Arnt Anderson: Talented Builder + Con Man

We’ve just finished a detailed look at local builder Arnt Anderson, which we’ve added to our section on The Builders. Anderson was responsible for about 20 large Craftsman-style homes in Alameda, Irvington, Beaumont and Montavilla between 1912-1915. These durable and graceful homes were some of the first built in the newly-established plats, including the plat known as Gleneyrie, which today is part of Irvington and Alameda.

Back then when the neighborhood was just starting out, the Tate Investment Company wanted you to come see Gleneyrie. And to have a look at a big house by Arnt Anderson. Check out this ad which includes a genuine Anderson and a stylized look at NE 24th Avenue (complete with the Broadway Streetcar).

From The Oregonian, April 20, 1913

We’ll be writing more here soon about development of Gleneyrie (which sits between NE 24th and NE 29th, from Knott to Stanton).

But for now, check out this biography (and list of houses) of the builder-turned-con artist who built some nice homes here in the neighborhood, but left town on a scam spree across the West and Midwest that ended in a Billings jail, a felony conviction and trip to the Washington state pen in Walla Walla.

The Barnes Mansion: Beaumont’s Century Old Family Compound

We’ve had an opportunity recently to delve into the history of a Northeast Portland landmark home: the 106-year-old Barnes Mansion at 3533 N.E. Klickitat named for Isabelle Payne Barnes and Frank Charles Barnes, the visionary and driving forces behind this building and its surroundings.

The Barnes Mansion in 2020, 3533 NE Klickitat. Several of the houses in this photo were built by and for one family.

The story of this almost 12,000-square foot, 32-room giant is about more than just a house though, it’s the story of one family and an entire neighborhood established for its children.

We’ll begin with Barnes family history for a frame of reference to understand the magnitude of the initial vision. And here’s a clue to that: It’s big. Frank Barnes operated in big brush strokes in business, in family and in life.

Frank’s professional life was all about food: growing, raising and making it; packing it; distributing it; selling it. And in later years, his fortune came from investments and real estate. Together, Frank and Isabelle built a business, a family and a family compound that came to define the western edge of today’s Beaumont neighborhood.

Early Years

Frank’s story begins on the Oregon Trail. Born in Albany, New York in 1854, Barnes spent the first years of his life on the family farm in Clark County, Iowa. In 1858 his family—parents William and Elizabeth Barnes—set out with an ox-drawn wagon along the Oregon Trail, eventually making it to the Willamette Valley.

Isabelle Payne was born in 1857, daughter of a homestead-era farming and dairying family that lived along Columbia Slough.

In 1858 when four-year-old Frank Barnes and his family arrived, Portland was a small town with limited roads and commerce. Soon after arriving, William Barnes launched into the lumber and milling business and quickly found success in any business depended on transportation. He was elected Road Supervisor and opened the route known today as Barnes Road, connecting Portland with the Tualatin Valley.

With commerce connected by new roads, the Barnes family moved into the grocery business. Think of it as an early farm-to-table establishment where father and son—William and Frank—bought and sold produce from eastside and westside to a growing population, including lands they owned and farmed themselves.

In 1876 Frank and Isabelle were married and the couple began their own family. Isabelle took care of home and family and was clearly the center of the universe for the couple’s children and grandchildren.

Frank Barnes builds a food business

As a young man building on the family business, Frank Barnes established Portland’s earliest and busiest grocery market at the corner of SW 3rd and Morrison downtown. It was an integrated business with 40 employees, seven wagons, farming acreage, a poultry farm, a fruit packing plant, a commercial ice and cold storage facility, and a huge warehouse for salting, smoking and canning salmon.

Every Portlander knew Barnes Market and Packing, and most had done business with Frank in one way or another. It was the place to go for delectable items: check it out:

From The Oregonian, November 25, 1900

Over the years, Frank’s success and the influence of his businesses propelled him into public office, serving multiple terms as Multnomah County Commissioner, a state legislator, a roads commissioner like his father, and even as police commissioner. With accumulated wealth and influence, Barnes began to invest in real estate. On the home front, the children were becoming like a big company of their own.

