Designed in the Modern Period of 1935 to 1965, built in the International Style, Willamette Towers was completed in 1965 by the hands of its Architects Culler, Gale & Martell, and its Engineers Norrie and Davis. The building was Eugene’s Tallest High Rise Luxury Apartment Building consisting of thirteen stories. The Association of Homeowners, otherwise called HOA, was formed in the 1980’s.
The Emporis website lists the height at 160.1 feet and notes that Willamette Towers is the westernmost high-rise in the contiguous 48 states.
When you first approach the building you see electronic gates surrounding the two story parking garage which provides a parking space for every unit. The lower level is covered, the upper is not. The front entry is a large covered area which opens to the lobby and the expansive glass-walled administrative office.
Beyond the office, spanning the ground floor, are three commercial units with doors to the public along Lincoln Street. These units also connect to the interior of the building lending them access to the lobby restrooms.
In addition to the the administrative office and commercial units, the ground floor comprises two locker rooms, a laundry room, boiler room, two administrative storage closets, a janitor closet and an electrical room housing the control center for the electronic entry system to the building. The remaining levels consist strictly of residential units and one janitor closet per floor.
Each stack of units on floors two through twelve has an identical layout with each stack being uniquely different to the other seven. The thirteenth floor comprises four double units or penthouses. Only three units in the building have terraces, those being westward facing units on the second floor.
The fenestration of Willamette Towers is distinctive: The placement of windows and walls on the east and west elevations is as creative as its roof, a zigzag of Gothic design. Lending to the period, and defining the modernism inherent in the design of the building, are the aluminum-framed, single-paned glass fixed and casement windows.
The building was constructed on four typical parcels about eighty feet by one hundred fifty feet (that are now three hundred twenty feet by one hundred fifty feet), which was formerly occupied by four single family houses. Density on this parcel went from four to ninety-two, which was high for Eugene. The area is zoned C-2/Community Commercial, which allows a mix of commercial and residential units and a height up to 150 feet.
In 2015, making the building 50 years old, Willamette Towers could be eligible to join the National Register of Historic Places due to its premier example of International style architecture.
The National Register is the premier list of architecture that defines the American experience and offers certain tax advantages once the listing becomes final. However, being listed in the National Register requires the majority of property owners consent to such action.
The lobby entrance and administrative office were originally covered in 1” mosaic tiles of beige and tan colors (similar to the tiles still in existence in the first floor bathrooms) and had potted plants living in it and there were swinging doors that separated the lobby from the rest of the ground floor.
The original lighting fixtures were aluminum and glass in Jetson shapes classic to the 1960’s and the unit doors were all uniform in appearance with aluminum knobs and hardware.
The International Style, which is now referred to as the Modern Period of Architecture, began in Europe in the 1920’s with the work of Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe of Germany and Le Corbusier of France. During this period architects sought a new vocabulary for architecture that was non-academic, had a functional approach to design, and used the machine (the new technology) and new materials to their best advantage.
Following World war II Eugene grew by leaps and bounds. In 1950 Eugene’s population was 36,000 growing to 51,000 in 1960 and in 1970 Eugene had a grand total of 76,000 people!
The high-rise residential building greatly added to this increase:
In 1954 Ya Po Ah Terrace (taller than WT at 212 feet) was completed as retirement living for seniors.
In 1965, likewise to Willamette Towers, Patterson Towers (147.79 feet) was constructed. A twelve story concrete and steel structure with ninety-one apartments, a penthouse and a basement parking lot. Its design is very similar to Willamette Towers given that it was created by the same architect. Bennett Management manages both of these akin high-rises.
Prior to the increase of populace and the building of the three aforementioned towers Eugene had:
Florence Apartments, consisting of four floors. It was constructed in1927.
Lane Towers (135.47 feet), consisting of eleven floors and one hundred twenty-two units. It was completed in 1951.
And, Eugene Manor Apartments, consisting of only six floors and seventy two which units was completed in 1950.