PORTLAND, Ore. - At 74 years old, Dick Kroll is taking a leap of faith.
He's coming out of retirement to run Portland's newest bed and breakfast in the historic home that he and his late partner, Park Bailey, spent years renovating.
Bailey passed away a few years ago from a terminal illness and although his death left Kroll with an emptiness in his heart, he knows he must keep on with life.
So Kroll decided to turn their home, the 101-year-old Portland Mayor's Mansion at 3360 S.E. Ankeny Street, into a traditional bed and breakfast.
The mansion, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has been a private residence since Kroll and Bailey purchased it back in late 1989. But now, it's about to be opened up to the public.
Kroll retired years ago from Portland Community College where he taught and was the engineering department chair. He said he had several reasons for deciding late in life to embark on this new venture. One reason was simply the sadness he's felt since losing Bailey.
"It's keeping me busy," he said.
Kroll is also hoping to meet new faces and make new friends. And then there's the practical side of it all.
"The taxes alone on this house are more than I get for a retirement income," he said. "Between maintenance and all that, I was seeing the budget go the other way. And I figured if I held onto it for another year or year and a half, I'd be fiscally up against the wall."
Kroll said he tried to sell the home at one point, but no one would bite. So he decided to go this route instead and see what he could make out of it. He is planning on opening for business on June 1.
"I thought about having a grand opening, but there's so much work involved just getting it ready that I think I'm going to have a post grand opening," he said.
Dick Kroll, owner of the Portland Mayor's Mansion. Photo by Kai Hayashi, KATU.com.
Kroll (pictured at right) will, however, be having a soft opening of sorts in the coming week for some friends who mean a great deal to him.
"Park was terminally ill for a year and we had a condo in Tacoma," Kroll explained. "The lady that was our realtor up there ended up being a friend and we closed on that two weeks before he passed. I had no way of going up there (to move our stuff out) so she and her husband packed the entire 1,400-square-foot apartment - boxed everything. All I had to do was send up a mover and bring everything down."
Kroll was so touched by that act of kindness that he decided to return the favor - the couple and their family will be staying at the Portland Mayor's Mansion free of charge to attend a nephew's graduation here in town. They will be Kroll's first guests.
About the House
Mayor H. Russell Albee (left), Captain John T. Moore (center) and Officer Edgar A. Manring (right) at the first traffic signal in Portland at Southwest 3rd Avenue and Morrison Street in 1915. Photo courtesy of the City of Portland archives.
The Portland Mayor's Mansion overlooks Laurelhurst Park. The original owner of the home, built in 1912, was H. Russell Albee - Portland's mayor from 1913 to 1917.
The home, which was originally known as the H. Russell Albee House, is an example of Colonial Revival Architecture and was designed by famed local architect Albert E. Doyle.
Doyle not only designed many of Portland's larger homes, but also some of the city's most notable structures like the Central Library, Reed College, the Benson Hotel and the U.S. National Bank building. He is also the man behind the 'Benson Bubblers' (the iconic drinking fountains in downtown Portland) and the lodge at Multnomah Falls.
When Kroll and Bailey bought the house in December of 1989, it was a 'fixer upper.'
Kroll said the roof leaked, there were a lot of repairs that needed to be done and the place was filthy. He said someone had even installed a kitchen cabinet over a window. And at that time, Laurelhurst Park wasn't such a great place to be living next to.
"There was a chain link fence with slats in it, so people couldn't see in or you couldn't see out," Kroll said about the fence that separated his property from the park. "And razor wire and barb wire on the top of it. In those days, Laurelhurst Park didn't have a good reputation. In the 80s, there was a lot of drug dealing going on there."
But Kroll and Bailey, who had already renovated several other homes together, saw potential in the rundown mansion and spent years making it their own.
Their love of art is what strikes you most when you walk through the house - the collection they have amassed over the years is a broad mix of styles that even includes many Japanese pieces (Kroll's specific interest). That, along with antique pieces and original fixtures from when the house was built in 1912, make the Portland Mayor's Mansion an eclectic mix of past and present.
A sitting area at the Portland Mayor's Mansion. Photo by Kai Hayashi, KATU.com.
If You Go
Kroll said the Portland Mayor's Mansion website isn't quite ready to take online reservations so just give him a call at (503) 232-3588 if you'd like to inquire about staying there. There are four rooms you can reserve (follow the links for details and rates):
The Albert E. Doyle Room (photo by Kai Hayashi, KATU.com)
One Final Note
Some readers might recall that there was once tension in the neighborhood over a home next door to the Portland Mayor's Mansion.
Fournier is now long gone and Kroll said his new neighbors have been working hard to renovate the place (it had fallen into great disrepair). He said there have been no problems since Fournier left the neighborhood.