Builder: Spencer-McCain Co.

I've been digging through period documents and I've slowly been accumulating information on the company that built our house: Spencer McCain Company. (I've also found it written out Spencer, McCain and Spencer & McCain.) Apparently, Spencer-McCain was made up of three (or four) partners: Charles C. Spencer and perhaps his wife Eda, who was also in real estate by 1914; Arthur W. McCain and Ida F. McCain.

In the 1910 census, Charles Spencer was listed as a bricklayer and contractor. Arthur W. was listed as a contractor. And Ida was listed as an architect. So, I think she was the one designing all the houses they built, which is remarkable because she was around 25 years old!

I thought I would do what I could to help share the excerpts I've found.

The Oregonian, 9 Sep 1911

The Oregonian, 30 Jun 1909

During June 50 new members have been added to the membership roll of the Chamber [of Commerce]: . . . Spencer-McCain Company.

The Oregonian, 22 Aug 1909

E.L. Pope, an Easterner, who recently bought a five-acre tract overlooking the Willamette River about three and one-half miles this side of Oregon City, is having the Spencer McCain Company prepare plans for a handsome rustic bungalow. The bungalow will be 33x40 feet in dimension, and will contain seven rooms, a reception hall and a sleeping porch. It will be sided with resawed rustic, with buffet and mantle inbuilt in the walls. Furnace heat will be provided. The bungalow will cost about $3500. Mr. Pope intends to move into his new home with his family this Fall.

R.W. Shepherd House, 1909 (image courtesy of the UO Digital Collections)

The Oregonian, 2 Jan 1910

The individual permits issued follow in detail: Tues, Dec 28.
Mrs. F. Hibbard—Erect two-story frame dwelling, East 63rd Street between Siskiyou and Sandy Road; builders, Spencer McCain Co.: $2000.
I found this house too; this is how it looks today. I doubt those windows are original.

The Oregonian, 13 Jan 1910

Fine New Homes for Alameda Park
. . . Following are a few of the Alameda Park homes that are under construction or being planned to be built this season . . . Spencer-McCain Company, $6500 residence to be complete by March first...

The Oregonian, 6 May 1910

The individual permits issued each day were as follows:  Friday, March 4
A.W. McCain, erect one and one-half story frame dwelling, Lombard Avenue, between East 28th and 29th; builder Spencer McCain Company; $2000.

The Oregonian, 8 May 1910

Individual permits issued through the week were as follows: Thursday, May 5
Charles McClure—Erect one-story frame dwelling. Huron street, corner Dawson; builder, Spencer McCain Co.; $1600.

The Oregonian, 8 May 1910

The Spencer-McCain Company has prepared plans for a two-story nine-room residence for Dr. Amelia Zeigler to be built on Colonial Heights, near Hawthorne Avenue to cost $5000. The foundation and columns of the porch will be of cement blocks.

The Oregonian, 10 Jul 1910

The above design for laying out a block for residence sites at Laurelhurst was drawn by Thomas Hawkes, landscape architect. The idea of Charles K. Henry, O.W. Taylor, Charles V. Cooper and Dr. Homer I. Keeney, owners of the block, was to have the block laid out on a consistent plan and to place the residences and arrange grounds so as to preserve the beauty of the site. Instead of having unsightly garages on the sidewalks, as seen in Irvington and other fine residence districts, the owners have decided upon a community garage in the center of the block. The numbers indicate where the residences will be built, as follows: No. 1, C.K. Henry’s residence; No. 2, O.W. Taylor’s residence; No. 3, C.V. Cooper’s residence; No. 4, Dr. H.I. Keeney’s residence; No. 5, general garage.

[Blog writers note. Spencer McCain built both house No. 1 and 4. Sadly, this is what this area looks like now. A paved over church complex all surrounded by a tall chain link fence. What a tragedy! I wonder what happened to the houses. Were they razed? Moved? I am definitely going to have to investigate this loss once the weather turns.]

**Here's the first clue as to what happened. Here is what that lot looked like in 1916. That last lot was originally planned to have Mr. Taylor's house, but I guess that plan fell through and the Laurelhurst Corp. then sold that last lot to the church, because there is a record in 1919 of Mr. Cooper suing them.