In the 20 years between 1875 and 1898, Isabelle had seven children: Clara; Lila; Ivy; Gladys; Frank; Helen; and Irene. Six daughters and one son. It’s important to have this in mind as we contemplate how this place came to be. As the kids grew, they married and each took on different aspects of the family business.

Given Frank’s desire to think big, what was the logical progression? How about development of a family headquarters—a kind of sanctuary, shrine and safe haven—done in a way that extended both the reach of the community and the family businesses.

These were the drivers behind what happened next.

A family compound takes shape on the eastern city limits

Barnes lived the example of anticipating the place where opportunity would exist and then getting there before others. As John Jacob Astor wrote: “Buy on the fringe of a growing city and wait.” Which is exactly what Barnes did. He and Isabelle had earlier bought a piece of the prominent ridgeline on the eastside known as Gravelly Hill. And in 1911, it was time to merge the vision for a family compound with the family real estate development business. He was 58 years old and Isabelle was 55.

Here’s the official plat of what they had in mind: three square blocks between Fremont and Klickitat, 35th and 27th. 10 acres. They named the plat for their youngest daughter: little Ruth Irene.

Irene Heights Plat, 1911

First and foremost, this was to be a family bastion. Barnes carved out a property in the plat for each child all clustered around a main residence—like a central castle—which is what neighborhood kids in the 1920s called the big house: the Barnes Castle.

Remember, this was a sparsely populated area with dirt roads during the early years. The house was on its own septic system until sewers arrived in 1915. But the remote location didn’t hold Barnes back. He and business partner E.E. Merges owned this part of the forested slope. Their friends E.Z. Ferguson, Harry Hamblet, William Dunckley and John Bryce, with the Alameda Land Company, owned the slope just to the west. And in 1909-1911 everybody saw opportunity and acted on it with their own plats.

Back to Irene Heights…with the table set on the Barnes family acreage, construction started on the houses. First to be built in 1912 was the home for Gladys and her husband John J. Reynolds (who worked for Frank) to the north of the mansion at 3425 NE 35th Place, which has since been torn down.

Next came the big house for Frank and Isabelle; and the home at 3601 NE Maltby for daughter Lila and her husband Charles Starr, who ran one of the largest fruit packing companies in the northwest. These two houses were built at the same time between 1913-1914.

An undated but early view of the facade.

In 1915, young Frank Barnes—Frank Scott Barnes, for the record—and his wife Doris built the next family home at 3414 NE 36th Avenue. Young Frank ran the family salmon canning and packing company out of Wrangell, Alaska in the late 1920s and 1930s, where he served as mayor. Frank was killed by a grizzly bear in 1940 on a bear hunting trip in Southeast Alaska, interestingly hunting with his close friend Francis Marion Stokes, the son of the contractor who built all the Barnes houses. In a point of interest, in the mid 1940s, several years after Frank’s death, his wife Doris became the very popular and effective mayor of Wrangell, serving several terms.

Clara Barnes married Frank Collinson, who helped run the Barnes family business, and they built a home at 3460 NE 36th.

Helen married Alfred Allen and they built the house at 3526 NE Fremont. Alfred ran a subsidiary salmon packing company.

Irene married J. Wilbur Hendrickson, another partner in the salmon packing business, and they built the house at 3603 NE Klickitat.

Ivy married Louis Starr, brother of her brother-in-law (Lila’s husband) and they actually decided against living so close, a topic that probably riled Frank and Isabelle: Ivy and Louis built their home at NE 25th and Hancock, not too far away, but far enough…

And a point of order about the plat and street naming and numbering: Marguerite Avenue which you see on the plat was renamed when Portland went through a major re-addressing initiative from 1931-1933.

Here’s an illustrated map that may help put the pieces together:

The Barnes Mansion

Some have attributed design of the Barnes Mansion to David L. Williams, who designed the Lytle house located on NE 22nd, known today as Portland’s White House. Researchers have not come across conclusive proof, but there are certain family resemblances.

