The Architectural Heritage Center (AHC) needs your help to tell the story of Darcelle's historic home.
We need your support. Due to the health emergency, some of the AHC’s normal funding streams have been limited or altered. We need funding to tell this story that is unique to our city.
This is about how a neglected Victorian home and a growing Pacific Northwest city were loved and made more fabulous by a determined, ebullient spirit.
Walter Cole became the funny, flashy female persona Darcelle in the 1960s when being gay was often considered, as one Time magazine article stated, “a pernicious sickness.” As the popularity of Darcelle’s club and drag show grew over the decades, mainstream audiences willingly opened themselves up, for the length of a show at least, to a way of being that was often well outside their norm.
During these same decades, Cole was embellishing a Queen Anne style home he bought for $45,000 in the 1970s. The residence was originally built in 1896 by lawyer Elmer Miller and his wife Linnie. Upon Cole’s purchase of the house in 1978, he undertook significant repairs and restoration. This included Cole’s solicitation of new stained glass windows for his home from Jerry Bosco and Ben Milligan, the founders of the Bosco-Milligan Foundation under which the Architectural Heritage Center operates. Before their death from AIDS in the 1980s, Bosco and Milligan were avid salvagers of architectural pieces from historic buildings that were being demolished, as well as creators of stained glass, some of which lives on in Darcelle’s home.
Over the years, as the home’s décor has taken on the lavish style of Darcelle XV, it has also been the site of numerous significant gatherings, including political activist and gay rights events. Most recently, in February 2020 the residence (as the Elmer and Linnie Miller house) was recognized with listing on the National Register of Historic Places as an outstanding example of Queen Anne style residential architecture in Portland. Concurrently, the Darcelle XV drag club is being proposed for historic designation and would be the first LGBTQ site in Oregon on the National Register.
The story will be told in multiple formats:
· Through- October 9, the AHC is presenting an exhibit of photos by Portland photographer Tom Cook showing Darcelle in her historic home. You can help keep our doors open and support the ongoing public presentation of this exhibit. Your support will also help us produce and present online exhibition-related programs, offered in lieu of in-person programs.
· The AHC would like to create a video short documenting the role that Bosco and Milligan played in the home and record this piece of our institution’s history. The video will live in a City Stories archive on the AHC website and YouTube channel.
Proceeds from this fundraiser will be shared with:
Camp KC, a non-profit that offers a fun and safe summer camp experience for kids affected or infected with HIV/AIDS throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington. We are a program of Cascade AIDS Project.
Basic Rights Oregon, a nonprofit that works to ensure that all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Oregonians experience equality with a specific focus on racial and transgender justice.
The Architectural Heritage Center is owned and operated by the Bosco-Milligan Foundation.
Above: Darcelle XV at Home photographs by Tom Cook; Jerry Bosco and Ben Milligan photograph from the archives of the Bosco-Milligan Foundation.