Alameda Blog readers will assume we’ve gone into retirement due to the slowdown in posts here. But not so. Research continues, as do daily musings and wonderings about the stories from Alameda’s past. It’s been fun to see the conversation among commenters here on the blog. We’re glad to provide a water cooler around which we can share stories and thoughts.

The outlet this month for our neighborhood history energy is a walking tour of Alameda that we’re leading through the neighborhood on Thursday night, August 9th. At last check, there are still a few open spots, if you’re interested. Click on over to the Architectural Heritage Center’s website for more information about how to register.

More posts to come this summer and fall, including a great story about the baseball rivalry between Alameda and Irvington; some thoughts about current infill and remodeling underway in the neighborhood; and a profile of early architect Ida McCain. Stay tuned.

Broadway Streetcar Walk-A 3.1 mile loop

Here’s an Alameda neighborhood walk that puts you on the pathway of the past: a history-hunt of sorts to see the clues and imagine a time when the Alameda Park Addition was young and connected to downtown courtesy of a clanky, drafty, dependable streetcar.

Broadway Streetcar, looking south from NE 29th and Mason, about 1948. Courtesy of Bill Hayes

Broadway Streetcar, looking south from NE 29th and Mason, about 1948. Courtesy of Bill Hayes.

You can enter this walking loop just about anywhere on the course of the streetcar’s roundabout transit through the neighborhood, and you can head either north or south. But, just to be orderly about it, how about starting at the end of the line: 29th and Mason. That’s where the Broadway streetcar stopped; where the motorman would step outside for a smoke and a look at his watch; where he’d flip the seat-backs around to face the other direction for the ride back downtown.

 

From 29th & Mason

From the end of the line walk south on 29th to Regents, where the streetcar passed through the “Bus and Bicycle Only” notch at Regents and Alameda. The streetcar turned right and went down the hill here, and you should too, following Regents to 24th, where you turn left on 24th for about a block and then right on Fremont. Continue a couple blocks west on Fremont, just like the train did, to NE 22nd Avenue. The train turned left (south) here. Continue south on 22nd and note just how wide the street is: a clue that you are on the streetcar route.

After a good, long straight stretch, when you hit Tillamook and 22nd, you’ll find a little “S” curve, where the streetcar zigged and zagged on its way south to connect with Broadway. Follow along just for fun. But once you hit Broadway, instead of turning west (right) like the streetcar did on its way downtown, turn left (east) on Broadway and walk back to NE 24th, where you turn left (north) and head back toward the neighborhood. Now you’re back on the path of the Broadway Car, and headed toward home. Continue north, cross Fremont and turn right (east) on Regents, where you go back up the hill on your way to the end of the line.

At the top of Regents, pass back through the bus notch again and go a few more blocks to Mason, and you’ve arrived at the end of the line. The photo looks south on NE 29th, from the southeast corner of Mason. See if you can line up in the footsteps of history 

Summarizing:

  • Start: 29th and Mason
  • Walk south on 29th to Regents, turn right and go down the hill.
  • At 24th, turn left (south off of Regents).
  • At Fremont, turn right and go two blocks west to 22nd.
  • Turn left on 22nd.
  • Walk south on 22nd quite a ways (through the zig zag) to Broadway, turn left.
  • Walk east on Broadway to 24th, turn left.
  • Walk north on 24th, crossing Fremont, and turn right on Regents.
  • Walk up the hill on Regents to 29th, turn left through the notch.
  • Walk north on 29th to Mason and you have reached the end of the streetcar line.
  • Tip your hat to the motorman and the generations of Alamedans who depended on this train.

Total distance traveled: 3.1 miles. You can do this at a nice pace in just under an hour.

 

Some things to look for on your walk…

Want to look for clues to our lost streetcar line? Notice how 29th narrows on the north side of the intersection. The wider stretch of street to the south was necessary to accommodate the rails and the traffic. Have a good look at Northeast 22nd and you’ll notice how much wider it is than any of our north-south streets. There are other clues to be found in the alignment of power poles, and in the remnants of rail unearthed from time to time during street repairs.

A little more history about our streetcar…

Two generations of our neighbors grew up here in Alameda relying on the Broadway streetcar to take them where they needed to go. Ever-present, often noisy, sometimes too cold (or too hot), but always dependable, the Broadway car served Alameda loyally from 1910 to 1948.

Sensitive to the transport needs of its prospective customers, the Alameda Land Company financed construction of the rails and overhead electric lines that brought the car up Regents Hill to 29th and Mason. Developers all over the city knew access was one key to selling lots, particularly in the muddy and wild environs that Alameda represented in 1909.

In 1923, a trip downtown cost an adult 8 cents. Kids could buy a special packet of school tickets allowing 25 rides for $1. In 1932, a monthly pass for unlimited rides cost $1.25. Alamedans used the streetcar as a vital link to shopping, churchgoing, commuting to the office, trips to the doctor. Some even rode the line for entertainment.

During the day, cars ran every 10 minutes, and Alamedans referred to them as “regular cars” or “trains.” During the morning and evening rush hours, additional cars called “trippers” were put into the circuit to handle additional riders. Trippers did not climb the hill to 29th and Mason, traveling only on the Fremont Loop to save time. At night, our line was one of the handful in Portland that featured an “owl car,” a single train that made the circuit once an hour between midnight and 5 a.m. Owl service was a special distinction. The downtown end of the line was Broadway and Jefferson.

The Broadway streetcar was replaced by bus on August 1, 1948. By 1950, all of Portland’s once ubiquitous streetcar lines were gone. In the early days of neighborhood life, our streetcar was indispensable. It was one catalyst that made development of Alameda possible. It linked us to downtown and to other neighborhoods near and far. To hear the stories of those who rode it frequently, it linked us to each other in a way too.

Let me know what you find as you walk the Broadway Streetcar Loop.

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