The Erich and Burnace Porshman* home on SW Stewart Street is an example of a 1914 carefully handcrafted home that grew from a one-room house into an interesting home filled with art and unique features. The original Porshman mailbox is still used at the road. Although their wedding certificate is signed as Burnace, she commonly went by Bernice in the community.
In 1985, Jerry Nahstoll and Heather Bryse-Harvey purchased the home and have provided the perfect combination of appreciation for this house and the skills to provide upkeep and their own enhancements in keeping with the character of the house. Erich and Burnace Porshman lived in this house from the 1930s until Erich died on March 15, 1984.
Erich Porshman willed the property to Portland Community College when he died and by the time Jerry found the place it required his removal of 110 wheelbarrow-loads of debris off the garage roof alone! Several outbuildings exist on the property, low in height matching Erich’s short stature. All were filled with tools, junk, building supplies and many surprises.
The iron straps on the garage and various light fixtures are believed to have come from the old Garden Home train station. The current owners have analyzed the various additions and preserved the home with its historic architecture and character. The house is described from their knowledge.
The original home-builders are not known, but it is believed that Erich purchased what is now the dining room as a one room cabin and began gradually building-on from there. The current owners are continuing the tradition whilst attempting to retain the original architecture and character of the home. A small alcove room has two built-in bunk beds which the Porshmans used. A clever hanging device for matching ties to the suit hangs on the closet door and a mysterious lower door opens to reveal shoe storage racks. The old fir flooring has been cleaned from its blackened coating. The other rooms have distinctive flooring, each from their specific era.
The rooms that have been added require that you ‘mind your step’ as you walk through the house as some rooms are lower than others and some are higher! The kitchen has a large walk-in refrigerator which Erich used to make wine and beer.
With Heather’s Norwegian knowledge, she recognized an aquavit set of glassware that was hidden away in the attic like a last gift to the new owners from the old. This set contains the small glasses and the large ice container to chill the vodka-like spirits.
The 1930s pink-tiled bathroom is an exquisite representation of the era. A beautiful large relief sculpture of nude women hangs above the tub, done by Erich. The sculpture molding form was found in the walls of a workshop area.
Other interesting artifacts grace the home such as the ozone generator, circa 1920, which was used in theaters. Jerry has a local small advertising calendar from 1940. It reads:
WALTON TAVERN “When You Are Out and Feel Alone, Visit Jack and Violet at GARDEN HOME, ORE.”
Further research about Jack and Violet Walton reveals that they lived in Denver, Colorado in 1935. In February of 1941 the Walton Tavern had their Class B liquor license suspended for 30 days due to “disorderly establishment.” In October of 1942 the Oregonian reports that their liquor license at the Lone Oak barbecue in Tigard was revoked due to sales to minors.
Erich Porshman* was a musician, artist and sculptor who lived in Garden Home in the 1930s into 1985. He and his wife were active in the Oregon Society of Artists. Burnace played the grand piano and Erich played the violin (or viola) as part of their love for music. *See his attached obituary.
Two Erich Porshman Scholarships are awarded each year at Portland Community College, one in music and one in art. Recipients of the Erich Porshman Scholarship are typically committed and hard-working students who not only thrive in the classroom but outside as well through volunteer and community involvement. Considering these factors, the Erich Porshman Scholarship application process is competitive and the title prestigious. (PCC website)
Erich made his living repairing the new complicated Bendix washer/dryer machines and other makes. His carpentry and creative skills are apparent throughout the house. They both were involved with the art and music organizations and activities in the Portland area.
An Oregonian article from July 8, 1949 describes an outing of the Oregon Society of Artists which included a “picnic at the country home of” the Porshmans. After breakfast, the group would scatter to sketch all day and reconvene at 5 pm. The sketches would then be judged and prizes awarded. A program of music and other entertainment would follow.
Erich and Bernace were incredibly prolific. Quite apart from his daytime job Erich built most of the house on his own, even encasing all the electrical wiring in armored cable. He was a sculptor, a musician helping to create the Portland Symphony Orchestra (he was said to be a ‘very enthusiastic’ musician!) and the Porshmans also had a plant Nursery for some time, which is evident from the varieties of trees and shrubs in the garden. Note the photo of Erich with his marigolds. One wonders how he managed to find enough hours in the day!
Burnace’s mother, Dr. Pheba Collman, a Naturopathic physician, is listed in her obituary as living at this address. She died in 1968 at age 96. She practiced in Hood River, Portland, and Garden Home.
Bette Waldele Sturtevant remembers, Oct 20, 2010: He was a neighbor and repaired the washers and dryers for people in the neighborhood. He was an artist and musician and loved to talk. He was quite a talker and loved to visit, sometimes overstaying his welcome. He had a German accent. Erich asked to paint a lovely young neighbor girl in the nude which was refused. He often offered neighbors a glass of homemade wine or beer.
Erich and Burnace were in charge of tickets for the “Community Concerts” which were presented at the Civic Auditorium in Portland. Ken and Bette Waldele, daughter Cherie, and Bill and Ellen Norris all enjoyed as many shows as they could. Erich and Bernace took movies of their many travels and set them to music for home showings for the neighbors and friends.
Patsy Vandeventer remembers, March 2015: I remember Erich Porshman as a delightful man with a heavy German accent who loved music. He founded the Garden Home Community Orchestra and was conductor until his illness and subsequent passing in 1984.
I played cello in the orchestra and I remember that he loved Strauss waltzes, so we played plenty of those. Our rehearsals were held in the Garden Home Recreation Center in the area that is now the Exercise Room. On Christmas Day, before his passing, he asked me to come to his house for a visit and said he wanted to give me something. I wasn’t able to go that day, but went the day after. I remember sitting at a table chatting with him, although I don’t remember our specific conversation. He had some things he was giving away and asked me to take whatever I wished. I chose a pair of candleholders; black metal in the shape of roosters…very German-looking. Every Christmas I put red candles in them and set them on our mantel – always remembering Erich Porshman.
His memorial was held in one of the old stone churches in downtown Portland. The Garden Home Community Orchestra was invited to play at the ceremony with Dr. Paul Bellam from the Portland Chamber Orchestra conducting.
Mr. Porshman was short in stature but had a big presence and a jovial manner. He reminded me of an impish elf.
By Elaine Shreve, January 2013, 2015
Pingback: Don Krom memior | Garden Home History Project
Pingback: Ward Nelson – Garden Home memoir | Garden Home History Project