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Portland’s Grande Dame … A Star Attraction

By Lauren Isaksen, GSA Northwest/Arctic Region Communications Officer

Release Date: July 15, 2016


When you step through her doors, you are surrounded by the precious treasures that characterize her grace and style. She, like many ladies of her day exudes a quietly elegant demeanor touched with the gracious warmth of a true Grande Dame. She is a star—Portland’s symbol of progress in her day—built on the cusp of the depression; The Gus J. Solomon U.S. Courthouse.

In the past, the Courthouse’s gold inlaid marble hallways rang with matters of justice. Today, like many a fascinating great lady, she has embarked on another adventure—as a film star.

Because her corridors carry only the memory of busy trials and court schedules, her oak-clad courtrooms are free for the exciting bustle of filming schedules. Her halls have rang with the voices of Robert DeNiro, Cuba Gooding Jr., Marlee Matlin, and Timothy Hutton. Since 1977, virtually all of the directors, stars, and crew of the movies shot in Portland have walked under the outstretched wings of the stone-carved eagle perched above her door. The names of some of these productions include, Grimm, Leverage, Men of Honor, The Hunted, Final Justice, A Change of Heart, Take My Advice: The Ann and Abby Story, Where the Truth Lies, and Switched at Birth.

The Grand Old Lady’s steward and primary advocate, Howard Schaffer, is responsible for her debut in show business. Schaffer, a GSA Property Manager, actively marketed her lovely interiors as office space, but surprisingly increased revenues by partnering with the State of Oregon, and the film industry to market the Solomon Courthouse as a premier filming location.

In 1999, former Governor John Kitzhaber awarded Schaffer the Oregon Governor’s Film Advocate Award in appreciation for his extraordinary efforts in advancing Oregon’s film and video industry. Kitzhaber praised Schaffer as “Cooperative, responsive, positive and extremely helpful on every level.” In fact, Schaffer, a military veteran, even helped the wardrobe department during the filming of Men of Honor by pointing out uniform discrepancies. That legacy continues with the help of Solomon’s current property manager Ed Solbach and GSA Outleasing program manager Stan Catchpole.

Has the spotlight tempo slowed down for the Solomon? “Not a chance,” quips Catchpole. Just last month IDTV Film & Video Productions from the Netherlands filmed a courtroom trailer for Who is the Mole. Last year GSA opened the Solomon’s doors to Portland Community College Film Program students Livvy Manzano (Director), and Kelly McCrillis (Producer) to shoot a courtroom scene of a mayor and citizens sequestered in a bubble of safety in a post-zombie apocalyptic world.

Like an elegant dancer, the Solomon adapts to the times, and moves lock-step with grace and charm to bolster the image of one of our great northwest cities, and in turn reflects proudly upon the GSA Northwest/Arctic Region, who own and maintain the historic landmark.