Monday, October 18, 2010

Benson House & Benson Bubblers

I'm not sure how many people already know about the Benson House, but I thought it was interesting that there is a house in the middle of campus. As it would seem, the house was not originally built there. It was built in 1898 on the corner of 11th and Clay by businessman and philanthropist Simon Benson.
He became very wealthy after joining the logging industry and introducing successful changes including the donkey steam engine and Benson sea-going rafts. His was a prohibitionist, and to discourage his workers from drinking alcohol during the day, he commissioned the city of Portland to build 20 "bubblers" or drinking fountains.

These fountains are made out of bronze and originally cost Benson $10,000. Today there are 40 Benson bubblers, and also 1 in Saparro, Japan for some reason.

In 1916, Benson donated $100,000 to the Portland School district, and in 2000, a group called Friends of Simon Benson moved his estate to the PSU campus. It is now home to PSU Alumni. In 1999, Portland State created the Simon Benson Award, which honors philanthropists who have made a lasting impact on Oregon.

When I met with the woman at the Benson House, she seemed to be trained to spew out information to anyone who walked into her office. This woman gave me blueprints of the house, a newsletter, pamphlets, and tried to begin a tour all before I could even explain what I was looking for. When I told her I wanted her to teach my class about the house, she seemed confused, as if none of the information she'd given me was enough. I don't think she understood that I wanted to learn from her, not a piece of paper. I liked Farrell's idea of hosting an unconventional event in the house, this is something I want to look into.

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