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Some Thoughts on The Union Bank Tower, Portland, OR. (8/23/21)

Updated: May 5, 2023

I moved back to the Portland area about 20 years ago after a brief stint in Southern California. When I did, I brought with me a few bank accounts I held with the Union Bank of California.

Of course, those days pre-dated online banking and it was commonplace to visit branches in person. I can't remember the specific circumstances of the time, but it made the most sense for me to do my banking at the downtown Union Bank branch on Broadway.

I could have changed to another bank (and ultimately did), but I remember how much I enjoyed visiting that particular branch. Inside it had a soaring ceiling, sharp interior lines, and a timeless, sophisticated feel as you passed through the towering columns and entered the lobby. It reminded me of some of the beautiful mid-century modern banks that I had used in California. I also liked that it struck such a stark contrast to the many historic bank and hotel buildings that make up the downtown core of Portland (I love them too, they're beautiful).

Over the years, I have always thought that the building holds a special place on Broadway, and have returned many times to photograph it (some examples here). The thought has struck me that if Pioneer Courthouse Square is "Portland's Living Room," perhaps the Union Bank Tower's marble steps serve as its "Front Stoop"— as people frequently take a seat to have lunch, pace back and forth on a call, or simply listen to the sound of Broadway.

The news comes today that its current ownership group has put the building up for sale. I hope the new owners don't change a thing.

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