The quirky Ladd-Reingold House has been through an array of interesting circumstance. The house was built in the early 1900’s in the west coast’s first attempt at city planning, called Ladd’s Addition. William Ladd, a former Portland mayor, had visited Washington, D.C., and shamelessly copied a city layout he had seen there that featured prominent circular and diamond-shaped gardens.
The Ladd-Reingold house was one of the first houses built in the new development. Rebecca Reingold moved to Portland from Russia and bought the house while it was still new. The last Reingold left the house over 60 years ago, but the eccentric family’s legacy remains.
Besides the strange design of the house which includes pocket doors, a secret hiding place, doors hung backwards and a dumbwaiter, there are more obvious eccentricities, like the giant-sized mermaid painted on the dining room ceiling. Not to be outdone by the house, Rebecca Reingold was a character herself, and was quite fond of collecting hats, all of which remained in the house long after she was gone. She also learned to make hats, and became a women’s hat maker, or ‘milliner.”
After being abandoned for about 5 years in the 70’s, a new owner with a very coincidental passion for headwear bought what she initially called “The Monster House,” unknowingly inheriting a hat collection that rivaled her own. After some remodeling and moving in her own fine collection of dice, mermaids, hamburger related items, hands, and of course hats, Alyce Cornyn-Selby turned the house into a museum to share her treasures.
Many hat categories reside in the 1910 Craftsman-style home- include vintage, men’s, women’s, Victorian, Edwardian, silly, novelty, retro, and international. Also featured in the museum is movie memorabilia, some rare designer hats, and for those that just aren’t that easily impressed, a Thanksgiving table hat that sings.
Update as of February 2020: Alyce Cornyn-Selby no longer owns and operates the museum, the museum is now operated by a family friend.