Secrets of the Manor House

By Mackenzie Bath

After one’s first visit to the Frank Manor House as a prospective student, it then becomes a scenic backdrop to your walks through campus, the place Barry Glassner never seemed to be and where confused families on campus were directed to. However, there’s a bit more to the center of our campus than meets the eye.

Before you even get through the door, you can look up at the roof. The tiles get smaller as they reach the top to give the illusion of a larger house. Then you walk inside and see that classic Lewis & Clark sight of Mount Hood through the french doors — that is, if it’s not cloudy. You’re greeted by Patti Mapes, Admissions Department Assistant, who sits at the front desk, diligently directing the herd of prospective students and parents.

This first room is an elegant entrance hall with a few twists. A panel next to the front door opens to reveal a secret cabinet. It is not known exactly what the Franks, the family that originally built the house, kept in there, but Zachariah Selley, Associate Head of Special Collections and College Archivist, has a few ideas.

“The little door by the front might have been just for like throwing your driving gloves or just kind of miscellaneous things that you would keep up front,” Selley said.

Under the staircase in the next room, there is a drawer where the kids used to hide their toys. There is another secret cabinet behind the front desk. Most of these cabinets and drawers are now nailed shut or in use for storage.

Thinking about what the Frank family would have used them for, Selley raises some questions.

“You have to think about, what was the original layout,” Selley said. “What was the original room used for? Like, was it a bar?”

The Frank Manor House was built in 1925, on the tail end of the popularity of Victorian style homes in the states. Herman Brookman, the man who designed the entire estate, had no formal training. He was simply told to design and create a beautiful home for M. Lloyd Frank and his family. Were the secret compartments just something fun he decided to include?

“I’ve always joked that, knowing the party boy antics of M. Lloyd Frank, that somewhere, yet undiscovered, is a hidden speakeasy in the Manor,” Denise King, Assistant Director of Budget and Planning, said via email. Perhaps that’s what his secret cabinets were for.

Regardless of whether there was ever a speakeasy, there were undoubtedly many parties and events thrown on this estate. During these elaborate events, you could look out at the gardens and watch the guests mill about. The meticulous grass was once mowed by a team of sheep, noted in “Lewis & Clark College,” a book on the history of our campus by Stephen Dow Beckham. The sheep were a short lived experiment, as the sheep didn’t seem particularly keen on their job and often had to be wrangled by the staff.

Speaking of parties, the Franks were serious about their privacy. Edna Frank had the servants put curtains over all the windows so that the family could have dinner in private. Today, the dining room holds a large conference table. In the entryway to the dining room, there is another secret cabinet in the wall. Today, it is used to hold things the admissions staff may need, like folders and pens.

The door between the dining room and the kitchen is a visual representation of the class division that existed in the Frank House. One side of the door is elegantly carved and the other is plain and white. For the five members of the family, there were 34 servants. An entire half of the house was for the servants and children. It was possible for the servants to get around and avoid the Frank family altogether. They could do this in part because of a tiny elevator that fits one maid and her supplies and runs through all four floors. On the second floor, the college President works in what used to be the master bedroom. The closets in there are much taller than usual, because Mrs. Frank wore such long dresses.

For a house created by a rookie architect, the Frank Manor House stands the test of time. From a couple’s dream home to a President’s office, the Manor House has remained beautiful and beloved.

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