Restoration of the Vista House

In 1994, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, the State Historic Preservation Office and the Friends of Vista House agreed to combine their efforts and finance a detailed structural study to assess the current condition of the historic Vista House. It would be used as a “blueprint” for restoration efforts of the OPRD & the Friends organization.

Temporary Repairs were not enough

Care was taken to select a highly professional firm to conduct the study and McBride Architects, P.C., was selected.. During the summer of 1995, an army of specialists descended upon the building, poked, prodded, and studied every nook and cranny. They examined the building materials, structural strength, mechanical and electrical systems and moisture intrusion and damage. The team produced a document that thoroughly assessed the condition of the building, and recommended a prioritized list of restoration projects that included prevention of moisture from entering the building’s envelope, prevention of the build-up and collection of moisture in the building’s environment and correction of safety issues. The status of the building at that time was such that temporary repairs were no longer an option for the long-term issues of deterioration that the building faced. It was several more years before the formal restoration project was undertaken with the major fundraising initiative taking place at the beginning of 2000.

The five-year Vista House restoration project began August 20, 2001.

The project’s first phase focused on $1.1 million in exterior repairs to restore the building to its original architectural condition using modern techniques. Viewed as a major step in preserving the building, contractors restored the stone building’s outside surface from the top of its roofline to the base. Much of the effort was intended to prevent leaks that had caused water damage to the interior for the preceding 50 years. Contractors replaced an existing layer of copper roofing and original tile with new, strong tiles designed to match the original honey, green and gold colors. Workers also restored masonry pointing and stone walls (the stone was supplied by the quarry that provided the original material); replaced balcony decks; repaired balcony windows, and installed a security surveillance system. The effort led to OPRD’s receipt of a 2003 Hammurabi Award from the masonry and Ceramic Tile Institute. The exterior work was completed in December 2002.

The bulk of the funding for the exterior restoration came from a $550,000 Forest Highway Enhancement grant awarded by the Federal Highway Administration; a Transportation Efficiency Act for the 21st Century grant (through the Oregon Department of Transportation), OPRD’s lottery-supported Facility Investment Program, donations raised by the Friends of Vista House and a McGraw Family Trust grant awarded through the Oregon State Parks Trust.

A formal public fundraising campaign to finance continuing restoration was launched in June 2002. The campaign involved a partnership formed by the Oregon State Parks Trust, the Friends of Vista House, OPRD and private individuals and organizations. Their goal was to raise $2 million by the fall of 2004. The campaign actually ended a year early when the trust announced in October 2003 that $2,007,233 had been raised. At the time of the rededication, the campaign had brought in $2,039,890, about half of the $4 million-plus that had been raised for Vista House projects since 1995.

Most of the money raised through the fundraising campaign supported the building’s interior restoration. That work began in late June 2003 and entailed reconstruction and refinished of ceilings, walls, stairs and handrails at both the rotunda and lower levels of the building. The project also included the installation of more efficient, cost-effective sewage treatment and geothermal heating systems.

The original target date for completion of the inside restoration was June 2004. However, the challenge of meeting historical preservation requirements while complying with ADA standards in making the building fully accessible (for the first time in its history) led to delays. Construction of an exterior ADA-standard ramp was finished in June 2005 and the building was opened on a limited basis as the interior lift was planned for and completed. The unique lift (which “disappears” when not in use) was completed in time for the building’s rededication on May 5, 2006. (Source: Oregon Parks & Recreation Department)

Restoration Work Summary (Source: OPRD)


• Upgraded inside plumbing (both water and sewer)
• Restroom upgrades to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
• Installed geothermal heating system (for lower level)
• Installed new mechanical lift to transport people from main (rotunda) level down to the restrooms, photo gallery and the Gift Shop and Cafè operated by Friends of Vista House
• Repaired, restored and sealed original skylights
• Installed new plumbing fixtures in restrooms
• Restored and repaired plasterwork throughout
• Restored plaster busts in rotunda
• Restored/repaired stained glass windows
• Replaced electrical wiring
• Repaired marble stairs and floor
• Installed fire warning and intruder alarm systems
• Developed and installed new interpretive displays telling the full story of Vista House


• Paved and restriped parking lot to improve parking; added ADA parking
• Improved landscaping
• Restored tile roof to original glory
• Repointed exterior mortar
• Installed new sewage treatment system
• Built inclined walkway to provide wheelchair access to main door from outside
• Repaired, restored and sealed original skylights
• Restored/repaired stained glass windows
• Installed security cameras

Vista House