Nestled along Exchange Street, the Jose Block stands as a testament to Portland’s rich history, a creation of the visionary businessman Horatio N. Jose in the mid-19th century. Emerging from the ashes of the 1866 great fire, this Italianate-style building boasts a resilient stone facade adorned with arched windows, bearing witness to the city’s transformative journey.
Over time, the Jose Block underwent a visual metamorphosis, adapting to the evolving tastes and needs of its community. Storefronts were reconfigured, original arched sash windows gave way to square casement windows, and in the bold spirit of the 1960s, a layer of yellow stucco adorned the Exchange Street frontage. Despite these changes, the building weathered not just the passage of time but also two formidable fires.
In 2018, a new chapter began when developers Jim Brady and Steve Parker acquired the Jose Block. Collaborating with the City of Portland and enlisting the expertise of Warren Construction, they embarked on a meticulous journey to restore both the interior and exterior to their former glory. However, the pinnacle of the project presented a unique challenge – the iconic mural overlooking Tommy’s Park on the south elevation.
Upon investigation, it was revealed that the mural’s backdrop was in disrepair, necessitating a choice between its preservation and the structural integrity of the wall. A difficult decision was made to replace the mural after ensuring the wall’s stability. Working in tandem with Julie Larry of Greater Portland Landmarks, a committee was formed to sift through design proposals. The chosen artist, Will Sears, crafted an abstract masterpiece inspired by the vibrant hues of Portland, a fitting homage to the city’s artistic spirit.
Approved by the Historic Preservation Board, the mural replacement became a community endeavor, with partial funding garnered through a Kickstarter campaign. The Jose Block, now revitalized and adorned with a contemporary ode to Portland’s colors, stands as a living canvas, blending the echoes of the past with the vibrancy of the present.