis Marion Stokes—the noted architect who was comfortable working in these styles and forms—was a personal friend of the family—remember that he and young Frank were on that fateful bear hunting trip together. And, Stokes & Zeller designed and built the other Barnes family homes in the neighborhood.

Regardless, the house is a masterpiece, filled with careful craftsmanship including:

  • Tile floors and marble fireplace installed by Italian craftsmen;
  • Honduran mahogany paneling;
  • Custom-made carpeting and lighting;
  • 18-carat gold threaded wall coverings in the drawing room;
  • Beautiful art glass, likely by Povey Glass.

During the Barnes years, this place was a temple for the family. A look back through newspapers of the day shows that if there was an important event, holiday or gathering, the Barnes were hosting it: weddings, masquerade balls, Christmas parties. All of the daughters were married from the home, walking down the main staircase with their wedding trains.

When Isabelle died in the house on September 19, 1930, there was only one place for the funeral and memorial: at home. The same when Frank died there one year later, mourners came to the house for a funeral and reception, and a procession to nearby Rose City Cemetery.

The next several decades were not the best for the house. Immediately after Frank’s death, the house was a rental and came into the hands for a few years of a real estate investor named Charles J. Derbes and his wife Carmen. They left by the mid 1930s, and city directories show it vacant for a few years in the depths of the Great Depression.

By 1937 a Portland attorney named Bill Illidge owned the house. He was disbarred in 1939 over sketchy financial and real estate dealings and through the 1940s, he gradually descended into a lonely hermit-like existence as the house and landscaping declined. He reportedly closed up most of the place and lived only in the east solarium near the front door, with a cot and a hot plate.

Illidge died in the house on December 1, 1958 and the macabre detail in the second paragraph was remembered for many years by the kids of the neighborhood.

From The Oregonian, December 3, 1958

Older kids apparently weren’t scared. The home was vacant for two more years and continued its downward slide.

From The Oregonian, October 18, 1959

Father and son Carl and Deane Hutchison and Deane’s friend William McReynolds purchased the house in 1960 and began the slow uphill climb of restoration, which was set back by the Columbus Day Storm of 1962, which ripped off the roof, damaged the balustrades and uprooted 19 trees on the property.

The Hutchisons and McReynolds, and eventually a friend named John Jensen, continued to restore the house and added a 100-stop pipe organ and a small chapel in the house. Since 1997, the house has been owned by Merrit and Anna Quarum, who have continued its careful stewardship, which is no small feat for a 106-year-old property of this size and complexity.

The Barnes Mansion was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 and in mid-2020 is currently for sale. Go check out the current real estate listing website, for a closer look inside.

Contemporary view from the balcony looking southwest.

19 responses

  1. Thanks so much for all the work you put into this. I especially love your map of the kids! I hope you are doing OK now with the coronavirus closures of archives. I am working on northeast Seattle neighborhood history material which I have at hand at home, and what I can find on-line such as the census.

  2. Pingback: The Barnes Mansion: Beaumont’s Century Old Family Compound — Alameda Old House History – Brandon Chambers Portland

  3. I really enjoyed seeing this due to the fact that I learned to drive on Barnes Road in the middle of the 1950’s due to the fact there was little traffic . However, I didn’t even know who the Barnes were and it meant a lot to me.
    Oregon History has been a passion for me.
    Thank you

  4. I have lead several architectural walking tours of the neighborhood for the Beaumont-Wilshire Neighborhood Association. This house has always fascinated me. I live down the street on Klickitat. I have done some research on the Barnes Mansion and family compound but the information presented here goes way deeper than what I was able to dig up. Thank you, Doug! Interestingly enough the Polk City Directory lists the occupation of Frank Barnes at this address as merely “fishpacker”, hardly an adequate description of all the directions his ventures entailed. Fishpacker indeed!

  5. This has always been such a dramatic part of our neighborhood. My Mom and I looked at the apartment to rent back around 1964-65 but decided against it since it was downstairs! I loved walking around it when I lived on 32 place just a few blocks from it. I am more than pleased to see the way it has been restored and hope it stays that way. Glad the developers have not bought and torn it down to put up modern apartments like they are doing in some many of the areas of Alameda and Beaumont now. Thanks for the beautiful update!

    Bev Renne

    On Mon, May 25, 2020 at 2:43 PM Alameda Old House History wrote:

    > Doug posted: “We’ve had an opportunity recently to delve into the history > of a Northeast Portland landmark home: the 106-year-old Barnes Mansion at > 3533 N.E. Klickitat named for Isabelle Payne Barnes and Frank Charles > Barnes, the visionary and driving forces behind thi” >

    • Thank you for these stories! We are fairly new to this part of town and are really enjoying learning more. Today we did a walk around all all the Barnes family houses you mentioned.

