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Versatile Wood Products' skilled artisans replicated the historical windows on the iconic Theatre

Along Southeast Hawthorne and 39th, efforts have been made to preserve a bit of Portland's history — although the masonic building's use has changed in modern times from the Mason's meeting place into a pub (twice) and then a music venue.

Versatile Wood Products recently restored the historic windows in the iconic Hawthorne Theatre, where many Portlanders go to see concerts from their favorite bands that haven't made it yet, or for art shows, dance nights or comedians.SUBMITTED: VERSATILE - Portland-based Versatile specializes in traditional and historic reproductions.

Gail Owen, spokesperson for Versatile, talked with the Business Tribune about the iconic renovation.

"The Hawthorne Theatre (project) was really unique: I can't believe that was wood, I thought those were metal windows," Owen said. "They replicated the design down to minute details and routed it down to unique curves."

The Hawthorne Theatre, originally designed and built by the Eastside Masons in 1917 and completed in 1922, has been in entertainment use as the Hawthorne Theatre and Lounge since 2005, after the Masons abandoned it in the 1970s.

"Versatile is a specific window and door period kind of restoration that you can't usually get," Owen said. "Versatile craftsmen and -women scale their designs and replicate what was there before."

Portland-based Versatile builds custom wood products like doors, windows, cabinets and furniture — such as the grand wooden doors to Bremik Construction's eastside office — and its skilled artisans specialize in traditional and historic reproductions. Versatile is a member of Restore Oregon, the Architectural Heritage Center, the American Institute of Architects and the Forest Stewardship Council.SUBMITTED: VERSATILE - Six of the grand window sashes at the Hawthorne Theater were so badly deteriorated that they had to be completely removed and repaired or replaced.

"Versatile is a sister company of Arciform, known in Portland for doing period restorations — and the Hawthorne Theatre is one of those," Owen told the Tribune. "Versatile works directly with Arciform to refinish a lot of Craftsman, Tudors and Italianate — all those houses here in Portland, all those windows are not commercial, off-the-shelf windows."

Over at Versatile, glass stops and sash sizes were authentically replicated with every detail preserved — because they were reinstalled next to the lasting originals.

"There are a few craftsmen out there on the floor who can recreate (those windows) with their (wood) routers," Owen said. "It's called reverse engineering — they made architectural plans and the whole team reverse engineered the windows."SUBMITTED: VERSATILE - Portland-based Versatile specializes in traditional and historic reproductions.

Six of the grand window sashes were so badly deteriorated that they had to be completely removed, repaired and replaced.

"(It's) a job we are uniquely qualified to do. We brought back one of the badly deteriorated original units to use for reference — especially since our reproductions will be installed adjacent to restored originals, an exact match is critical," said Erica Witbeck, operations manager with Versatile. "We replicated the profiles on the glass stops, the overall size, the sash thickness, and the configurations with precision."

With the help of restoration and installation partner Viridian, the team brought one window from the Hawthorne Theatre back to Versatile's workshop. The design team there dismantled it and used it as a template for replication.

But there were challenges along the way.

"The tight 45-degree joints in the glass stops were particularly challenging, as was the 8-way intersection on the Union Jack configuration," Witbeck said. "The glass stops on the original were made out of MDF (medium-density fibreboard) and were badly weather damaged—we had to replicate them exactly in solid tight grain Doug Fir, which will withstand the elements much better."

The laminated glass triangles all had to be pre-ordered and pre-cut, leaving no room for variation in the wooden construction: the glass absolutely had to fit perfectly.

"That glass looks like it's about three-quarters of an inch thick — even that is replaced, but it's as close to the original as possible," Owen said.

By Jules Rogers
Reporter, The Business Tribune
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