Beaumont-Wilshire


Sign designer Brad Ellsworth has been busy. Replica design above, existing window below. Take a look:

Padrow Windows

AH readers have pledged $350 so far and we need about $1,500 in pledges before we can give Brad the green light to actually get the work underway. Additional pledges or suggestions?

 

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The old Padrow Pharmacy window at the former Wilshire Market has sparked plenty of conversation in recent weeks. We were visiting the building this week when one driver pulled to the curb to ask when the new pharmacy would be opening. Ahem, well, it’s been a few years…

AH readers and neighbors who have been following will know the pharmacy window was accidentally revealed a couple years back when the former market owners were doing some remodeling and exposed it under the siding. It was definitely a novelty, and they framed it out and let it be seen again as a kind of a community service, and out of respect for the past.

The window itself is a time traveler, and has known better days. It’s actually two panes of glass, joined in the center by a steel joint. The paint is badly faded and in some cases unreadable.

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A detail of the window showing the chalky, fading, peeling paint. The original paint was applied to the exterior of the window and hasn’t worn well over time.

 

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The window was tagged by a vandal in October.

Along the bottom of the glass, the ad seems to suggest hand-packed ice cream may have been sold by the pint, or possibly the quart. With a little imagination, you can fill in the blanks and guess that Padrow’s also sold cosmetics along with the cigars (by the box), sundries, and box candy. No question they sold Coca-Cola, that much is front-and-center in red paint. In fact, according to second-generation sign expert Brad Ellsworth, Coca Cola probably paid for the painted window advertisement.

Part of the reason the window is in such tough shape is that it’s painted on the exterior, exposed to all the elements. Over the years, the paint has flaked off and dried, lost its pigment, and is little more than a chalky substance on the exposed surface of the glass. It won’t last long.

Fast forward to the new owner, Jeff Smalley, who for the last six months has been transforming the former 1923 commercial building into the new Fire and Stone restaurant and bakery. Jeff is a local guy, operates out of a respect for history and for the neighborhood, and wants to do something to tip his hat to the past. He’s made sure other cool windows, discovered long buried inside the market’s walls, will have visible and prominent locations inside the restaurant. And he’s been wondering what to do with the Padrow window. We’ve been talking about it, and we’ve brought in some local sign expertise to consider the options.

And then, on an evening a couple weeks back, someone spray painted graffiti on the window. Because the new tag was painted directly over the crumbling old paint, that almost ended the discussion about trying to restore the window. Focused on all the other details of getting the business up and running, Jeff was ready to just pull it out and forget about trying to do something nice.

But that’s where we came in, and after the AH post about the tagging, we heard from several readers who offered to make a donation to help bring the window back from the brink.

Enter Brad Ellsworth of North Pacific Sign and Design. Brad and his brother Curt took the company over from their dad who started his sign business about the time the Padrows opened the pharmacy (early 1950s…the pharmacy was actually a stand-alone business that had its own address even though it was in the same building as Wilshire Market). Brad and Curt grew up in the neighborhood, sent their kids through Alameda and Beaumont, and have a relative who worked at the Wilshire Market in the 1970s. Brad even has a hunch who painted the original window way back when. Let’s just say they’re invested in trying to figure this out.

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Brad Ellsworth (left) and Jeff Smalley examine the Padrow Window.

So after having a good look at the window and considering the possibilities, here’s the plan:

Jeff wants to keep the Padrow reference even though the window is not long for this world. So Brad is working from the original design and will create as faithful a replica as possible on the same glass, painted on the inside this time to keep it safe from the weather. Jeff’s going to talk to Coca-Cola and see if they might be willing to help with the cost. And AH readers are invited to make a donation pledge if they’d like to help (just drop me a note and I’ll get in touch with you). Brad estimates the job is probably in the $1,800-$2,000 range. Once most of the funds are in hand, we’ll ask Brad to start work. He’ll actually do the work on site, starting with cleaning and preparing the existing glass and then painting it all back. Should be interesting to watch.

So, here’s the challenge, readers. Want to help bring back the Padrow Window? I’m taking pledges right now (and have made my own of $100). If you are interested, drop me a note or leave a comment here and I’ll be in touch.

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We dropped in on Jeff Smalley at Fire and Stone on Fremont this afternoon to see how his remodel was doing. If you’ve been watching, you can see for yourself that the colors are emerging and things are happening behind the paper on those windows.

