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Otto Kleemann


Otto Kleemann, Architect [1855-1936]

Architect Otto Kleemann [†] was born in Astrow, Germany in 1855, where he grew up and was trained in his profession at a local college. At the age of 16, Kleemann came to the United States, landing in San Francisco. He was employed by several different architects and remained in San Francisco for nine years. In 1877 he married Anna Louise Gehlick by whom he had three children.

In 1880, Kleemann came to Portland and worked as a draftsman for the architectural firm of Clark and Upton. He later worked for architect Justus Krumbeim and then for the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company. Employed as staff architect for the company, he designed shop buildings which were located in the Albina area of Portland. Kleemann began his own business in 1882, but continued to work as architect for the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company.

He developed a reputation for his designs for Catholic churches including the monastery and school located at Mt. Angel, Oregon. The only extant church designed by Kleemann within Portland is St. Patrick's Catholic Church (1891), located at 1639 NW 19th Avenue, which was nominated to the National Register in 1974. He designed numerous other buildings in Portland including the Old Oregonian Building (now demolished). With a career in Portland lasting 56 years, it is unfortunate that only two of Kleemann's buildings are extant in Portland; the Hotel Arminius and St. Patrick's Catholic Church.

Mr. Kleemann was active in various social and fraternal organizations. He served as the grand adjutant of the Indian War Veterans of the North Pacific Coast; was president of the Consolidation of German Speaking Societies; was founder of the Lang Syne Society; conductor of the local Haydn musical society; the General German Aid Society; a regent of Multnomah Council Royal Arcanum; a life member of the American Association of Engineers and was a member of the Masonic Order. He was a member of the San Francisco Chapter of the A.I.A. from 1874 until his death in 1936. In 1913, Kleemann became senior architect, Interstate Commerce Commission District #5. He became a licensed architect in 1919 under the "grandfather" clause and retired from practice in 1930 at the age of 80.

Kleemann's buildings were consistently designed with attention to detail and a keen understanding of structural engineering as is evidenced upon reading his specifications for the Hotel Arminius. His specifications, written by himself, are very detailed in their instruction, and include various sketches to illustrate certain mechanical details.

† Kimberly Lakin and Kimberly Demuthy, Northwest Heritage Property Associates, Arminius Hotel, Multnomah County, Oregon, nomination document, 1987, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.


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