Friends of GasCo try to keep wrecking ball away

Portland Gas and Coke Building was built in 1913, vacant since 1958

The Friends of GasCo is trying to save the building, vacant since 1958, from the wrecking ball, Sept. 11, 2015 (KOIN)
The Friends of GasCo is trying to save the building, vacant since 1958, from the wrecking ball, Sept. 11, 2015 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The old Portland Gas and Coke Building sits off Highway 30 with its broken windows and copper gutters. It was built in 1913 and has been vacant since 1958.

It’s slated for a date with the wrecking ball, but one group — the Friends of GasCo — is trying to save it.

“I lived in st johns for about 10 years and I fell in love with that building after moving there,” said the group’s Jonathan Fine. “It has a sense of mystery and history to it.”

Today, Portland Gas and Coke is Northwest Natural Gas. The archaic building is set to be demolished in the next 6 to 8 weeks.

“Sometimes, you protect something not despite its troubled history but because of it,” Fine said.

A Northwest Natural spokesperson told KOIN 6 News the building is structurally unstable, full of asbestos, lead paint and animal waste. The land it sits on is heavily polluted. She said they were willing to leave the building standing if the community raised the $2 million plus needed to save it.

The group hasn’t come close.

Fine said the company is “liable for a lot of the pollution there, so they might not like the reminders of the history of the land there.”

Another Friend of GasCo, Scott Ray Becker, said his great-grandfather was one of the builders.

He said the city needs “some old, concrete, rusty icons to remind of us our past when Portland used to make things.”

“I am such an optimist,” Becker said. “My friends will tell you this whole thing has been against the odds but I really believe that if we go to the public, people love this building.”

The group hopes that if GasCo is saved, sometime down the road when the land is no longer contaminated the area could be transformed into something like Gas Works Park in Seattle.

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