Exhibits inside the Forestry Building highlighted the Timber Industry and Native Americans. There were exhibits showing Oregon’s abundant Natural Resources and there were taxidermy displays of animals native to the region.
The Douglas Firs used in construction were untreated and had to withstand nearly sixty years of exposure to dry rot, fire and bark beetles. Eventually fire overtook the dry tenderbox.
Before the Lewis & Clark Fair was over, an offer to buy the Forestry Building was tendered by a representative of a Coney Island Amusement Park. He wanted to dismantle the entire building and ship the pieces to New York to be reassembled.
Since the Oregon Legislature had built the building with the stipulation that it be given to the City of Portland if the City would purchase the property under and around it, a counter offer was tendered to provide the timber for a duplicate. The Coney Island Representative rejected the counter offer, he wanted the original.
Controversy developed when $14,000 was needed to purchase the property. East side citizens thought the money could be better spent on parks that were lacking on their side of town. Others thought roads were a higher priority. With the help of Railroad Tycoon James J. Hill, who donated $6,000, the City purchased the property.
Most of the Exposition Buildings were no longer standing in 1914 when a fire erupted in the California Building. In preparation for its removal, it had been recently gutted. The building became engulfed in fire and the walls started to collapse. The force of the walls falling created a wind that swept the burning embers into the air and onto the roof of the Forestry Building.
A quick response by the City’s Fire Department led to the salvation of the Forestry Building when they extinguished three roof fires. If there had been more wind, the whole Willamette Heights area could have been destroyed by fire. Soon thereafter, the neighboring Oriental Exhibits Building was dismantled to protect the Forestry Building in case it were to catch fire.
In 1915, ten acres around the Forestry Building were leased to the City at no cost by the Ladd Estate Company, owners of the old fairground property. The Lakeview Playground near Guilds Lake was moved to the property adjacent to the Forestry Building, giving the children in the neighborhood their own park. In 1917, an auto campground opened on the property and it was operated until 1920.
Apathy and abandon were the watchwords of the 1920’s as the Forestry Building fell into disrepair. Broken windows went unrepaired as the exposure led to the shrinkage of structural logs. The wood making up the rustic balconies and stairways suffered a warping, causing them to be declared unsafe and they were closed to public access.
A study was commissioned in 1926 to determine the salvageable value of the structure which turned out to be $8,000. A request for funding for repairs was denied by the Oregon Legislature in 1935. In the 1940’s, a request to dismantle the building was also denied. Finally, several support logs were replaced in the late 1940’s. Another fire, which was started by sparks from a caretaker’s stove, burned a hole in the roof about 15 feet in diameter.
Finally, in the 1950’s the Chamber of Commerce formed a funding committee, raised money for restoration and began repairs on the aging structure. Most of the destruction from rot had occurred 40 years earlier and the building was declared to be a sturdy structure.
Outside, an old Logging Train and other equipment used in the forests were added to the grounds. The Forestry Building began to bask in its former glory again as it became a favorite field trip destination for local school children. It was also a favorite spot to bring out-of-town guests.
More extensive repairs closed the Forestry Building in January and February of 1964 to secure bark on the interior logs. Then that fateful evening on August 17, 1964, the Forestry Building became engulfed in flames and burned to the ground within three hours. The once-proud monument to Timber and Natural Resources stood no more.
Today, it is the site of the Old Forestry Condominiums which were built in 1983.