The first time I walked past it, I knew the massive building on the corner of 19th and Johnson in northwest Portland would be the perfect model for Miriam’s home. Blue Thread describes the house this way:
“This part of Johnson is quite lovely,” Charity said as we crossed the front porch. “Your rhododendrons and rose bushes are gorgeous. And your house is so spacious.”
Spacious is the word, I thought. Not charming. Unlike the other homes in the neighborhood, ours is a box of a house, all efficiency and right angles, like Papa. No curves. No ligatures or serifs. Everything in a straight line.
In reality the house was built around 1905 for Richard Koehler, a German who came to Portland in 1874 to represent railroad interests. Koehler and his wife, Bertha Spuhn, had two children, first a son, Kurt, who went into the lumber business in Portland, and then a daughter, Ilse, who later married and returned to Germany. All these rooms really did house a German-American (though not Jewish) family of four. And the rear of the house once faced a beautiful garden, which, in Blue Thread, had a very important potting shed.
The famous architectural firm of Whidden and Lewis designed this house for Koehler. The building now houses the law offices of Kilmer, Voorhees & Laurick.