But we’re not from that school of thought, and tend to believe the home was designed and built by Stokes & Zeller, which was a large architecture and construction company in Portland during those years.

A few reasons behind this hunch: Francis Marion Stokes—the noted architect who was comfortable working in these styles and forms—was a personal friend of the family—remember that he and young Frank were on that fateful bear hunting trip together. And, Stokes & Zeller designed and built the other Barnes family homes in the neighborhood.

Regardless, the house is a masterpiece, filled with careful craftsmanship including:

  • Tile floors and marble fireplace installed by Italian craftsmen;
  • Honduran mahogany paneling;
  • Custom-made carpeting and lighting;
  • 18-carat gold threaded wall coverings in the drawing room;
  • Beautiful art glass, likely by Povey Glass.

During the Barnes years, this place was a temple for the family. A look back through newspapers of the day shows that if there was an important event, holiday or gathering, the Barnes were hosting it: weddings, masquerade balls, Christmas parties. All of the daughters were married from the home, walking down the main staircase with their wedding trains.

When Isabelle died in the house on September 19, 1930, there was only one place for the funeral and memorial: at home. The same when Frank died there one year later, mourners came to the house for a funeral and reception, and a procession to nearby Rose City Cemetery.

The next several decades were not the best for the house. Immediately after Frank’s death, the house was a rental and came into the hands for a few years of a real estate investor named Charles J. Derbes and his wife Carmen. They left by the mid 1930s, and city directories show it vacant for a few years in the depths of the Great Depression.

By 1937 a Portland attorney named Bill Illidge owned the house. He was disbarred in 1939 over sketchy financial and real estate dealings and through the 1940s, he gradually descended into a lonely hermit-like existence as the house and landscaping declined. He reportedly closed up most of the place and lived only in the east solarium near the front door, with a cot and a hot plate.

Illidge died in the house on December 1, 1958 and the macabre detail in the second paragraph was remembered for many years by the kids of the neighborhood.

From The Oregonian, December 3, 1958

 

Older kids apparently weren’t scared. The home was vacant for two more years and continued its downward slide.

From The Oregonian, October 18, 1959

Father and son Carl and Deane Hutchinson and Deane’s friend William McReynolds purchased the house in 1960 and began the slow uphill climb of restoration, which was set back by the Columbus Day Storm of 1962, which ripped off the roof, damaged the balustrades and uprooted 19 trees on the property.

The Hutchinsons and McReynolds, and eventually a friend named John Jensen, continued to restore the house and added a 100-stop pipe organ and a small chapel in the house. Since 1997, the house has been owned by Merrit and Anna Quarum, who have continued its careful stewardship, which is no small feat for a 106-year-old property of this size and complexity.

The Barnes Mansion was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 and in mid-2020 is currently for sale. Go check out the current real estate listing website, for a closer look inside.

 

Contemporary view from the balcony looking southwest.

Seeking Dekum Court Memories

Do you have a memory or photo from Dekum Court or know someone who does? I’d like to hear from you.

For a time during the early 1940s, the Concordia neighborhood was home to one of the first wartime housing projects in Portland: the Dekum Court Project, an 85-unit complex of housing for non-commissioned officers and their families stationed at the Portland Air Base.

A newspaper photo of living quarters at Dekum Court from The Oregonian, November 8, 1942.

From 1942-1945, 300 military family members of all ages lived in 53 buildings which covered a 15-acre site located between NE 24th and NE 27th avenues, from Dekum and Lombard.

Here’s a map and a site plan to help you visualize:

 


Courtesy City of Portland Archives, A2001-025

It’s a fascinating and rich story: development of the site for wartime housing; subsequent repurposing as public housing managed by the Housing Authority of Portland; and later partial redevelopment as a ranch-house-subdivision. The original wartime housing quarters are now gone. But there must be stories and memories that remain.

I’m in the research phase of learning more about Dekum Court and would like to hear from anyone who has memories or photos to share. Please drop me a note (doug@alamedahistory.org).

Stay tuned, we’ll come back to Dekum Court in the months ahead with the full story of its development and early life.

