Aaron Frank Farm

Aaron M. Frank bought property out in the country in the early 1920s so he would have adequate land for his family’s horses near the Oregon Electric Railroad line, where a loading dock facilitated the easy transportation of his show horses all over the country. The original entry to the property was through the Hunt Club gates near the curve of Oleson Road. The house was straight ahead on that road, and to the right was the road to the Portland Riding Academy and the Portland Hunt Club. Over the hill towards the west was the Nicol Riding Academy.

While the family lived in the city most of the time, a caretaker had a home on the property and there were a number of other individuals taking care of the grounds and stables. The Frank’s house was originally used only as a summer home (Aaron Frank later moved into it permanently) and had five bedrooms and six bathrooms on the main floor and a bedroom, bath and wine cellar in the basement. The housekeeper had a room off the kitchen; Gerry and his brother Richard each had their own bedroom and bathrooms. The master bedroom was very spacious and had its own fireplace, dressing room and two separate baths – and it, the dining/living room and veranda all looked out onto the outdoor track. The fireplace in the living room was remarkably large and stately, and the home had beautiful paneling and pegged oak floors. This was truly a home in which to entertain, and there reportedly were parties where birthday favors were dropped from planes, where Amelia Earhart did stunts overhead and where Olympic hopefuls trained in the first Olympic-sized pool in the state.

Even though there were spectacular rose gardens, the star attraction was the main stable which was well remembered for its beautiful mahogany paneling. Each of the 14 stalls had a wrought iron archway above it and there was a carriage floor and rooms for grooms upstairs. A pasture and brood mare barn were in another area. Many horse shows were held on the property, using an oval outdoor track of 1/8 mile and an indoor ring with seating for several hundred people. Unfortunately, the end of the Frank’s horse era reputedly came when many of the prize show horses were in a train crash and fire.

Gerry Frank used the home as his base until the family sold the property about fourteen years ago; but it was in 1975 that the CPO 3 community was developing the land-use plan that was accepted in 1977 and is still the guideline for development in our area today. Judy McCord remembers meeting with the Frank family’s attorney Bill Bernard in the family home to discuss the eventual use of the 35-acre property and recalls the house and her tour of the impressive barn (… as well as delicious cream puffs she was served!).  Brenda Ambeuhl, who was on the Advisory Board of the Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District, later spoke to Gerry Frank about selling the property to the Park District.  She and Mary Alice Ford were among many supporters who believed the property – with all its trails, swimming pool, barns and house – would make an outstanding urban park, with the facilities usable for weddings, dances and uses similar to those of the Jenkins Estate.

Although the property was not sold to THPRD, the Development Company that bought it built rental units with siding to mirror the siding on the main house, which is now used as the leasing office for the apartments and town homes. The swimming pool and outdoor track are still there, and almost the entire home is maintained in its original condition, even though some rooms are now used as offices.  I was lucky enough to get a tour and can affirm that it would be a great home in which to live…!

Thanks to Gerry Frank, Brenda Ambeuhl, Mary Alice Ford, Judy McCord and Julie Breck, Assistant Property Manager for Trammell Crow Residential Services, the company that manages the Frank Estate

Written by Sharon L. Wilcox for the CPO #3 (Citizen Participation Organization) Newsletter in September 2001. CPO #3 encompasses Garden Home, Raleigh Hills and West Slope.  The riding academy material was sent to Don Kerron and Gorham Nicol for final additions and editing, and none were received. Gerry Frank edited his comments.

Editor: May, 2012. County tax records indicate that the Frank property was sold in 1989 and has had a couple more sales registered. This property at 7510 SW Aloma Way is now owned by the Heitman Company and managed by Holland Residential. It is still 35 acres with 309 apartment units. Various apartment groups are named after the Frank horses or horse related subjects. Sarah Williams is the Residential Manager.

Virginia Mapes’ book Garden Home, the way it was, 1980, also contains stories and photos of the Frank farm and interviews with Gerry Frank. Available at Garden Home Community Library.

The Sunset Magazine article describes the home in detail.

Elaine Shreve, June 2012

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8 Responses to Aaron Frank Farm

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  5. Mary M Ruth says:

    My grandfather worked for the Frank’s as a groomsman and later horse trainer at the estate off Oleson Rd. This information was passes on by my aunt, but with no details. This would have been just after WWI 1920-21 until
    Approx 1930.
    My family would be extremely grateful for any information anyone could provide regarding my grandfather and his time employed for the Frank family.
    My grandfather’s name was CHARLES PUGH,
    Again, I am guessing on the the year of employment from 1920 thru 1930.

    Any information would mean a great deal to us.
    Thank you, Mary Ruth

    • gardenhomehistoryproject says:

      We do not have any references for Charles Pugh. You might check with the Oregon Historical Society.

  6. Kit Bowen says:

    I watched Mr. Franks groundskeeper plant the forest next to my playground in the first grade at Garden Home School 1955.Was on the waiting list to move in for 65 years. I knew I shouldn’t have brought that frog into Mrs Blodgets class!

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