kerrThe Garden of the Bishop’s Close, known as Elk Rock, was created over a period of many years by Mr. and Mrs. Peter Kerr.   Mr. Kerr was a Scot who came to Portland in 1888 and started a grain business with a partner, Patrick Gifford.  Kerr, with his brother, Thomas, and his partner, purchased the 13 acre parcel of land on the cliffs above the Willamette River known as Elk Rock in the early 1890’s. The three bachelors formed the Cliff Cottage Club and lived in the Cottage for several years before marriages left Peter Kerr as the sole occupant.  Peter Kerr married Laurie King in 1905 and settled her in Cliff Cottage.

After the births of two daughters, Anne and Jane, construction of a larger house was started in 1914.  The new house was sited by John Olmsted, of the well-known Olmsted Brothers Landscape Architects firm, to take advantage of the view of Mt. Hood.

Construction of the house designed by D.E.  Lawrence to resemble a Scottish manor house, took two years to complete.  When the house was finished, Kerr, an ardent amateur gardener, started on his long cherished plans for an extensive garden.  Mrs. Kerr was one of Portland’s early championship golfers and, while not a gardener herself, she encouraged her husband in the creation of one of the great gardens of the Northwest.

In 1957, when Mr. Kerr died at the age of ninety-five, the house and garden were given by his daughters, Anne McDonald and Jane Platt, to the Episcopal Bishop of Oregon together with an endowment for the care and maintenance of the garden, with the stipulation that the garden be opened to visitors.  Since 1986 the garden has been managed by a Garden Committee.  In 1994 the Elk Rock Garden Foundation and the Friends of Elk Rock Garden Foundation were formed to protect, preserve and perpetuate this wonderful garden.

In 2023 The Diocese made the decision to sell.  The Kerr Family repurchased the property creating, simply, Elk Rock Garden.  It will remain open to the public. Plans are in place for use of the house.  Details coming soon.

2 Replies to “History”

  1. This is my very favorite place in the Portland area. I’ve been visiting Bishops Close since 1986 and have continued to bring family and friends to show them my secret Oasis. We Portanders are so very blessed that this gorgeous Garden is available to the public.

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