Jeff says lots of people are asking about timing: looks like opening in early December. Plumbing and electrical work should be done by Thanksgiving, and then there is time to train staff and get things fully operational.

He’s been pleased to see writers on the internet anticipating the restaurant, including Portland EaterPortland Monthly, and of course our earlier post about the building and the business.

Here are some pictures of the interior from earlier today:

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Looking toward the main entry from the bar area.

 

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Looking toward the main dining area. The bakery and “take out” area is in the background–accessed by its own door on the east end of the building–where the wood-fired oven will reside. The windows are a dominant feature both inside and outside, illuminating on a sunny, cold fall afternoon.

 

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The trim pieces (called dentals) along the cornice at the top of the wall were milled from several of the original wood beams removed from inside the building. The windows will receive an awning and during the summer, there will be tables outside.

Speaking of windows, stay tuned for news here in the next day or so about the historic Padrow’s Pharmacy window. Interesting plans are underway.

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Local baker and old building-lover Jeff Smalley dropped us a note this week to let us know of sad and pointless damage to the property he is developing at the former Wilshire Market near the corner of NE Fremont and Alameda. You’ll recall that Jeff is the creative force behind Fire and Stone, the new cafe that is transforming this 1923 commercial building.

When we met Jeff a few weeks back, he was going out of his way to protect and to showcase the historic window–clearly a time traveler from an earlier day–that marked the location of Padrow’s Pharmacy. He liked the vintage look and feel of the window, and after all it has been there for a couple generations.

But on a night this past week, someone spray painted the window. Because the historic window was originally painted on the outside, this senseless act has irreparably damaged the surface. Aside from being completely disgusted about this development, Jeff reports that he has video surveillance in place now throughout the construction site and is ready to pursue and prosecute further vandalism. As for the window, its future does not look good.

 

 

We’ve been watching with interest as the remodel work progresses at Wilshire Market (3707 NE Fremont). The term remodel might be a bit modest for the amount of work going on there, stripping the building back to its barest bones, but keeping some of its most interesting aspects.

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Remodel might also imply that it’s going to continue being Wilshire Market, which we know not to be the case. Business owner Jeff Smalley is in the process of transforming the building into Fire and Stone, a wood-fired bakery and café. As a nearby neighbor, we’re looking forward to that part, as well as being able to see and appreciate some of the original components of the building.

We dropped in for a visit with Jeff this week and were amazed at what we saw, and at his vision for the new business.

First, about the building.

Built in 1923 as the Wilshire Grocery and Market Inc. by partners Solomon N. Barrigar and Albert P. Mumler, the business name has essentially stayed the same, but the building has had a few facelifts.

The front door, which we believe originally faced the corner, has moved around a bit. When deconstructing, Jeff and his carpenters found clues to other doorways: one in the middle of the south wall; the one that has been most recently used near the southeast corner; and a separate entrance in the northwest corner associated with a small pharmacy.

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The once and future entrance at the corner of NE Alameda and Fremont. What was the original entrance to Wilshire Grocery and Market, will be the main entry to the new restaurant Fire and Stone, opening this fall.

The pharmacy has left another big clue: the window on the west side of the building, which you can see to the far left in the photo above. The former owners preserved the window and put it on display for passersby during work completed a few years back.

Padrow’s Dispensing Pharmacy shows up in newspaper advertisements and city directories from 1950-1960 as a business owned by Western Drug Company and in operation at its own address (3701 NE Fremont). How it related to Wilshire Market has so far been beyond anyone’s memory that we’ve spoken with (can any AH readers please shed light on that?), but by all accounts it had its own door–just to the right of the window–and its own identity separate from Wilshire Market.

A fascinating feature of this building buried for at least 50 years is a full set of transom-type windows running the length of the south and west walls above the main windows.

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Looking at the south wall. Note the transom windows above the main windows: 36 panes in all.

They were covered up sometime in the 1940s or 1950s (educated guess) when other things were rearranged in the building (more on that in a moment). 36 of these transom windows tiled the entire south face of the building, prompting Jeff Smalley to observe that it must have been downright hot in the building during the summers. Maybe that’s why they were covered up long ago. Some of the transom windows on the west side had advertisements painted on them like this:

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Smalley has saved the hand-painted windows and will be displaying them inside the business. As for the transom windows, Smalley is liberating that space and opening it up again to light, though the original framing had to be replaced due to damage done during the rearranging a half-century or more ago.

