Although the building now called the annex had no name before Leftbank Development bought it in 2005, it had an interesting past. The annex was built in 1911 as a parking garage for the phone company. It then became a welding and painting school for the war effort before being bought by eccentric entrepreneur Dean Child in 1942. Child converted it into a machine shop with 130 employees, primarily making airplane parts for Boeing and liberty ships for World War II.
Born in 1910 and leaving school before high school, the only job Child held was as an assistant manager at the Multnomah Hotel (before he was fired for having an affair with the hotel owner’s daughter). After that he commissioned a chemist to develop a permanent wave solution, which he then produced and sold to beauty shops in the Northwest. This is how he met his wife, a beautician, in the mid-1920s. They married and she gave birth to David Child.
At this point the new father bought a lathe from Sears and fell in love with machines. Having no previous machine experience, he taught himself everything he knew and eventually bought the Multi-Craft Building (now the leftbank project building) with a partner. He later sold the building at a handsome profit and bought what is now the leftbank annex.
The annex was a large warehouse, which Child quickly filled with machines to make machine parts for the War. After the War, Child continued making machines, often designed by his own team of engineers, including an under-the-counter carbonating machine used to make soda before CO2 tanks came around, automatic teeing machines for driving ranges, and “The Little Giant Lift Truck” – a kids toy he made for one year, 1946.
“He made 100,000 in that year,” his son David told us. “But it was a hassle, he said – since he had to go to a toy convention in New York and drum up orders each year. So he stopped doing that and moved on to make the ‘foot shift conversion kits’ for Harley-Davidson.”
Before this invention, a Harley gearshift sat on the gas tank, which meant riders had to remove their hand from the handlebars to shift gears. Child’s Foot Shift revolutionized riding.
In the 1960s, the eccentric Child moved into the building, converting his beloved office into a small apartment where he lived until he died in 1986 of congestive heart failure.
His son David had been working with him for four years at that point. By the time his father died, the top floor (now the greatroom) was “covered with machine parts – so much so that you could barely walk through.” David held several auctions to clear the place out.
Before they worked together, David had earned his living playing in the popular band Don & The Goodtimes in Seattle. After he and his wife divorced, David decided it was time for a change, so when his father asked him (again) to come work for him, he did.
“My father was a strange person who I hadn’t known much since my parents divorced when I was younger. His previous business partner had referred to him as ‘the last of the tyrant Industrialists.’ It certainly was interesting to work with him those last four years.”
David rented the top floor to a pair of car refurbishers while he ran a machine parts shop filling orders for Freightliner trucks in the lower floor (now the clubroom). In 2005, he sold the building to Leftbank Development and returned to his first love: watercolor painting. Many of his pieces now show in some of the 200 wineries and 80 tasting rooms of Paso Robles, CA, where he lives.
At the end of 2009, renovations were complete on what is now the annex. When you walk in, make sure to look at the wall on the back of the Nest – it is the office-then-apartment wall that Dean Child had once been so proud of, calling it the most modern in the city.