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🎩 A tip of the hat to the weirdness of the Portland Hat Museum

In true Wednesday fashion, we’re getting a little weird today! If you haven’t read our other Weird Wednesdays, you can find the whole series here. For now, let’s head to Ladd’s Addition to check out a turn of the century museum all about headgear — we’re taking a look at the Hat Museum!

Have you ever taken a minute to think about how many different styles of hats and headwear human beings have created over the years? It’s mind-blowing.

And the Portland Hat Museum has practically every iteration. Director Lu Ann Trotebas currently oversees the collection of nearly 2,300 hats accumulated over the years.

From the museum’s website:

“My passion for collecting hats is in the desire to preserve hat fashions and their cultural heritage before these precious, historical gems disappear with the passage of time,” Lu Ann says. “The museum houses a curated collection of hats and serves as a research and resource depository for theatrical productions, colleges and universities, historical societies, television studios, as well as other museums and hat enthusiasts. We have received research inquiries from around the world, and have most recently completed work on a project with the New York Historical Society.”

The museum itself is in the historic Ladd-Reingold House in the Ladd’s Addition neighborhood, Portland’s first planned residential development built in 1905 (The house itself is worthy of a Weird Wednesday feature given its eccentricities and quirky strangeness.)

From Atlas Obscura:

“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.”

The Reingolds themselves were quite the characters as well, and Rebecca Reingold became a woman’s hat-maker — a milliner — and was the original hat collector of the home. Then in the 1970s, Alyce Cornyn-Selby, purchased the home and discovered a huge collection of hats that Rebecca had collected. Pairing her own passion for hats with Reingold’s collection, she opened the National Hat Museum. As of February of 2020, the museum is now run by Lu Ann, a family friend.

What kinds of hats are you likely to find inside the museum? The answer is all of them.

“Vintage, men’s, women’s, Victorian, Edwardian, silly, novelty, retro, and international,” Atlas Obscura writes. “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.”

Although the museum is still closed due to the pandemic, (keep your eyes on their website for when things start to reopen), there are ways to still support this beautiful piece of Portland’s weird history. Make a cash donation (both for hats and monies), or send them an email at [email protected] (or call ‘em at 503-319-0799). The Hat Museum is interested in partnering for outreach events so if you are involved with an organization and want to help, reach out!

Thank you to our Bridgeliner Unabridged members, you help make original stories like this one free and accessible to our readers.