From "Laurelhurst and Its Park," 1916.
The Oregonian, 9 Jul 1919

The Oregonian, 21 Aug 1910

Among the recent homes projected is that of Dr. Homer I. Keeney, which will stand near the residence of Charles K. Henry. Dr. Keeney’s home is to be of the style of a California bungalow, with unusually wide porches on the east and south sides, and a large porte cochere on the north. The living room will be 20x30 feet in size, finished in ivory enamel with a rock-faced cut sandstone fireplace of unique design. For the dining room the size will be 16x18 feet, and the finish mahogany with a decorated frieze encircling the walls. One of the attractive features of the dining room will be a large built-in buffet with leaded glass doors and a large French plate-glass mirror. In other respects, the finish of the dwelling will correspond. Exterior walls of the first story will be of red pressed brick, the remainder to be covered with shingles stained a French gray. Work on the basement has already been completed. The cost of this residence will be $8000. The plans were drawn by the Spencer-McCain Company.

The Oregonian, 2 Oct 1910

Keeney’s Home Nearly Done
One of the finest homes in all the North East Side is now being completed for Dr. Homer I. Keeney. This is in Laurelhurst, near that of C.K. Henry. The plans, drawn by the Spencer-McCain Company, are for a low, rambling suburban type of residence resembling the style of the California bungalow. It has wide porches on the south and east sides.
  The living room is 20x20 feet and is being finished in ivory enamel. It will have a beautiful buff colored, rock-faced cut sandstone fireplace of unique design. The dining-room is 18x15 feet and is being finished in solid mahogany with a decorated frieze encircling the wall. The den, which is 14x16 feet, is connected with the living-room by French doors and will contain a rock-faced brick fireplace. This room will be finished in Eastern oak and will have beamed ceilings. The cost of the residence will be close to $5000. It occupies a commanding place in Laurelhurst, on the highest point in the whole tract, not far from the farmhouse that stood on the hill in the center.
Home of Homer I. Keeney, 1135 East Glisan Street
Home of Homer I. Keeney, 1135 East Glisan Street

The Oregonian, 4 Dec 1910

. . . The new houses of C.K. Henry and Dr. H.I. Keeney, both of which are exceedingly fine and artistic, and which are building, under the direction of the Spencer-McCain Company, side by side on Block 1, one of the commanding elevations in Laurelhurst, are nearly completed and soon will be ready to receive their occupants. Both the Henry and Keeney families have been living all summer in the old Ladd Mansion on the same block, just behind their new houses. As soon as they have moved into their new homes, the old mansion, which has been sold, will be moved on rollers off the addition of Laurelhurst, to a location on the north side of the O.R.&N. tracks. It probably will be remodeled into an apartment house. This will remove the last relic identifying Laurelhurst with its past as the Old Hazel Fern Farm, of the famous Ladd estate.

The Oregonian, 19 Feb 1911 (Our House!)

The Spencer-McCain Company has prepared the plans and commenced the erection of a two-story, seven-room, modern frame residence in Laurelhurst. The design is carried on the broad lines with low sweeping roof and broad eaves. To one side and under the main roof is carried a porte-cochere supported by heavy brick columns. The exterior of the house is shingled with brick trimmings.
The interior is finished with hardwood floors, beamed ceilings, and panel wainscot in the main living rooms. There is very broad, artistic mirrored buffet in the dining-room and built-in bookcases in the den. The mantel in the living-room is rock-faced brick. On the second floor are three chambers and bath, which are finished in white enamel; also a large sleeping porch and airing balcony. The Dutch kitchen and lavatory room are also finished in white enamel. There is full cement basement with furnace and fruit room. Completed this residence will cost about $4,500. (It actually sold for $6,000 in October.)
Not the best after photo, but we're still working on the yard.
The Oregonian, 26 Feb 1911
New House is Gem
C.K. Henry Home in Laurelhurst East Side Landmark
View Fine On All Sides
Construction and Finish of Highest Class, Surroundings to Be in Keeping With Style--Cost, With Grounds, $50,000