Other rearranging done over the years included an addition to the north side of the building that added a residential apartment and storage area. In fact, the last proprietor of Wilshire Market lived on the premises. Smalley will utilize some of that space for storage and for employee break room space.

Do you have photos or favorite memories from Wilshire Market? Send them along and we’ll share them here.

Now, about the new business: Fire and Stone.

Jeff Smalley at the bar, Fire and Stone

 Jeff Smalley, owner, Fire and Stone.

First things first: Jeff Smalley has a history with bread. He spent seven years as a manager at Grand Central Bakery. He worked at Portland French Bakery, where he launched a new line of bread. And most recently, he was the bakery manager at New Seasons for the last seven years. Jeff knows his bread, and he knows good food. As a plus, he’s also learning a lot about old buildings.

Fire and Stone will feature a large wood-fired oven that is at the heart of the whole operation. A bakery and take-out area with its own entrance will reside at the southeast corner of the building. When you walk in the door—and from just about everywhere inside—you’ll be within sight of the big oven. Seating for 70 in the dining room and 10 seats at the bar should hold a good crowd, and during the summer, tables and chairs will be out on the sidewalk and large sliding windows along the south and west side will be open to the air. Jeff is adamant about being a good neighbor and about wanting the business to be a place where the neighborhood enjoys getting together for good food and conversation. He lives here too: the Smalley family has lived in the Cully neighborhood for 12 years, where Jeff and his wife have restored an older home.

A few other details Jeff pointed out during our recent visit: the tables, chairs and booths (under construction off-site right now) are all being made of seasoned, beautiful wood salvaged from a 100-year-old barn and fashioned in Prairie School and Mission style. The floors will be polished concrete, lending a slightly industrial feel. The exterior will be painted stucco. Inside, expect to see photos of Wilshire Market from the past, in-progress remodeling photos, and maybe even some history about the Beaumont and Alameda neighborhoods (ready when you are, Jeff).

Now for the $64 question: When will Fire and Stone open?

Jeff has been shooting for Labor Day all summer but with that come and gone, has readjusted his sights on the end of October. As an observer and participant in construction projects over the years (and as a lover of good bread), we hope he’s right but are thinking it’s looking more like Thanksgiving.

Whenever it’s ready, the business will add an attractive new venue for a get-together and good food, and serve as a place to remember and appreciate how the past has shaped today and the future.

Today, it’s a major landmark both here on the ground in Alameda-Beaumont-Wilshire, and even from the air: the 15-acre rectangular patch of tall Douglas-fir trees surrounding baseball diamonds, open fields, picnic areas and a dog park. We know it as Wilshire Park, and many of us benefit from it every day.

Wilshire Park very nearly became a 1920s auto campground, and then a 1940s subdivision.

We can take Wilshire Park for granted today because of a series of events tracing back to an investment made by one of Portland’s wealthy early residents, Jacob Kamm (1823-1912), who made his fortunes in the steam navigation business. Kamm also dabbled in real estate investment and had strategically purchased parcels downtown and at the edges of Portland, including the 15 acres of woods just north of the Alameda Ridge off the old county road (today’s NE 33rd Avenue), which he platted as the Spring Valley addition in 1882. When Kamm died in 1912, the tract had been untouched, and his estate was valued at $4 million. Sorting out the estate took years and was frequently in the press.

An effort to turn the park into a KOA-style automobile campground in 1920 was cancelled with prejudice by vociferous Alamedans who were worried about its impact on property values and didn’t like the notion of a non-residential and transient-based activity being so close to their homes. After that fight, which involved petitions, community meetings and a high level of consternation with city government, the fate of the 15 acres rested for a few years.

Remember that the early 1920s were a major boom period for the construction of homes in this area. All around the 15 acres, new subdivisions (and lots of kids) were springing up: the Willamette Addition, platted in 1888 and bounded loosely by Skidmore on the south and Alberta on the north (though the original plat was never fully built-out); the Wilshire Addition, platted in 1921 and roughly including the area from NE 33rd to NE 42nd between Fremont and Prescott; the Beaumont Addition, platted in 1910; and Olmsted Park—just  west of 33rd across from the woods—was as well established as its neighbor Alameda Park. Kids from these neighborhoods were already using the wooded area as their playground, with a maze of improvised trails, forts and other secret places nestled into the thick brush and trees. It seemed a natural to become a real city park, with playgrounds and picnic facilities for organized events.

