It’s been quiet here on the blog lately because we’ve been busy working on several studies of homes and businesses in northeast Portland. Each time we do a study—which involves becoming immersed in documents, maps, photos, archives, and family stories—we focus in on connecting past and present, which is what this work is all about.

These connections allow generations of owners—the people who have lived in, shaped and loved these buildings—to listen to each other, to learn, and sometimes to nod their heads in common understanding and amazement. What an honor and privilege to be able to help make those connections, to learn those stories and to understand and visualize the passage of time. And each time we take on a project, we learn more about the neighborhood as a whole.

As we’ve zeroed in on this work in the last month (to the exclusion of the blog), it has occurred to us what we’re really doing is taking a hold of time that has already passed and trying to slow it down long enough to look around inside for understanding and for answers. Frequently, that’s what we get. Sometimes we just get more questions.

With the completion of this latest handful of studies, we’re going to have some room to focus on some new (old) projects and studies. Interested?

Meanwhile here on the blog, stay tuned for something new soon about Mom and Pop grocery stores

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The transformation is complete.

We had a sneak preview dinner last night at Fire and Stone (3707 NE Fremont), which opens today, and can testify that the transformation of Wilshire Market is now complete. We’ve been watching this Beaumont-Wilshire neighborhood building for about a year now, and appreciating its history in the neighborhood: built in 1923 and operated as the Wilshire Market and Grocery by Solomon Barrigar and Albert Mumler, this business served local families and provided sweets and sundries for generations of school children walking to and from nearby Beaumont School. In its early years, it was one of more than 750 small markets where Portland shopped for its groceries.

Today, it’s an attractive bakery and restaurant with a menu that features full dinners like roast chicken, ribs and roasted fish, wood-oven pizzas, salads and bread. During the sneak preview dinner, attended by hundreds of curious supporters and business partners, the building came alive and many remarked about remembering Wilshire Market. There are some clues to its former life:

  • Check out the transom windows preserved by owner Jeff Smalley and now displayed on an interior wall. These windows once ran the length of the south and west sides of the building and many of the panels served as advertisements. Jeff has saved some of the nicest examples.
  • Speaking of windows, of course there is the Padrow Pharmacy window, which we’ve been investigating for Jeff. Additional pledges continue to arrive (thank you) and we’re submitting a grant to Coca-Cola (the original window’s sponsor) to help with the restoration. You can read more about the window here and here.
  • The new doorway at the southwest corner returns the building entrance to its original position. Nice touch.
  • Exposed structural and building systems inside let you see back in time. There’s plenty of new framing material, ducts and electrical wiring, but some of the work from 1923 is still visible.

Can you find other clues?

During a time when many developers start their work by demolishing an existing old building to make way for the next big thing, we’re pleased to see one business that has kept the historic structure and even built part of its identity on its history and character. This is a trend Portland needs to support.

 

Remembering that during the last week of the year we are encouraging readers to share photos and memories of their favorite houses, wherever they may be. Son of Alameda, old-house fan and sometime AH correspondent Brian Rooney sends the following celebration of the Rooney family home on Dunkley. Thanks Brian!

This photo-in-a-photo is nice example of how fond memories influence decisions. In 1965, when recent Portland arrivals Bill and Kathleen Rooney went looking for a house to raise their small but growing family. Their search was over as soon as they drove past 3215 Dunckley.

3215 Dunckley & 1846 Sunnyside

The portico on the Alameda house struck my mother’s heartstrings as it reminded her of the house she grew up in on the banks above the Mississippi River in Burlington, Iowa (seen inset here). The Iowa house was originally a square brick structure believed to have been built around 1850. It was Kathleen Rooney’s grandfather who saw great potential, purchased the house and added the grand portico with pillars (and complimentary side porches) to the brick box transforming it into something special.

The Dunckley house is also very special in that it is one of the last remaining double lot homes in the Alameda neighborhood. It was wonderful growing up with a large yard to play in, countless hours having been spent digging, swinging, climbing, sliding and getting muddy there. I dearly hope the house holds onto its own small park so that future families and children can continue to enjoy it forever.

3215 Dunckley is having two anniversaries in 2015: it’s 100th birthday and the 50thanniversary of the Rooney family having called it home. Let the celebrations begin!

-Brian Rooney

Taken about 1918.

1038 Diversey Parkway, Chicago, Illinois. About 1918.

We always think of the last couple weeks here at the bottom of the year—with a little more time and space for reflection—as a good time to flip back through some of our favorite old photos and memories. Since we are a blog dedicated (mostly) to old houses, we’d like to open it up for AH readers to share a favorite old house picture or story, from Northeast Portland or far beyond.

To get us started we’ll offer these two gems, taken in 1918 on the steps of the Chicago home where our Dad was born. This is one of our favorite old houses, probably because it was the first old house picture we ever saw, and one we grew up with. Look at the dentals, the Palladian window, the oversize lintel moulding creating its own gravity. We’ve been back to this house many times, and even knocked on the door (no one home). Definitely recognizable 100 years later. We have lots of other photos of this house we’d be pleased to share with the owner. Like this one:

1038 Diversey Parkway, Chicago. Taken about 1918.

Aunt Vivien and Dad, Diversey Parkway Steps, about 1918.

OK readers, this is your chance to share a picture or story of your favorite old house. Drop us a note. Time to appreciate old homes!

AH reader and fellow old-picture lover Chris Wilson has shared this photograph, found last year at a yard sale near Rocky Butte. Click on it for a close-up look. Lot’s of detail, including the original pre-address change address of 605 (on the column above the dad’s head).

2835 NE 55th

Our only clue: written on the back is “Dad & Lois at home place.” We love mysteries like this. With a little digging we’ve found this house in the Rose City Park neighborhood (not too far from Archbishop Howard School) known today as 2835 NE 55th Avenue. This stately Portland four-square was built in 1910. Apparently, Chris Wilson may have offered it to the current homeowners, who reportedly weren’t interested. So he wrote us, knowing that we love photos of old houses (especially with people in them), and that we love to solve old house and old picture mysteries.

Here it is today:

2835 NE 55th Today

After looking back at building permits, census records and a little deductive reasoning, our hunch is that this is Christopher J. (Dad) and Lois Schmiedeskamp. In the teens and early 1920s, the family owned and operated a grocery store and meat market at 7224 NE Sandy Blvd., right next to Fairley’s Pharmacy (home today to Berni’s Beauty Salon). Later, CJ went into real estate and mortgage banking.

Also at home around the time of the old photo were mom Mildred, brothers Charles and Karl, and sister Edith.

A quick look at the phone book today suggests the Schmiedeskamps are still in Portland. We’re guessing they could be interested in seeing this yard-sale-salvaged photo of their old home place.

Bring on the next mystery!

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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