A Portland house with a provenance like no other is for sale. The revolutionary dwelling was designed 82 years ago by modernist architect Richard Neutra for lily hybridizer Jan de Graaff and his wife, Peggy, heir to the Macy’s department store owner who died on the Titanic.
The dramatic, three-level dwelling, celebrated for its unadorned, window-rich International style, was profiled in a 1942 House & Garden magazine spread a year after it was completed, remodeled in the 1980s beyond recognition and restored to Neutra’s vision over two decades by the current owners.
The original address of the storied, private house was 1900 Southwest Palatine Hill Road.
“This luxury estate is one of only two Oregon homes designed by world-renowned architect Richard Neutra,” said listing agent Tracy Hasson of The Hasson Company. Both avant-garde, modern houses were owned by the wealthy de Graaff family.
The house for sale is “more than wood and nails,” Hasson said, noting Neutra’s graceful use of floor-to–ceiling sliding doors and other features that grant seamless access to the outdoors. “This home is for someone who appreciates history and the work” of the late, Los Angeles-based architect.
Neutra vaulted into the spotlight with the steel-framed 1927 Lovell Health House in Los Angeles and was considered the second most influential American architect after Frank Lloyd Wright when he was a Time Magazine cover story in 1949.
In 1940, the cosmopolitan de Graaffs commissioned Neutra to design a house for their modern furniture and art collection. Neutra selected Portland’s James Van Evera Bailey as the supervising architect.
Neutra had planned for a stucco exterior, but Bailey suggested cedar siding as a material that would weather the wet climate and add a sense of warmth, a method mastered by Northwest modernist architects Pietro Belluschi and John Yeon.
The siding change was made, the architectural press piled on praise and “the de Graaff House hit conservative Portland like a lightning bolt,” wrote the authors of “Classic Houses of Portland, Oregon 1850-1950.”
The 6,887-square-foot house was carefully oriented on its 0.85-acre lot to present unobstructed mountain, city and river views.
The primary suite has a gas fireplace, double bathroom and patio, one of four connected to the house and extending areas for entertaining under the stars.
There are four more bedrooms, three bathrooms and a powder room.
A bonus room over the three-car garage was a kindergarten in the Jan de Graaff era, said Hasson. The basement has a workshop and two bedrooms.
The property consists of two tax lots: the 0.61-acre main lot and 0.25-acre second lot.
Dutch-born botanist Jan de Graaff founded Oregon Bulb Farms in Gresham, where he introduced more lily varieties than anyone in the world, starting in 1941 with Enchantment and later Stargazer lily. He was also once the top U.S. producer of daffodil and tulip bulbs.
Peggy was the granddaughter of Isidor and Ida Straus, who gave up their seats in a lifeboat and died on April 15, 1912, after the gilded Titanic hit an iceberg and sank on its maiden voyage in the Atlantic Ocean.
Peggy’s mother, Sara Straus, lived in a 12-room apartment on Manhattan’s Park Avenue. Peggy’s father, physician Alfred Hess, researched the nutritional value of fresh food and is credited in a Nobel Prize for his contributions to work to prevent scurvy and rickets.
Peggy was honored by the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C., for giving more than 2,000 hours of service during World War II assisting registered nurses in military and civilian hospitals as a member of the organization’s Multnomah County chapter. She also served on the board of the Portland Youth Philharmonic.
The de Graaffs sold their Oregon bulb business in 1968 and moved to Manhattan.
— Janet Eastman | 503-294-4072
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