The Wilshire Addition Community Club—a kind-of early neighborhood association and social club—was the first to call for acquisition and development of the park, submitting a proposal in September 1926 for the city to float a bond measure to fund the work. But Portland Parks Commissioner C.P. Keyser felt the chances of a voter-passed measure were too slim because not enough planning and survey work had been completed, so the effort stalled.

Left on their own after the city chose not to take up the cause, neighbors began direct negotiations with the Kamm estate. By 1933, an agreement had been reached that allowed the property to be used as a park—still owned by the Kamm family—as long as the planning and development work was funded and conducted by neighborhood residents. In a Monday morning, March 27, 1933 news story, The Oregonian reported the following:

“Improvement of a 15-acre tract of land has been started by residents of the Wilshire District to convert the site into a park. The land has been made available by the Kamm estate with the proviso that improvement expenses be assumed by persons living in the neighborhood. Volunteer workers gathered at the tract Saturday and yesterday and cut away underbrush and cleaned the land for further improvements.”

A passing reference about who was actually coordinating the work provides insight into the way some people though of the 15 acres in those days: the work party was led by the city’s Nuisance Division, and the Clean Up Campaign Committee of the Junior Chamber of Commerce.

Thanks to work parties like this, and continued use by neighborhood kids, community interest continued to build in the mid-1930s—with the property still in the hands of the Kamm estate—until a proposal was made in the fall of 1937 to have the city purchase the property with a localized bond measure. Backers of the proposal knew that time was running out to keep the park as a park, and told The Oregonian in December of 1937 that “this is the last chance to get it. Contractors want to take over the property to build homes.” They also continued to make the case that the nearest proper park was too far away for children to use. The 15-acres was still a glorified brush patch.

Working with neighbors, the city proposed assessing the agreed purchase price of $28,500 across 3,000 homes within the surrounding vicinity, less than $10 per household. This did not go over well with some, and a firestorm of letters to the editor and complaints to City Hall boiled over. More than 30 percent of the 3,000 homeowners had actually signed petitions opposing the fee, though not all were against the park acquisition itself, if the city could find a way to spread the cost city-wide.  In 1937, Portland was in the grips of a recession that followed the Depression, and joblessness and foreclosures were headline news on a daily basis.

One letter writer, local resident Spencer Akers, put it this way:

“The controversy over the proposed Kamm park seems to be fanned to a red heat. Where is the justice in a comparatively few individuals being obliged to shoulder the purchase price, especially since the depression has reinforced its destruction siege by the surprise attack of the ruthless ‘recession?’ If the city is too poor to purchase the property than why in the name of common sense should we, who happen to live in the immediate vicinity, be judged as financially able to raise the whole purchase price? I know of several families in this district who are actually in need, and a bombshell of this nature would play havoc with their tottering defenses.”

A staff-written editorial from The Oregonian on December 27, 1927, made an eloquent case otherwise:

“If the Kamm tract were certain to remain available for a park for a number of years, and the majority of the residents of the district desired that buying of it be deferred, there could be no sound objection to such a course. It is likely, however, that the tract soon will be developed for residential purposes if it is not taken over for a neighborhood park. The national cry for more housing and the probability of advantageous federal financing for building make that seem inevitable, if the city does not act now. The price is reasonable, probably lower than it will ever be again. No other property is to be had for the purpose. The proposed assessment [of $8.60 for a 50 x 100 foot lot] would be unlikely to be a hardship on anyone; the return of value to the property owners in the district would be obvious.”

But forward-looking arguments did not prevail, and after all the fuss, the city dropped the proposal.

Meanwhile, kids kept using the 15 acres, brush continued to grow, crimes were reported being committed in the woods, and developers sought to purchase and build on the property.

This detail of an aerial photograph from 1943 shows the 15 acres of trees and rough trails. Though the city owned the parcel at this time, there were no developments or facilities yet. Have a look at the rest of the young neighborhood…plenty of vacant lots.

The story goes quiet again, until a brief headline in the April 10, 1940 issue of The Oregonian: City Acquires Kamm Tract. The short, page 4 story reports only that the City Council took the action by emergency ordinance and was acquiring the land from the estate at a cost of $28,500, financed with a two-year loan from the First National Bank that would be paid off from city funds. Perhaps a development proposal led to the tipping point and the emergency action…that part of the story is untold. The public purchase of the property brought an important chapter to a close, and secured the land for the future.

However, almost as if the neighborhood needed something more to fight about, controversy boiled again in February 1941 about naming the newly acquired parcel, with some wanting to call it Jacob Kamm Park, which stemmed from a proposal made by the Sons and Daughters of Pioneers. The majority of surrounding neighbors lined up behind a proposal to call it Wilshire Park. After several stormy meetings on the topic, City Council agreed with the neighbors and adopted Wilshire Park as the official name.

The Hamnett family on the north side of Wilshire Park, looking south, 1948. Note the gravel surface of NE Skidmore street. Photo courtesy of John Hamnett.

By 1950, the city had cut and removed much of the underbrush, constructed the ball diamonds still in place today, and even built a playground, which featured among other things, old Fire Engine Number 2, a 1918 model that was finally decommissioned from service at the SW 3rd and Glisan fire house.

Wilshire Park baseball game, 1956. Looking west.

Many other memories remain about the park, including the family that lived in a home at the far southeast corner of the woods around the turn of the last century; Christmas trees cut in the 1920s and 1930s from the “33rd Street Woods;” the jackstrawed piles of trees and branches left over from the Columbus Day storm of 1962; the generations of baseball players, soccer players, runners and dog walkers who have loved this place.

The first chapter of the Wilshire Park story…

 

Faithful Alameda History blog readers will know that protests were not uncommon in the early years of our neighborhood life, usually around schools and churches, and frequently about land use topics. Property owners had sought out this subdivision for many reasons, including a covenant that prohibited all but residential development within the Alameda Park plat proper. You couldn’t build a store or office. You could barely build a church, as we have seen.

Want to build a campground, or as they were known during the day, an auto camp? Forget it. This neighborhood was definitely not buying any such proposal.

Our timeframe for this vignette is the mid 1920s. We’ll remember that at this point, Alameda Park is experiencing exponential growth…the previous few years outpacing all other years combined. There was much new construction, but still many vacant lots, some brush fields, and a sense that while we were the “Tuxedo of Portland,” as claimed in the real estate development ads, we were still on the outskirts of Portland.

That’s when our predecessors first learned about a proposal to build an auto campground right here on our doorstep at 33rd and Mason.

The 15-acre wooded parcel that is today’s Wilshire Park was then part of the Jacob Kamm estate. Kamm (1823-1912) was one of Portland’s wealthiest residents, making his fortunes in the steam navigation business. He also dabbled in real estate investment and had strategically purchased parcels downtown and at the edges of Portland, including the 15 acres of woods just north of the Alameda Ridge. When he died in 1912, his estate was valued at $4 million. Sorting out the estate took years and was frequently in the press. Up here in Alameda, Kamm’s trees kept growing.

So when a plan came along to do something with the property, reported in an innocuous story in the September 12, 1920 edition of The Oregonian, some readers may have just looked at it as another business pitch. Commissioner Stanhope S. Pier was in charge of this idea:

 

Tourist parks or auto camps were not that uncommon here in Portland and elsewhere. The car was a new toy and tool, and as people traveled the countryside, they needed a place to land temporarily as they explored the area. Think of a KOA campground. Let’s just say that auto camps were in the public consciousness of the day: an enjoyable, convenient and necessary extension of car travel. Here’s a photo from the City of Portland Archives showing one such camp in 1925, somewhere on the Westside.

 

But after reading the September 12th story, it took Alameda residents only a matter of hours to get up a protest to Commissioner Pier, which eventually turned into a petition drive and then a forceful meeting with Mayor Baker and City Council. In The Oregonian story from October 7, 1920 below, be sure to have a look at the fourth paragraph and its description of Alameda as a “quiet, refined district, composed of a home loving people…”

 

Faced with a petition and local uproar, City Council had to schedule some time to let Alameda vent and make its case. Below, in the story the next day, October 8, 1920, check out the fourth paragraph, where a description of Alameda’s winding streets, considered an asset by some developers, is spun as a liability when it comes to serving the needs of the traveling public.

 

In the following day’s story, with some plausible deniability and backpedalling by Pier, City Council quickly reversed direction on the plan and endorsed the neighborhood notion of playgrounds and open parks.

 

The topic goes quiet then, resurfacing six years later in the September 10, 1926 edition of The Oregonian (below)as one of several city park needs being considered.

 

It would take another seven years until 1933—with the property still connected to the Kamm estate—that the city would seriously consider the idea.

Next Chapter: Conflicts about Paying for the Park

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