Spearheading the Restoration of the Historic Phoenix Pharmacy Building
Foster the Phoenix LLC was formed with the single goal of rescuing The Phoenix Pharmacy Building from demise, restoring its past prominence while keeping historical integrity. A partnership between the prior owner’s son Matt Froman and Nonetop LLC, which consists of historic preservationist Rick Michaelson and Karen Karlsson has taken on the enormous task of renovating and upgrading a nearly century old architectural gem and neighborhood icon that has sat victim to deferred maintenance and vacancy for nearly two decades. Office, retail, and restaurant space will be available for lease once completed. The building still inspires awe and wonder from all that pass it, and Foster the Phoenix LLC is determined to see the building rise from the ashes and deliver it to the deserving communities of Mt. Scott-Arleta and Foster-Powell.
The Phoenix Pharmacy building and its rounded brick corner and curved windows dominate the intersection of SE Foster Road and 67th Street in Portland Oregon.
Prominent pharmacist and philanthropist John Leach commissioned to have it built in 1922 for the cost of $20,000, moving his pharmacy from the southern side of Foster Road. Mr. Leach bought the fledgling Phoenix Pharmacy business in 1911 aptly named by the prior owner as he collected claims four separate times from the Phoenix Fire Insurance Co. “as he would set a fire whenever he got hard up” according to John’s wife Lilla.
Under Leach’s leadership, the Phoenix Pharmacy grew into one of the largest in the state, selling not only prescription drugs but also cutting edge household items at the time such as: Victrolas and Victor Records, Brunswick Phonographs, Kodak Cameras, and Spalding Sporting Goods. In 1935 the Phoenix Pharmacy building also began serving as the headquarters for the Portland YMCA community enterprise focusing on organized activities. The Pharmacy which was marketed as “Portland’s Finest Suburban Drug Store” had a successful run of nearly 50 years on the corner 67th and SE Foster before Mr. Leach retired, selling the business to his partner W. M. Hamilton, and later donating the property in 1970 to the YMCA to sell for a local branch expansion. During that time the second floor housed office space for a variety of physicians, most notably a dentist who occupied the SE corner rounded room.
The Pharmacy business itself eventually moved kitty-corner across Foster and the Phoenix Pharmacy building had a cycle of short-term occupants including a waterbed store and aquarium. The most notable business was Allen Video who sold rotary phones and VHS tapes for nearly 20 years, with George the Gorilla outside greeting visitors. In 1999 the Phoenix Pharmacy building was sold to a long term Foster Road businessman with the ambitious goal of turning the property into a stove museum and a community arts center. Unfortunately, the dream was never realized and The Phoenix sat vacant for 2 decades attracting vandalism and homeless transients. Thus, in 2018 Foster the Phoenix was formed and purchased the property assuring the Phoenix Pharmacy building will rises once again. We are excited as much as the community to see what this special building next 97 years brings. Stay tuned….
This former pharmacy, built in 1922, is actually my favorite building on Southeast Foster Road. I love the elegant curve of the facade and the detailed brickwork on the second story. But for a very long time, since before I first saw it, the storefront has been wrapped in hideous fencing and left to molder. Many of the windows are broken, and the lathe and plaster walls inside appear to be crumbling.
The owners of record are Robin and Joanne Lashbaugh, although The Oregonian reported in 2009 that Robert Froman, of Buck’s Stove Palace, owns the building and has plans to turn it into a museum of antique stoves (Froman applied for a remodeling permit in 2002). He seems to have given up that dream, though; a banner hung on the side of the building in June advertises a price of $600,000, although it is not listed on the Regional Multiple Listing Service.
It is probably futile to hope that the building will ever be restored. The city of Portland considers the building unsafe, meaning the fire department will not enter the building in the event of a fire. (The upstairs was home to unpermitted apartments until the late ’90s, according to city records—a terrifying prospect.) The cost of making the unreinforced masonry structure earthquake-safe alone is probably enough to deter investors. But still—look at those lines! And all that light! If the McMenamins are looking for a project to follow up the Crystal Hotel, they could do worse than saving this neglected gem.