One of the most beautiful residences in Portland is the new home of Mr. and Mrs. Charles K. Henry, in Laurelhurst, which was recently completed and occupied. For a building site Mr. Henry picked out the most sightly spot in the whole tract, and the one which, by its contour, seemed best adapted for landscaping. In architecture, arrangement, furnishings and setting, the house is a fine example of good taste.
The residence is at East Glisan Street and Laddington Court, which was formerly known as East 38th Street. This site is of irregular shape and contains an area of about ten city lots. It sloped gently to the south, which is the front, and more gradually to the east and west. At the north of the house the ground rises very slightly.
House is East Side Landmark
Already the house is a landmark for the entire East Side and it is plainly seen from the eminences and tall buildings on the West Side. It commands a view in all directions. On the south the windows look out on the Laurelhurst Park with its dark fir forest in the center. The snow peaks of Hood and St. Helens stand out boldly to the east and north and appear even higher because of the vantage point from which they are viewed. On the east also Mount Tabor is a near neighbor, with its many fine homes. The view on the north extends to the Peninsula...
The approach to the house is by a winding path. The building is constructed of massive gray granite slabs, quarried at Wilkerson, WA. Some of the window ledges are ten feet long, and the stone throughout is cut in large pieces. The chimneys are of the same material and are carried to a great height, adding to the decorative effect. 26 tons of stone were used in the largest chimney.
House Planned by Mrs. Henry
The house was planned largely by Mrs. Henry both in the arrangement and the interior fittings, and was built by the Spencer-McCain Company. In every department of the construction the mechanics did exceptionally fine work. An example of this is seen in the scarfing of the stone around the woodwork of the windows and doors.
The treads and risers of the steps and the floors of the porches are of quarry tile of a living red tone. This is an especially attractive feature of the exterior of the house. The entrance leads into a vestibule of mahogany with mosaic floor. The vestibule opens through French doors into the large reception hall, with the living room and den to the left and dining room to the right. Broad stairs ascent from the reception hall to the second story and attic.
The floors from the main floor to the attic are of heavy quarter-sawed oak, dressed to a glass-like smoothness. The windows from bottom to top are of plate glass of perfect transparency, and are kept tight by metal weather stripping. All the paneling on the first floor is of especially selected mahogany, and the furniture is of mahogany and teakwood.
Furniture is Mahogany and Teak
Mr. Henry has picked up a number of pieces of teakwood, one being an electric lighting fixture of unique design, and another a desk which is a part of the furniture of his den. His prize is in the den, with its mahogany-beamed ceiling and comfortable fireplace. The den is also the library, the bookcases being built in, and made of beveled plate glass in coppered settings.
The are three fireplaces on the first floor and two upstairs. Casement windows and French doors prevail throughout the house. There are four large bedrooms with ample closets upstairs. A large covered sleeping porch commands a fine view to the north. One the third floor is a large billiard room, which may also be used as a ballroom. The basement contains the hotwater plant with which the house is headed, and housekeeping utilities...

Henry House Front View
Henry House Dining Room
Henry House Living Room

The Oregonian, 9 Apr 1911

One of the most unique and pretty 8-room homes, finished beautifully with hardwood floors, beamed ceilings, built-in buffet, mantel, etc. Must sacrifice this at extremely low price of $5350. Easy terms.
These two are homes, not houses. Save commission and buy from owner. Spencer-McCain Co., 426 Lumbermens Bldg. Phone M 6000.

The Oregonian, 9 Apr 1911

HELP WANTED: FIRST-CLASS bricklayer on residence work. Spencer, McCain Co., 426 Lumbermens bldg.

The Pacific Coast Architect, August 1911

Recent item selected from the Daily Advance Reports of The Pacific Coast Architect. PORTLAND.
Hotel Bldg—Spencer, McCain Co. prepared plans for five-story reinforced hotel bldg. (page 200)

The Pacific Coast Architect, September, 1911

Recent item selected from the Daily Advance Reports of The Pacific Coast Architect. PORTLAND.
Residence—Architects Spencer-McCain Co. prepared plans for two-story frame residence to cost $5000. (page 258)

The Pacific Coast Architect, October 1911

Recent item selected from the Daily Advance Reports of The Pacific Coast Architect. PORTLAND.
Residence—Architects Spencer-McCain co. prepared plans for a 2 story frame residence for W.L. Sonders, to cost $5000. (page 14)

The Oregonian, 12 Nov 1911

E.A. Holsington reports the sale of a $9000 residence in Alameda Park, to F.E. Gleseker, a recent arrival from Nebraska. This is a 100x100 corner at East 29th and Mason Streets. The Spencer & McCain Company were the architects and builders. Also a new $4000 bungalow in the Mt. Tabor district was sold to G.O. Matter.

