Many Portlander’s know Darcelle XV as the beloved “world’s oldest working drag queen,” who has been a staple of the Portland LGBTQ+ and nightlife scene for five decades. But what many may not know about Walter Cole—Darcelle XV when he is in drag—is that he lives in the historic “Elmer and Linnie Miller” Residence in Northeast Portland. The home was recently listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
The new exhibit will feature the work of Portland photographer Tom Cook, and showcases Darcelle XV in the historic residence.
According to a press release: “Cook’s portrait series captures the unique character of the 1896 Queen Anne style house and its longtime owner, Walter Cole, best known as the female impersonator and performer Darcelle XV. The home’s décor has taken on the lavish style of Darcelle XV while still maintaining its original layout and details. Among the house’s features are stained glass windows created by Jerry Bosco and Ben Milligan, glass artists, work and life partners, and founders of the Bosco-Milligan Foundation, under which the Architectural Heritage Center operates.”
On top of being an example of historic architecture, the home has been a gathering place for political activists and gay rights events over the years. The residence also shows the indelible mark that Darcelle has left on the home.
The exhibit will be open to Architectural Heritage Members July 24–25, and will open to the public after that on Thursdays–Sunday’s from 11am–5pm. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, safety protocols will be in place for those who visit the exhibit, and masks will be required.
“My home is overdone, over-decorated and over jeweled, just like Darcelle, but it reflects me,” Cole recently told The Oregonian. “If someone gave me a framed photo, I wouldn’t have one spot on the wall to hang it.”
Also on exhibit at the Architectural Heritage Center is “East Portland: A Changing Landscape, A Forgotten City,” which focuses on East Portland in the 1840’s–1910’s.
About the Architectural Heritage Center:
Owned and operated by the non-profit Bosco-Milligan Foundation, we empower people in the Portland region to preserve both landmark buildings and the regular “vernacular” vintage homes and storefronts that collectively define our neighborhoods, traditional downtowns, culture, history, and quality of life.