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William S. Ladd, a Portland Founding Father

It all started in 1851 when 24 year-old William Sargent Ladd left New England and struck out West to seek his fortune.  Arriving in San Francisco, he found ithe City to be already too established for his tastes and instead headed to Portland, OR – still a true Wild West town at the time.  With nothing but a box of liquor that he got on consignment from his friend, Charles Tilton, Ladd quickly sold the booze for a profit of $2,000 and established a mercantile store.  From these humble beginnings, Ladd would eventually grow a large and diverse business empire, encompassing railroads, steamships, lumber mills, flouring mills, banks, hotels, furniture, telegraphs and more.

Beyond his contributions to Portland’s early economic development, Ladd also was involved in policitics, serving twice as Mayor of Portland and on the board of the water commisson. He was also well known as a philanthropist – he contributed to the founding of the Public Library and the Oregon Humane Society, he commissioned a chair at the State’s medical school, he donated land for the building of Portland’s famed Old Church, served as president of the board of the State’s agricultural college and, together with best friend Simeon Reed, owned and operated 13 model farms to encourage modern and humane farming practices.

In fact, he loved his animals so much, that when he had accumulated enough wealth, he decided to build “a palace for his horses.”  Ladd brought architect Joseph Sherwin from England to design his Carriage House in the English Stick style in 1883.  The now-famous building has stood the test of time, outliving the original Ladd mansion and estate by nearly 100 years.

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The Ladd Carriage House: A Legacy

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