The Oregonian, 12 Nov 1911

The new Alameda Park dwelling built by Spencer & McCain Company was purchased by F.E. Gleseker, a recent arrival from Nebraska, for $3000.
The Oregonian, 26 Nov 1911
I found this house in Google maps—though it could definitely use some exterior maintenance.
4063 NE 29th Ave 
4063 NE 29th Ave

The Pacific Coast Architect, December, 1911

Recent item selected from the Daily Advance Reports of The Pacific Coast Architect. PORTLAND.
Swiss Chalet—The Spencer-McCain Company prepared plans for a Swiss chalet to be built in Laurelhurst for E.H. Spencer. (page 136)

The Henry house, on the cover
The Oregonian, 24 Mar 1912
. . . the Spencer-McCain Company will build on seven lots [in Laurelhurst] this summer.

The Oregonian, 7 Apr 1912

The Spencer-McCain Company will break ground in the next few days for two residences, both of which to be of an exceedingly attractive design. One will face Mirimar Place, near East Flanders Street, and the other will front Floral Avenue, near East Everett Street.

The Pacific Coast Architect, June 1912

Recent items selected from the daily advance reports of "The Pacific Coast Architect.” PORTLAND.
Residence—The Spencer-McCain Company prepared plans for a Swiss chalet, to be built in Laurelhurst at a cost of $5500.
Residence—The Spencer-McCain Company prepared plans for an eight room modern English residence to cost $6,000. (page 434)

In 1913, I found the City Directory listing for Ida McCain, which includes her address: 115 HazelFern Pl (now 475 NE Hazelfern). This is presumably the house she built for herself. Here is how it looks today. Hmm, this would look so much better in a period color scheme.
475 NE Hazelfern

475 NE Hazelfern
The Oregonian, 14 Jun 1913
The C.K. Henry Residence to be Sold at Auction TODAY
Saturday, June 14th, at 2:30 PM
Northeast Corner of East Glisan Street and Laddington Court
Sale Will be Held on the Premises

This beautiful residence occupies an elevation of 250 feet above the river, erected on the site of the old Ladd Farm house under Mr. Henry's personal supervision and inspection. He and his family having camped in the old farm house while this residence was being erected, and being intended for the final home, received the utmost care and attention from Mr. Henry as to every particle of material and labor put into the dwelling.
       The site is one of the most healthful and attractive locations in the City of Portland, and receives more hours of sunlight than any other elevated spot in Portland, commanding a view of mountains and all directions of the compass.
       The stone work in the residence is of the finest. Every window, from basement to attic, and every glass door, is fitted with best selected plate glass; basement is fully finished in Keene's English cement, with iron columns instead of wood posts. The first floor is finished throughout in solid mahogany as fine as shown in any Steinway Piano, being the best specimen of work ever done by the Parelius Manufacturing Company. The hot water heating plant and plumbing was supplied and put in by Jacobsen-DeTemple Company in their best manner. One the second floor every door, including closet doors, are Pitcher Perfection Sliding Doors, requiring double partitions. Hardwood floors throughout, not the ordinary three or 5/8th, but 7/8ths of an inch thick; best piece of hardwood flooring laid down in the city. Porches and terraces are all laid with Welch Quarry Tile, done by the Oregon Art Tile Company, and is one of the finest pieces of work done on the Coast. There are five open fireplace in the house, four of Rookwood Pottery Tile and one of glass Faience in the living room.
         Mr. Henry erected and caused to be erected a number of large buildings in the city, and it seemed as it material man, as well as mechanic, took the utmost care to supply the best of goods and give the best of workmanship in this beautiful dwelling. Every door and window is supplied with rustless metal weather stripping and screens. In every detail the house has been fully considered, and inspection will prove it first class in every particular.
        The grounds, comprising nearly ten lots, are beautifully landscaped, and contain some of the finest shrubs, flowers and trees to be had. The pool and pergola and tea house on the grounds are artistic and finely built. The location of the property is fine. 26 miles of paved streets surround it, and a direct paved street into the city, as well as car service passes in front of the property.
      Furniture, furnishing and Oriental rugs, if wanted, can be had at private purchase after the sale.
      Mr. Henry, having sold the Henry Building and other properties here, and moving to Southern California, is his sold reason for selling this property.
       This property will be sold to the highest bidder. There is no mortgage upon it, and Mr. Henry is ready to give liberal terms on same. Intending purchasers can see plans and arrange for inspection of the property by applying to Mr. Henry, at his office, 83 Fourth Street, Henry Building.