One More for the Vernon Tank

The reality, of course, is that research is never really done. That’s what makes it fun. Sometimes after you think you’ve found enough to be able to understand a thing, you come across another nugget that adds perspective.

Such is the case today: It’s a photo from the summer of 1920 showing construction of the concrete base for the one-million gallon Vernon tank that replaced the old standpipe, which is looming over the whole scene at NE 19th and Prescott. Have a good look:

Courtesy of City of Portland Archives, A2008-009

This was undoubtedly a big day on the job:

  • The concrete forms for the new tower foundation have been intricately prepared;
  • The engineers are there in their coats and ties with their instrument and tripod to keep everything on the level and in the right place;
  • The steam donkey is belching dark smoke, meaning it’s working hard to turn the mixer;
  • The men on the far left are shoveling from a pile of rock into the mixer to make the concrete;
  • The men with the two-wheeled wheelbarrows (called Jersey buckets) are wheeling the fresh concrete across the plank ramps as the pour begins;
  • Sections of the new tank are carefully stacked in readiness at the edge of the site;

This view looks north; the houses in the center and on the right are still there on the north side of Prescott. If you know these neighbors, pass along this photo…they might enjoy seeing their houses 100 years ago.

Home History School | Time Capsule

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, here’s one that sums up Home History School so nicely, sent by an AH reader who has been out seeking hidden horses. Thanks Carla. Yes, this horse is wearing a mask.

On Mondays around here we’ve been providing activities and tools to get kids of all ages (even us big kids) exploring the history of our neighborhoods.

  • We started by encouraging history detectives to search out and meet the ubiquitous Elwood Wiles, whose name is on sidewalks all over the eastside from 1910-1915.
  • We suggested tools for figuring out the story of your house, including finding your earliest plumbing permits and your old street address.
  • Discovering your nearest streetcar route and considering what the streetcar meant to our neighborhoods came next.
  • We went on safari to neighborhood schools with 1924 maps in hand, and tales of school buildings long gone.
  • Our oldest residents—our trees, and in particular our Heritage trees—came next with walks, tree ID keys and stories of the Pearson Pine.
  • And then the horses: thinking about what horses meant to these neighborhoods. They were fundamental to our early life and the energy they invested still shapes the ground we walk. Their plows and wagons build the eastside grid.

So in our last regular Home History School post, we turn the table a bit today with a look forward: what will the future understand about the pandemic that has turned our lives upside down here in 2020?

This week’s focus is on what you’re doing to record your own thoughts and observations and how you will pass them forward to the future. Check it out:

Time Capsule

Home History School | Hidden horses

There was a time when Northeast Portland neighborhoods were alive with horses.

In the early days, they plowed the fields. Later, they built the streets, delivered the groceries, brought the fuel that heated our houses and the ice that cooled the kitchen ice box. Carted out the garbage. Hauled in building supplies and new furniture. Brought families here and there.

You name it: horses were essential to the early days of these neighborhoods and were as common a sight as a car is today.

Horses and men grading Regents Drive at the top of the hill near The Alameda (as today’s Alameda Street was known), taken in May 1909. From an advertising brochure produced by the Alameda Land Company.

Even though horses haven’t walked these streets for about 100 years, there is a silent herd slowly returning to remind us (with a smile) of just how common horses were to making our lives work way back when. This week’s Home History School contemplates the early role of horses in our neighborhoods and gets us all searching for the hidden herd you might be able to find on your street or just around the corner. Check it out:

Hidden Horses

Humble virtual variety show with a sprig of history

Here’s a weeknight evening distraction that allows you to have some fun while doing some good. Our local pub / book store—Rose City Book Pub—is working hard to stay alive in the midst of the pandemic shutdown. Owner/Publican Elise Schumock has launched a weekly virtual variety hour on Thursday nights from 7:30-8:30 that’s just as quirky and interesting as the book pub itself.

Last week was the inaugural on-line show and it featured some great local music, a couple of short stories and prose read by the authors, and a little local history from yours truly. Elise asked us to provide a few minutes of local history each week, so we will.

