Reed College, nestled in a beautiful historic area of southeast Portland, Oregon is notable for its mission, history and beauty.
Notable alumni include poets Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, and Mary Barnard; chef James Beard; Tektronix founder Howard Vollum; Apple founder Steve Jobs (one semester); and Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger.
If you wander the campus of this small liberal arts college, you will soon see some of the reasons why such successful alumni chose Reed. The college is steeped in history and tradition and the campus is reminiscent of such stately English colleges as Oxford (with a touch of whimsy a la Harry Potter’s Hogwarts).
It was through a Positively Portland Architectural Walking tour that a small group enjoyed walking the campus, exploring buildings and hearing about the history, lore and architecture of Reed College.
In 1911, Reed was founded as a non-sectarian small liberal arts college on a sprawling campus. The college’s history actually “began in the late 1880s, when the Rev. Thomas Lamb Eliot, a Portland civic leader and minister of the city’s Unitarian Church, suggested to two of his parishioners, Oregon steamboat pioneer Simeon Reed and his wife Amanda, that they use their financial resources to establish an institute of lectures, arts, and music, where general enlightenment, intellectual, and moral culture would be fundamental.” (More from The Oregon Encyclopedia)
Architect A.E. Doyle was chosen to design and oversee the initial Reed College buildings. His impressive and detailed Tudor Gothic dorms, library and classrooms set the tone for learning and life on campus. Throughout our tour we marveled at the detail ranging from the placement of bricks and limestone on the buildings to the wide arch windows. Whimsical gargoyles and intricate twisted chimneys kept us looking up. We were rewarded with surprises such as beavers on the dorm block roof.
In the library, you’ll discover a multi-story narrow tower, called the Thesis Tower, where you’ll find the final work of all Reed seniors, bound and catalogued.
As the college grew, other well-respected architects were engaged to build additional dorms and classrooms and a well-integrated modern library wing. We noted how many of the newer buildings used brickwork to mirror the original masonry helping them fit well into the historic campus.
The combination of impressive architecture and natural beauty makes the campus worth a visit. Reed College is nestled in the beautiful Eastmoreland community of Portland. You’ll find the Crystal Springs Reservoir and gardens close-by and, if you cross the bridge on the Reed College campus, you’ll find yourself in a canyon with natural springs that ultimately feed the Crystal Spring Reservoir.
While you can walk the beautiful campus, the college is private so the best way to explore the buildings is on a tour such as a Positively Portland Walking Tour, led by Eric Wheeler. There are many hidden gems on the campus such as the chapel and library. And there are fascinating stories at every turn. A guided tour is the way to go.
Positively Portland Walking Tours
Architect A.E. Doyle