The Oregonian, 15 Jun 1913

Leslie Scott Gets Home
With only two bids...the handsome home of C.K. Henry, in Laurelhurst, was sold at auction yesterday afternoon to Leslie M. Scott, for $41,000...
The residence is considered one of the finest in the Northwest. It occupies sightly ground at the northeast corner of Laddington Court and East Glisan Street. The interior is of elaborate finish, being in solid mahogany, and the floors of quarter-sawed oak. The site comprises and nine and one-half lots, the larger portion of which has been give rare landscape treatment.
Mr. Henry, with his family, will leave in a few days for Pasadena, Cal., where he recently purchased a beautiful home. He expects to remain permanently in California.
Leslie Scott said last night that his mother, Mrs. H.W. Scott, would occupy the residence purchased from Mr. Henry. The Scott residence at the northwest corner of 12th and Morrison streets will be removed and the quarter-block will be improved soon with a business structure.

I also found this fantastic drawing from 1916. I've cropped it way down to mostly just include the Henry and Keeney houses and the grounds and shared garage.
The Oregonian, 7 Sep 1913
And here the record in Portland ends. With some digging in, I figured out that they all relocated to the Los Angeles area in 1914/1915. By 1918, Ida had relocated to San Francisco and had a successful career upbuilding new neighborhoods. I found this article in the San Francisco Chronicle about her. Ida's brother seems to have gone (back) into meat merchanting. Mr. Spencer seems to have died by 1920.

I also finally figured out what happened to the Henry/Scott house.

In 1945, I found this reference: "The council voted favorably on a recommendation by the city planning commission that the arch-diocese of Portland in Oregon, through Archbishop Edward D. Howard, be permitted to operate temporarily a parochial school on lot 2, block, Laurelhurst, the old Scott home.... An emergency ordinance was authorized in order to permit quick opening of the two grades which the school will comprise."

Then, in Mar 1966, the church tore it down. It's hard to believe that a house that was once an "East Side Landmark" would not have been worth the trouble to move. What a tragedy! Or perhaps after 20 years of use by the church, it had been ruined. More than likely.

After a pretty exhaustive search through online records—no, I haven't dug through old architectural journals at universities—I have a list of houses I found to be built by Spencer-McCain / Ida F. McCain:
  1. 3391 NE Multnomah St
  2. 475 NE Hazelfern Pl
  3. 436 NE Hazelfern Pl
  4. 3033 NE 63rd Ave
  5. 4063 NE 29th Ave 
  6. 2817 NE Dunckley St
  7. 3641 NE Senate St.
  8. 2647 SW Talbot Rd
  9. 444 NE Floral Place
  10. 1617 SE 23rd Ave
  11. 7468 N Huron Ave

444 NE Floral
436 NE Hazelfern
436 NE Hazelfern
3641 NE Senate
And four more that were torn down, or permitted but not built:
  1. Charles K. Henry's "East Side Landmark" ($70,000 for house and grounds in 1912) Craftsman masterpiece, 1121 NE Glisan (to make way for unexceptional brick box church and parking lot).
  2. Homer I. Keeney's large craftsman, 1135 NE Glisan (next to Mr. Henry's house)
  3. E 59th Street, between Stanton and Alameda
  4. Lombard Avenue, between East 28th and 29th


  1. Just curious - how could you tell they were permitted?

    1. A lot of these listings I found in the Oregonian. When possible, if the house was still in the original location, i could look up the historic plumbing permits which showed the name of the owner. I haven't made a foray into city records yet. I plan to someday.

  2. I am trying to find the location of houses from the 1916 sale brochure "Laurelhurst and Its Park." You have amazing information! I love what you have done here.

    Would love to communicate. I am at 825 NE Hazelfern Place, Martha McMurry

  3. You are amazing!! I have been so engrossed in reading all of this history!

  4. Hello! I stumbled on your blog from Pinterest and couldn't believe what I found! I am a good friend of the trust that previously owned the house and it's awesome to see what you've done with it! Everything looks AMAZING! We are in escrow on a 1910 home and was wondering who did your carpentry and cabinets - as we have a lot of character we need to put back in! Email if you don't mind? jen @ thesmall

  5. I am interested in finding out who built my Laurelhurst home. Where should I start?

    1. Look at the historical permits at the Portland Maps website. If the builder pulled the permits, it will list who it is.

  6. Hi. Love McCain's work. I get a feel for her early designs; do you know anything about her later work? Thanks!