Recording studio hidden inside former Arleta Library

Wonder what happened to this historic library building, put up for sale by Multnomah County? Take a look inside the ‘Hallowed Halls’ and find out …

The new entrance to what was called the Wikman Building, and formerly was the Arleta Branch Library, has now been moved around to SE Holgate Boulevard.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Earlier this year, people in the Mt. Scott-Arleta neighborhood – in fact, many people throughout the region, were delighted to learn that the Wikman Building – built in 1918 as the Arleta Branch Library – would be preserved, having achieved a listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

> Read how it took place in our May, 2016 article: CLICK HERE.

Indeed, today, the exterior of the brick Colonial Revival-style library remains unchanged.

But inside, the hushed reading rooms have been taken over by a recording studio that’s named “Hallowed Halls”.

Most recording studios look like dark caves; the “Hallowed Halls” Studio A is bright and airy.

“After the new owners bought it, I came across this space with two other persons who were interested in building a recording studio in this part of town,” said well known Portland recording engineer Justin Phelps of Justin Phelps Recording, who manages the facility.

“They hired me to design the space,” Phelps told East Portland News.

“We started by ripping out all the cheesy 1980s office architecture and mezzanine that were added over the years, and restored the original atrium that was on the blueprint,” Phelps said.

“But, to preserve the interior walls in keeping with the National Registry, we didn’t take off even a single piece of molding,” he said.

Leaving the historic windows and molding intact, these soundproofing boxes silence outside noise while preserving the historic nature of the building.

They liked the idea of light streaming in through the arch-top, wood-cased windows, but needed a way to soundproof the room.

“We built isolation boxes around the windows, so we could reduce the outside sound level in the room, without disturbing the original windows and frames,” Phelps pointed out. “We didn’t know if it would work; but as it turns out, it’s very effective. In rush-hour traffic, with cars, trucks, and buses whizzing by, you can’t hear a thing inside.”

There are a couple other commercial recording studios on this professional level in Portland, Phelps said, but there aren’t any of this size. “One has a ‘big room’ that’s comparable in square feet, but doesn’t have the high ceilings – and the windows.”

In Control Room A, Justin Phelps stands next to his Neve Genesys G48 recording console.

The best part about the space, for him, is being able to make more music albums, Phelps commented. “I wanted to have something that was as good as, or better than, some the best studios on the West Coast, or better, here in Portland.  I think we’ve achieved that.

“This is a fantastic room that sounds great,” Phelps went on. “We’ve recorded a lot of acoustic instrument sessions in here, and everyone agrees it just sounds beautiful.”

In the music store called “St. Frank’s Music”, manager Deanna Phelps shows some the guitars for sale.

But more than just having a professional recording studio, Phelps says that – with the help of his wife Deanna, who runs the “St. Frank’s Music” store, also located in the building – they hope to make it a community music center.

At the one location, you can buy instruments – primarily guitars – and take music lessons. Then, in the same building, budding musicians can record their songs, and even get help mastering and distributing their music.

“It won’t be long until people will see this building as a truly creative hub for our city,” Phelps said.

He and Deanna say they enjoy giving tours, showing how the building has been preserved and reused. It’s located on S.E. 64th Avenue and Holgate Boulevard.

For more information, see their website: CLICK HERE.

© 2016 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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