The Frank family had a robust history well before the Frank Manor House existed, or even the Fir Acres Estate. The history of the Frank family can be traced back to 1855 and a man named Aaron Meier, who had just left Germany to join his brothers in running a general store in California.
In 1857, Meier came to Portland and decided that it was the perfect place to open his own dry goods store; it was a crossroads city for Willamette Valley agriculture, worldwide shipping and a steady market from mines in the country’s interior. In 1863, Meier returned home to Germany, married Jeanette Hirsch and came back to Portland the same year. In 1873, Meier’s friend Emil Frank, along with his brother Sigmund, joined Meier in Portland and became partners in the store now known as Meier & Frank.
In 1885, Sigmund Frank married the eldest daughter of the Meier family, and in 1887 replaced his brother as the principal partner in the store. Aaron Meier and Sigmund Frank ran the store as equal partners until Meier died in 1889. Until his death in 1910, Sigmund Frank served as the sole executive, and under his management, Meier & Frank grew to be the fourth-largest department store in the country. After Sigmund Frank’s death, his two sons took over the store; Lloyd managed the furniture department and Aaron handled day to day affairs.
In 1915, Lloyd Frank married Edna Levy, and by 1920 they had three children and were looking for a location to build a country home. The Frank family decided in 1923 to purchase the William Torrance donation land claim, a 63-acre tract of land on Palatine Hill populated with Douglas fir and boasting a spectacular view of Mount Hood. Lloyd Frank, not having a vision for what he wanted his home to look like, hired architect Herman Bookman to construct his estate. Three years later the Fir Acres Estate was born, costing the Franks a total of $1.3 million.
34 servants lived on-site to serve the five members of the Frank household, doing everything from cooking to landscaping to laundry. Edna Frank had a particular interest in music and culture; the Portland junior symphony came to Fir Acres to perform on many occasions, as well as renowned concert pianist Arthur Rubinstein. The Franks also hosted extensive charity events and the annual meetings of the American Garden Club.
Despite their extravagant lifestyle, and partially because of it, Edna and Lloyd Frank began to drift apart. They separated and eventually divorced; Lloyd left Portland and remarried twice before passing away in 1959, while Edna was left with the three kids at Fir Acres. As time went on it became increasingly clear that Edna could not manage the estate and its 34 servants by herself, so in 1935 she and her three kids, Fred, Dorothy and Margery Frank, left Fir Acres for a home in the hills of Southwest Portland. The Board of Trustees of what was then Albany College showed interest in the property shortly thereafter, and on June 30, 1942 the Board closed the sale with the Frank family for the sum of $46,000.
After the Frank family sold Fir Acres, Fred Frank died in a plane crash in 1942. Dorothy graduated from Mills College and married Lester Sherman and Margery married John Crist, a retired LC sociology professor. Edna Frank remarried a man named H.W. “Ted” Holmes, and became a member of the LC Board of Trustees in 1945. Edna Holmes served on the board for over 30 years, and even longer after that as an honorary life member until she died in 1990 at the age of 95.