When the seat of the Roman CatholicArchdiocese was moved to Portland from Oregon City, Archbishop William Hickley Gross constructed the Bishop's House as his official residence. Originally, the building contained a church library, the Archbishop's living quarters, and an insurance agent's office. Despite the presence of a cathedral next door, the immediate area was in decline, and Gross moved out only after a year.
For a time the Bishop's House hosted a Chinese Tong society, rumored to be the source of phone taps in the nearby former Police Bureau Headquarters Building. Between 1911 and 1915, an architectural workshop led by A. E. Doyle and Morris H. Whitehouse met in the building.