It’s a humble, hand-made little show for sure, but kind of fun to have a few neighbors hanging around together in front of our glowing screens. If you’re at loose ends on Thursday night, have a look and you might find comedy, original music, poetry, story telling and a sprig of history.

Find the Rose City Book Pub Virtual Variety Show here, Thursday nights from 7:30-8:30.

Home History School | Oldest Living Residents

Each Monday this spring, we’re providing a weekly focus on local history explorations for kids of all ages that include activities and questions to get you going. This week, we’re focused on our neighborhoods’ oldest living residents…our trees.

This is a great time to be out in the neighborhood: as our trees bloom and leaf out, they silently remind us how much they add to our lives.

The shower of pink petals from the cherry blossoms; the emerging fresh new leaves on the maples and copper beeches. Shade from the afternoon sun. They’ve been waiting patiently all winter to remind us they are here. Take a moment to appreciate them.

Each tree has a story: in most cases, years ago, someone intentionally put it there to grow. Like this giant, the Pearson Pine:

The 130-year-old Pearson Pine, a Portland Heritage Tree, presides over the neighborhood from NE 29th and Fremont. Dairyman and farmer Samuel Pearson planted this tree on purpose in that location to mark the corner of his property back in 1885.

In this week’s installment, we get outside to appreciate (and to identify) the trees in our neighborhood, and to meet a few special ones–the Portland Heritage Trees–which have been here a lot longer than we have and will likely still be here when we’re gone (so, be nice to them).

Click below to get started:

Oldest living residents

Vernon Tanks: 1959 shortage produces an even bigger tank

With a high-capacity pipeline laid in by hand in 1915 between the Mt. Tabor reservoirs and the new 1-million-gallon tank at NE 19th and Prescott replacing the old standpipe in 1920-1921, neighbors could water their lawns to their hearts’ content.

The old hand-me-down Vernon Standpipe was shuffled off to Willamette Bluff and the only conversation about the tank site for the next generation had to do with Water Board allowing students at the Vernon Practice House and Vernon School to plant gardens on the site. In 1922, a load of bricks from the old Palatine Hill pumping station, which was being demolished, was sent over to help beautify the site.

In July 1945—in the years before air traffic control and computer-aided navigation—a pilot for United Airlines suggested the city install a red beacon light atop the tank to serve as a guide for passenger airplanes trying to find Portland Airport.

But mostly, water needs were met. Until the long, hot summer of 1959.

Lots of lawn sprinkling and a lot more users completely drained the Vernon Tank. And public attention once again turned to the need for water and what the city was going to do about it. Fortunately, plans were already afoot to upgrade Vernon’s storage capacity by creating the largest storage tank of its kind in the nation: 5.5 million gallons.

From The Oregonian, August 1, 1959

Due to a steel strike, and local opposition from neighbors who were initially opposed to the size of the tank, it took a few years, but in February 1961 the Water Bureau selected Chicago Bridge and Tank to build the new tank for $469,000. And thankfully, once again, a city photographer chronicled progress in this great series of photos, all courtesy of Portland City Archives, series A2012-005. Be sure to check out the view from the top. All of these are worth a double click to see the detail. These guys were proud of their work.

The tank construction crew posed for a photo, June 11, 1962.

 

Using one of the on-site cranes, the photographer captured this aerial view looking northwest from the tank, NE Prescott crossing in the foreground, March 12, 1962.

 

Looking southeast from the corner of NE 18th and Prescott, March 12, 1962.

 

Looking up inside the tank, March 12, 1962.

 

Workers inside the tank, March 12, 1962.

 

Looking southeast from NE 18th and Prescott, May 4, 1962.

 

Looking west on Prescott at NE 20th, June 11, 1962.

 

Workers atop the tank during final stages of construction, June 11, 1962

 

Water Bureau Engineer Palmer North (left) and Commissioner Mark A. “Buck” Grayson (right) turn the valve filling the new tank, October 5, 1962.