  6. I want to thank you for the nice article.
    The Barnes are my Great,Great Grand Parents.
    I’ve always loved their story and the beautiful homes they built.

  7. My wife and I were the 2nd owners of Helen Barnes’s home on lots 3,4,and 4 of Irene Heights, at 3526 NE Fremont and built in 1919. We bought it in 1965. All 3 of our children were raised there and attended Beaumont and Grant. As I drove past the home about a month ago I was saddened to see that the home had been demolished and, evidently, three homes will be built on the 3 lots. Another 100 year old home and integral part of NE Portland history gone…..

  8. My name is Rick Schleich as a kid who moved into a house across from Mrs Mable Bun who was Beverly Clearly mom..I saw a picture of Beverly when she turned 100 down in the Bay area.She responded back to me ,she looks like her mom.In the 50,s Mrs Bun was alone with my folks being her only contact in the neighborhood.The klickitat house is in one of the books written by Clearly.The book talks about the hose and the creepy organ music.She got some facts wrong.The organ was Deane Hutchinson who bought the house after Mr Ilige died.Deane was nationally known organist who at the time had become the organist at Ist Congregational Church on Sw park ave.My mom was the church secretary and then became the office manager.I met Mr Ilige in the summer of 55,when me and some kids my age along with older boys approached the klickitat house from the back and the older boys knocked over a bunch of stuff on Mr Illiges screen porch.My mom got a call from another boys mom who lived on klickitat across from the house.My mom sent me up to apologize for the mess that we made.Being a smart kid I took a bucket of cherri and went up to fess up.Illige met me at the front door and to my surprise he was a nice old.guy.I got a broom cleaned our mess and went with to the carriage house on the Me corner of the property to get a garbage can.In the carriage house was a pre1930 cadie touring car.To sum it up the old guy was just as lonely old man.He gave me a quick tour of the inside from the entry it was completely furnished but everything was covereWhen Deane moved in my middle brother got the job of lawn mowing.I was in the house one more time when I took my mom up for an open house after Deane had done his remodeling.Dean as a favor to my mom did the music for my wedding in1971.

  9. The owner of the home was D.Dean Hutchison; not Hutchinson. Dr. Hutchison was my organ teacher for 6 years beginning in high school and continuing while I obtained my degree in Music Performance from Portland State University. He lived his life until 1987 with Mr. McReynolds. There were 2 pipe organs installed from the foyer with the pipes traversing 3 floors. Dr. Hutchison’s home was full of antiques from his European education and travels. He entertained and was associates with greats of music such as Virgil Fox, and instructed one of the founders of Air Supply. It was my understanding that Dr. Hutchison had 2 doctorates in music and taught organ (classical), voice and string. His life was an album of artistic appreciation and accomplishment. He had a profound effect on my life as a learned man of the arts. He was the first person who taught me the proper method of classical organ from his roots in the Methodist Church. I obtained and held an organist position in Lake Oswego while attending the University. His home was adorned with many works of art; some masterpieces later housed in Le Louvre. He held frequent recitals and events in his Mansion. He had an eloquent appreciation of early film and had furniture & art used in many classic film. I visited his home weekly between the years of 1977-1983. It was an experience of absolute awe. Dr. Hutchison kept a classic pump organ in the front foyer that was referred to by the previous owner occupance. Across in the hall was housed the console for the largest pipe organ console of its time. Rogers organs was based in Hillsboro, OR on what is now “Silicon Forest” land. Rogers later designed for the Mormon Tabernacle.
    This home contains an extraordinary amount of history. Please, please in respect to Dr. Hutchison; please correct the spelling of his name.
    Thank you.

  10. Doug, have you ever seen a photo of the Barnes house which preceded the one on Klickitat? It was a Queen Anne located on six lots facing Tillamook Street between NE 21st and 22nd. Somewhere we have a blurry Irvington ad which show the turret in the background of the photo. When the house was torn down in the 20s, the California developer was convinced —-instead of building a high rise apartment building—to build 5 duplexes, each in a different historical revival style.

    • Hello Robert. I have never come across an image of what must have been a special place. I’ve reviewed materials I have on hand from my research, including a Barnes family photo album, but no luck. Have you tried reaching out to family members? Let me know what you find, or if there’s something I can do to assist. Would love to see one of the views.

  11. As a child I lived in the basement of this house briefly, in 1950 when I was 5 years old. I have no memories of upstairs or of Mr. Illidge, just playing outside in what seemed to be old-fashioned gardens with lots of ivy and garter snakes. My family had just moved to Portland from Chicago. We soon rented a house on Jessup Street, also lived on Jarrett Street, in Columbia Villa, and on Morrison while my Dad went to medical school. I have fond memories of Portland in the 50’s, riding my bike all over, going to movies at the Blue Mouse, and attending the good public schools.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: