Memories


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The former Marble Palace Grocery and Market building (later known as Prescott Foods), 3587 NE Prescott, has recently been restored and is now alive and well as an art studio.

While looking into the history of the Wilshire Market building, we’ve become interested in the grocery and market world of years gone past.

In a day when large supermarkets did not exist, mom-and-pop stores were everywhere on the eastside. So were butcher shops, bakeries, and candy stores. A quick look at Portland’s business directory for 1931 lists more than 750 individual grocery stores, most of them owned and operated by families.

Here in the Alameda Park Addition, commercial development was prohibited. But just beyond our borders, small business was booming.

In past posts here on the blog, we’ve explored a few of those places, including Hunderups, at NE 29th and Prescott (today’s Food King Market); Alameda Grocery (today’s corner of NE 24th and Fremont); Davis Dairy Store at NE 30th and Killingsworth; and Grant Park Grocery at NE 33rd and Knott.

Here’s a look at three more markets, all of them clustered close together near NE 33rd and Prescott. We’re interested in hearing memories about these places or finding photos from the past. Can you help?

 

3133 NE Prescott (Bradford’s Market; Serv-Us Grocery)

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Today it’s the Community Health Center, an acupuncture and Chinese medicine office, but it started out as a store. Ever noticed the parking lot just west of the building, making it perfect for a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread on the way home? Built in 1921 as a grocery, this building was known for most of its life as Bradford’s Market, operated by Paul and Bernice Bradford from the mid-1920s until the mid-1950s. The Bradfords lived in Alameda at NE 30th and Mason (nice commute). Following its long run as Bradford’s, the store was known briefly as the Serv-Us Grocery, owned by Roy and Hazel Turnbaugh. From the early 1960s until the late 1970s, the building was the dental office of Dr. Herman Reisbick. Most recently, before becoming an acupuncture office, it’s been a barber shop and hair salon.

 

3587 NE Prescott (Marble Palace Grocery; Prescott Foods)

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This is a notable building today with its fresh coat of black paint and recent makeover as an arts studio (Affiche Studio). And it’s been memorable in the recent past, as an upholstery business with a bright blue paint job.

This handsome one-story brick structure was built in 1924 by Joe Dellasin, and was operated in its early years as the Marble Palace Grocery and Market by George A. Peters, who owned another market by the same name near NE 15th and Fremont. Several proprietors ran it through the 1930s and 1940s before it became Prescott Foods, the name that stuck with the business through multiple mom-and-pop owners up until the mid 1980s (Loomis, Breshears, Dickerman, Patrick and Wallis). Grace and Earl Dickerman ran the business from 1948 until 1966 when they sold it and bought a small hardware store on SE Hawthorne. By 1985 the building had succumbed to the changing grocery shopping patterns of nearby residents (like most other small neighborhood groceries), and it became an upholstery shop, which it served as until 2012 when Affiche Studios moved in and fixed it up.

 

4518 NE 32nd Ave. (Thirty Second Street Grocery; Smith’s Cash Grocery)

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This one is an oldie: 1910. We haven’t yet been able to determine its business name prior to 1930, but by then it was known as Thirty Second Street Grocery, operated by Henry C. Parker. In the 1930s, it was owned by the Skoog family, which owned and operated other markets in Portland. In 1940, it was well established as Smith’s Cash Grocery, a name that stuck into the late 1950s.

One local resident remembers this place in the 1950s as Doc’s Market, and can recall going in as a very young person saying “Hi Doc!” to the shopkeeper (who he remembers as having a flat-top haircut and a big smile). Grove M. Smith was the proprietor all those years, and probably was the “Doc” behind the counter.

City directories show the building as being vacant from the 1960s until recently, when it was transformed into an arts studio called FalseFront Studio.

We’d love to learn more about these buildings, see pictures of their earlier selves, or connect with family members of past owners. We’ll share what we learn, and will keep plugging along with research on several other storefronts nearby.

After a pause in our ongoing quest and passion for Alameda history, we’re back on track in the New Year with a free program as part of the Oregon Encyclopedia History Night series, at 7:00 p.m., Monday, January 13 at the Mission Theater in Northwest Portland. Consider yourself invited.

In pictures and words, we’ll track the early development of Northeast Portland’s Alameda neighborhood, profile key builders and building styles, and share a social history of the homes, families and changing generations of this 100-plus-year-old neighborhood.

Come experience how these layers of local history add up to a deeper understanding of the neighborhood today. This updated presentation will touch on Alameda School, the Pearson Ponderosa Pine, Wilshire Park, the Subud Center/Alameda Park Community Church, the Broadway Streetcar and other institutions and businesses that have defined Alameda life over the years.

It’s free. The beer is good. You might see your neighbors and other history-inclined folks.

7:00 pm, Monday, January 13 at the Mission Theater, 1624 NW Glisan, Portland.

Walking through the neighborhood during these cold evenings at the end of the year always puts us in a mind to reflect on the passage of time. While we think we know this place, and that this is our neighborhood, there are so many stories and layers of history lurking around every corner here — most of which are lost to time, but a few of which we can find and examine.

When we find reference to a small tree planted more than a hundred years ago to mark the far corner of a farmer’s field, and can go to the actual giant today; when we find the place in the house where the first family gathered around the piano, and can stand in the room and imagine the music and laughter; when we learn about the orchards and tall trees atop the ridge, and can walk in the evenings appreciating where they once stood; experiences like these bring us in touch with our past and are about as close to time travel as possible. They are a fringe benefit of studying the history, and of paying attention to the small things that layer up and give meaning to the passage of time.

And they are a reminder to each of us of our temporary nature here: stewardship of these old homes and their histories is our responsibility at the moment, but in a blink this will be someone else’s story, just as it was for generations before us.

Here’s a little gem we found recently that we’ll pass along as a New Years treat for faithful readers. From The Oregonian on September 18, 1921, the story focuses on local “hermit” Joseph Albert O’Donaghue, who reportedly lived in a shack here in Alameda on Bryce Street. A grain of salt is probably helpful as you track old Joe’s story, travels and age. But even if it seems a long shot that he was hanging around the Alameda Ridge back in the 1880s, the fact is he had been living for a while in the brush near today’s Bryce Street when the reporter found him. That’s enough to reset our mental picture of the neighborhood we think we know, and to feed our imagination.

Think about this the next time you’re out on an evening stroll up Bryce on a cold night at the end of the year.

Click on the story above for a larger view of the file, or the link below to download a PDF copy.

9-18-1921 Hermit lives in woods near Alameda

If you are as captivated as we are about lining up clues from memory and the geography of the past as a way of understanding the present and thinking about the future, you need to read an excellent series of essays coming out of Rochester, New York in the last few weeks. At turns heartbreaking, insightful, maddening and maybe even hopeful, these posts by the architect and urbanist Howard Decker reveal what happens when a community loses its sense of itself, when it forgets its own stories. There is a cautionary tale here for all of us.

Check out the post on Franklin Square, but be sure to look around at the other posts. Howard’s message to us is that the form of our community tells a story about what’s important to us; that it reflects our values and the choices we make about who we are, what we want to be.

While we struggle with growth and change right here in our own neighborhood and city, a quick look elsewhere can remind us how lucky we are, and what’s at stake as we make choices about the future.

Full disclosure: along with being a terrific urban archaeologist and geographer, Howard is also my big brother. Nice work bro!

Here’s a neighborhood memory that brings together a couple of favorite topics we like to wonder about: The open spaces of the early unbuilt neighborhood, and the Broadway Streetcar.

Long-time Alameda Tuesday Club member Terry O’Hanlon checked in with us recently to share these memories. Part of her growing up years – and most of her adult life – has been spent right here in the Alameda neighborhood. During the late 1920s and early 1930s, she and her family lived in the bungalow at 4016 NE 28th.  Here’s a picture:

4016 NE 28th, taken about 1932. Photo Courtesy of Terry O’Hanlon.

The house, built in 1921 by the Wickman Building Company, looks much the same today. As a very young person, Terry remembers playing with the neighbor kids, romping out front with her little white dog, and adventuring around the open spaces and empty lots nearby.

She also has an enduring memory of the night her living room provided a convenient stake-out location for the Portland Police.

A spate of robberies had been plaguing the Broadway Streetcar. As Alameda History Blog readers will know, 29th and Mason was the end of the streetcar line, where the conductor stepped outside to switch the overhead electrical connection, flipped the seats so they’d be facing forward, and then took a break before the inbound trip back downtown to Broadway and Jefferson. 29th and Mason was a quiet, somewhat out of the limelight spot – perfect for a motorman’s momentary pause. But also perfect for a stick up. The car, and its accumulated collected fares, was a sitting duck out there in the dark at the end of the line.

That’s where Terry’s living room came in handy: at the time, it provided a perfect view to the end of the line—about one block east—so the good guys could keep an eye out for the bad guys. Look back at the photo: See that empty lot to the left (north)? 20 years later, Kenny Birkemeier would build a house on that spot, filling up that open view to the end of the line.

Here’s something to think about: Watching out your window as all around you a neighborhood is being built up. Elder Alamedans remember this phenomenon well, and some have even lamented the loss of their favorite empty lot, hiding spot, or fort location. It was one of the defining experiences of growing up in Alameda up until the late 1940s. A topic for some future post. But back to the living room and the streetcar stick up…

Terry remembers coming downstairs to a darkened first floor, into a room filled with cops all craning their necks to watch the streetcar when it finally came to a stop. The shock of it all seared that image into Terry’s memory banks for these many years. But don’t ask if her if Portland’s Finest got their man…she’s never been sure about that. The image of her darkened house filled with police soaked up all available memory-making bandwidth for the very young person she was at the time.

We’ve seen news stories from 1920s editions of The Oregonian about a burglar operating in the neighborhood, but have never come across any official telling of the streetcar stick-up to help us know how it all turned out. Chances are the Portland Traction Company, which operated the Broadway car during those years, would have wanted to keep a lid on the whole thing anyway so as to not put every carline in jeopardy.

There are other memories about the end of our car line: about the old man and his German shepherd who used to nap on the lawn of the house at the southwest corner of 29th and Mason, watching streetcars come and go. And the enterprising teenager who “hijacked” a driver-less streetcar parked momentarily at 24th and Fremont. And, what if felt like for some on the last ride of the last day.

So many memories to explore, so little time…

From time to time we like to plumb the depths of memory for stories about neighborhood businesses. This one is reaching a ways back, but we’re looking for a little help with any personal memories about this store, which operated out of the bustling commercial corner of NE 30th and Killingsworth.

The Davis Dairy Store, located at 5513 NE 30th, was operated by three generations of women from the Davis family, who also built and lived in the home at 2427 NE Dunckley here in the Alameda Park addition. A recent visitor to the blog—Teresa Roth—sent us some shards of memory from her mother Lucille, and some photographs to ponder. Here is Lucille’s mother Irene Davis, the matriarch of the store, standing near the open door in 1938, and the same spot today:

Left, Irene Davis at the Davis Dairy Store, 5513 NE 30th Ave., 1938. Right, the same doorway today. Historic photo courtesy of the Davis Family and Teresa Roth.

 

Irene’s daughter Lucille (far left) and cousin Isabel Buckendorf sitting out front in 1938. Note the words “bicycle shop” on the window behind them to the left, and the reflection of the power pole, which hasn’t moved much in 70 years. Historic photo courtesy of the Davis Family and Teresa Roth.

Irene and her husband Ernest built the Dunckley home and likely the business as well, though he was a machinist and she a stenographic secretary. The couple divorced in the mid 1920s. For as long as the couple’s daughter Lucille can remember, the store was just part of the family. Lucille, now in her mid 80s, and her daughter Teresa stroll through the neighborhood from time to time when they are in town together, remembering friends, cousins and happy moments.

After the divorce in the mid 1920s, Irene ran the store, with Lucille’s help during the summer, and likely with the help of her sister Mae, a piano teacher. Irene and Mae’s mother Martha LeFabre lived with them as well in the Dunckley Street house: three generations running the house and the business.

No one around today remembers exactly when the store opened or closed, but we do know it would have been popular with kids. Here’s an advertisement from 1938.

Flyer from Davis Dairy Store, 1938. Courtesy of the Davis Family and Teresa Roth.

The corner of NE 30th and Killingsworth has experienced a recent renaissance that echoes the vitality of the intersection in the 1920s and 1930s. Today, the area is officially known as the Concordia Neighborhood, though in those days it was known to both residents and customers as Irvington Park. Just for context, here’s a shot of the overall commercial building today, which features some very tasty restaurants, including DOC, which we recommend.

Any memories to share about the Davis Dairy Store or this bright and busy neighborhood corner?

According to the 1938 Polk City Directory, joining the Davis Dairy Store at 30th and Killingsworth were the following businesses:

5425 NE 30th             Serafino Boitano Shoe Repair

5425 NE 30th             Parrot Cleaners

5430 NE 30th              Jason Frost Grocer | Theo Larson Meats

5433 NE 30th             Anderson’s Food Market

5438 NE 30th              30th Avenue Pharmacy and Post Office

5501 NE 30th             The Ark Beer Parlor

5507 NE 30th             Irvington Park Variety Store (now Blackbird Tatoo)

5509 NE 30th             30th Avenue Bicycle and Hardware

5515-19 NE 30th        Twin Pines Barber and Beauty Shop

Local service and social club has been doing good works quietly for almost 100 years

When you think about Alameda neighborhood institutions and landmarks, a few standouts come to mind: the school, the churches, the ridge, Deadman’s Hill, our particular grid of streets, the big ponderosa pine at Fremont and 29th. We all have our list.

Chances are, though, that you don’t think about—or maybe even know about—one of the longest-lived, active and engaged institutions our neighborhood has known: the Alameda Tuesday Club.

Members of the Alameda Tuesday Club gather in a local home in December 1963. Scrapbooks showing club activities are now in the collection at the Oregon Historical Society. Photo courtesy of the Metschan Family

Members of the Alameda Tuesday Club gather in a local home in December 1963. Scrapbooks showing club activities are now in the collection at the Oregon Historical Society. Photo courtesy of the Metschan Family

The ATC, as it is fondly referred to by its 36 members, is a social club with a service mission; a collection of active women from the Alameda neighborhood who are quietly carrying on a tradition that began at the dawn of the neighborhood itself. Since 1913, when the first homes were being built in the fields that are now our neighborhood, members of the club have been gathering on a regular basis in a different Alameda home each month for conversation, for learning, for tea and a meal, and to plan good works both close to home and far away.

In 1914, when a down-on-their-luck family was living rough in the 33rd Street Woods (a much wilder version of today’s Wilshire Park) and the Dad had tuberculosis, the club stepped in to provide food, coal, clothing and milk for the children.

When a well-known national suffragette came to town to advocate for a woman’s right to vote, the club boldly hosted an event with her as lead speaker.

When World War I soldiers from Portland were in the trenches in France, the ATC made and shipped bandages and other supplies overseas.

When the young neighborhood clearly needed a school, the Alameda Tuesday Club stepped up to help make the case.

You get the idea: These women are strong and know how to get things done. The list of charitable works over the years is long and generous. But they know how to have fun too: picnics, tea parties, an award-winning flower-bedecked float for the 1916 Rose Festival parade, fundraisers, costume parties.

These days, the club isn’t advocating for schools or building parade floats. But it does make generous gifts to charities, including most recently the West Women’s Shelter, Beaumont School Library, the Jefferson Dancers, the Oregon Food Bank, Friends of Children and SMART.

“When I first heard about the club, I thought it was such an anachronism,” says current president Kathie Rooney, who has been a member since 1986. “But when you are involved in charitable works and you get to know these women, the club takes on a whole different dimension. There is definitely an old fashioned social interaction. But we’re also talking about the issues of the day.”

Rooney explains that club bylaws have changed little since 1913, and still require members to live within the perimeter of the original Alameda Park Addition: from Fremont to Prescott and between NE 21st and NE 33rd. Membership in the club is by invitation only—as it has been from the beginning—and no more than 36 members are allowed. Monthly meetings rotate around the club, with a member hosting a lunch in her home on the second Tuesday of the month, nine months of the year. Some neighborhood homes have held multiple generations of ATC members and meetings.

And then there is the unwritten silver tea set rule: tradition has it that a silver tea set must be at every gathering of the club. Look back through the club scrapbooks (an amazing collection of images and notations set on black album pages now housed at the Oregon Historical Society) and you’ll see it there on a table, in the corner of a room, sometimes in use.

Terry O’Hanlon has been a member of the club since 1962 and has watched the neighborhood, and the club, change. When she joined, average club membership was a bit older than today, with most members between their early 50s and 80s (she was one of the youngest when she joined, in her 30s). Today, O’Hanlon is the eldest club member, and the youngest member is in her mid 40s. She also remembers Alameda filled with more young families and young children. Not so today, with plenty of two-parent working families.

“The pressures on professional women are different today than in my day,” she says, reflecting on the forces that have shaped the club over the years. “If you are working 40 or 50 hours a week, it’s hard to make it to an afternoon meeting like ours.”

Still, the friendship and camaraderie of the club—and its core philanthropic mission today—create a special sense of purpose that continues to fuel club meetings and activities. The tie to tradition, a respect for generations of Alameda women, and a real love for the neighborhood, distinguishes this special group.

-Doug Decker

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