When Justin Phelps started his engineering career in San Francisco, he dreamed of one day converting a church into his own recording studio.
Instead, he had to settle for a library.
Two years ago, Phelps and his business partner, musician Greg Allen, began leasing the century-old Arleta Library in the Foster-Powell neighborhood. Like Revolution Hall, the stately brick building—which also served as a juvenile detention center during its lifetime—had been sitting unused for years. They made the necessary renovations, brought in top-of-the-line equipment, and rechristened it Hallowed Halls.
And as it turns out, if you're looking to capture an act of loudness, a fortress of quietude is the way to go.
This building is made of brick. A truck can go by, and if you're right by the window, you can maybe hear a rumble, but nothing that would interrupt a recording session.
Appropriate for a city where everyone is in a band, Portland has many recording studios, but Hallowed Halls is perhaps the most unique.
With its high ceilings, chandeliers and 1,600-square-foot main hall, the atmosphere is a break from the typically plasticine studio environment. Not surprisingly, since opening in 2015, Hallowed Halls has been booked solid, recording everyone from Americana act Fruition to hardcore icons Poison Idea.
As more people move to the neighborhood, Allen and Phelps envision Hallowed Halls becoming more of a community space. To that end, there's a small rehearsal room in the basement reserved for music lessons, and an adjacent shop selling instruments and records. Outside, a platform has been set up specifically for busking.
And true to most Portland repurposing jobs, the vibe is being kept distinctly retro. Several old synths line shelves, and a gauzy photo of a woman in a wedding dress hangs over the entrance. One might guess it's Lea Wikman, an advocate for the poor who was once the building's namesake. In truth, it's Allen's mom. She died when he was 2 years old, but left him with a hefty trust fund, which he used to help set up the studio.
"I think of this whole space, and all the creativity that flows through here, as her legacy," he says.
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