 

Portland was proud of its crowning distinction of having the largest water tank in the country.  On its Golden Anniversary celebration in December 1963, the American Society of Civil Engineers added the Vernon Tank—along with Bonneville Dam, the St. Johns Bridge and Timberline Lodge—to its engineering hall of fame.

 

In an interesting post script to history (and with thanks to attentive reader Grant), we’ve confirmed with the Portland Water Bureau that the 1 million gallon tank–the one built in 1920 atop the tower–has not held water for more than 40 years due to being made obsolete in the late 1970s or early 1980s due the construction of other storage facilities.

Vernon Tanks: Water arrives, but more storage capacity needed

We’ve been thinking these days about the history of the big green giants that anchor the block at NE 19th and Prescott. In our last post we learned about the “Vernon Standpipe” as it was called, and the challenge in the 19-teens of keeping it filled with enough water to supply the neighborhood that grew up around it. That is, until this tank came along almost exactly 100 years ago.

The senior of the two tanks at NE 19th and Prescott, constructed in the fall and winter of 1920-1921 for $100,000 by the Chicago Bridge and Iron Company, holding 1 million gallons. Photographed April 21, 2020.

 

In our first installment, we left our expectant City Commissioners at the corner of NE 57th and Fremont with a shovel in their hands ready to dig a 14,280-foot long trench for a big new pipeline that would push more water from the Mt. Tabor reservoirs into our thirsty neighborhoods.

From The Daily Oregon Journal, August 8, 1915. This wooded street scene is likely somewhere along NE Skidmore before the residential neighborhood we know today had taken shape.

 

The pipeline dig began on April 16, 1915 powered by 59 unemployed men hired from the city’s standing civil service list. By May, workers at both ends of the project were working toward each other. Promises had been made to alleviate the water shortage by summer, so momentum was important and the newspapers took note.

From The Oregonian, May 16, 1915. Interesting to note that the picture in the lower right shows the intersection of NE 24th and Skidmore, the spot where this water main broke in March 2019 flooding homes and local businesses.

 

By July 1915, crews had met in the middle and the golden spike moment seemed close at hand:

From The Oregonian, July 20, 1915.

These were the headlines everyone wanted to see and even though the big pipeline job was done, Water Board engineers knew volume and supply were only part of the equation. The hand-me-down Vernon Standpipe just didn’t have sufficient storage capacity to keep up with the growing need here and on the Peninsula. But the new main bought time for more thinking and engineering.

Water officials must have been relieved that the most pressing problem over the next few years seemed to be finding someone to paint the 100-foot-tall, 25-foot-diameter Vernon Standpipe, expressed in this September 19, 1917 headline: LOFTY PAINTING JOB GOES BEGGING. No bidders, so the standpipe’s bare panels became its trademark.

By August 1920, the city announced plans for construction of a new 1 million gallon storage tank for the site that would replace the 350,000 gallon Vernon Standpipe. And fortunately for us, a city photographer documented the progress, which went like this (double click into any of these for a closer look…there’s lots to see):

By late summer 1920, workers were busy on the plumbing for the new tank and establishing a concrete foundation that would support the tower and the million-gallon tank above. The water alone weighed 8.3 million pounds. This view is looking north from the tank site; the houses are on the north side of Prescott.

 

By the fall of 1920, the round base had been poured (foreground) and was ready for tower construction. This view is looking north showing the standpipe behind (nice stairway and railing, eh?), and the T intersection of NE 19th and Prescott.

 

By late 1920 or early 1921 the new tower and tank are taking shape. This view looks north with the standpipe behind and snow on the ground.

 

In this view looking north in early summer of 1921, workers are in their shirtsleeves and the tank is done.

 

In August 1921 the city paid Portland-based Le Doux and Le Doux Construction $10,477 to dismantle the former Vernon Standpipe (underway in this photo) now that the new tank was in place, and to relocate the pipe to a new venue in St. Johns at the corner of N. Princeton Street and N. Oswego  Avenue, where it stands to this day (below), still in service at more than 120 years old:

 

Next up: The 1920 tank is eventually dwarfed by the biggest tank in the nation.

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