Laurits Walse Therkelsen was born in Denmark, twelve miles east of Copenhagen, in 1842. He had limited educational advantages and early in life became apprenticed to the carpenter’s trade, at which he worked in his native town until he arrived at the age of eighteen years when he came to America, and, in 1861, landed in San Francisco. Here for the next ten years he followed his trade with the exception of one year at San Jose, when he engaged in contracting. In 1871, he came to Portland and for ten years following was largely engaged in contracting and building in the city and vicinity. During this period he erected Trinity church, Bank of British Columbia, First National Bank, Bishop Scott Grammar School, United States Government building at Vancouver, woolen factory at Oregon City, Centennial Block, part of Union Block and hundreds of private residences and other business blocks. From the first his business assumed large magnitude and he not only soon became the largest contractor in the city, but his operations were nearly equal to all of the other builders combined.
In 1881, he made an extended trip to Europe with his family, and after an absence of several mouths returned to Portland and organized the North Pacific Lumber Company. The progress of this company has been remarkable. The mill was started with a capacity of about 25,000 feet of lumber per day, while its present output is 110,000 feet. The annual business of the company, requiring the employment of 250 men, reaches a sum of $500, 000 annually and is the second largest concern of its kind in Oregon. A general wholesale lumber business is conducted and the shipments extend as far East as Chicago. Mr. Therkelsen has been vice-president and manager of the company from the start and its gratifying success is almost wholly due to his sagacious supervision.
Mr. Therkelsen is an enthusiastic republican in politics, but has no desire for political office. He was, however, elected a member of the lower house in the State legislature for Multnomah county, in 1884, and during his term labored assiduously for the act creating the Portland water commission, in which he, with fifteen others were named as members. Since the bill became a law, the commissioners have purchased the old water supply system and have increased its capacity and usefulness but have now under headway plans for the erection of new works, such as the commissioners were empowered by the act to construct. In 1887, Mr. Therkelsen was elected school director in District No. 1, but with the two exceptions named he has steadfastly refused to take an active part in local, city or county political affairs. His own private business affairs engross his entire time and attention and this alone would prevent his participation in politics even had he the taste or inclination.
He was married in 1869 to Miss Maggie Pugh, of San Francisco. They have had seven children, three of whom are now living. He and his wife are members of Trinity Episcopal church.
Mr. Therkelsen has always been a hard worker, and has the constitution and physical vigor which permit of continued exertion with little apparent fatigue. All of his ventures have proven highly successful and he has accumulated a handsome fortune. He possesses good business judgment, is conservative rather than bold in his operations, and carefully works out his plans. He is a large owner of real estate in Portland and his operations in this line have exhibited sagacious foresight which have largely added to his financial fortune. He is a firm believer in Portland’s future greatness and is ever ready to contribute his share to the general prosperity of the city. His business standing is of the highest, while he is held in deserved respect as a man of unblemished public and private life.