Four more tantalizing views of the Beaumont corner at 42nd and Fremont from the late 1920s (we think June 1927), all showing some major trenching and dirt-moving activity out in front of the shops on the north side of the street. All four are from the collection of Beaumont Dry Goods shopkeeper Bessie Kramer and her grandson Paul Kirkland. If you need help orienting yourself, we’ve placed current companion views to each of these at the bottom of this post.
You’ll recall from our earlier posts that Bessie Kramer ran the Beaumont Dry Goods and Book Shelf store in the 1930s, which—based on Polk City Directory records—we believe started out life as Fremont Dry Goods in 1927 here on the north side of Fremont, about where today’s Americana Frame shop is now, and later moved with a name and ownership change to the south side, where Shop Adorn is today, when construction of that building was finished in the fall of 1928.
Incidentally, we’re mapping the comings and goings of Beaumont’s various businesses over the years, and doing some homework on the Beaumont Market/Gazelle commercial building on the south side of Fremont at 41st (which is actually two buildings built seven years apart) so stay tuned for that. If you have photos or insights to contribute on the general topic of Beaumont business over the years, we’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, have a good look at the images below which we believe were shot all about the same time (click on each one for a larger view), and when you’re done, come back here for some discussion.
Let’s start by orienting ourselves here. Look carefully at the address over the door of the shop to the left, which is Fremont Dry Goods, 1213 East Fremont Street North. You can’t quite see the business name in the upper left, but you’ll see it in the next photograph. It reads “Fremont Dry Goods.” After Portland’s Great Renumbering in 1931, that address became 4223 NE Fremont, today’s Americana Frame. Next door to the right, at today’s 4225 NE Fremont, is Fremont Pharmacy, home of ice cream, cigars, drugs and on this day lots of fireworks. The pharmacy business shown here, (which moved across the street in 1929 and became a neighborhood fixture in the shop occupied by today’s Gazelle) is known to us today as Silhouette, a tailoring shop. There are two more businesses out of frame to the left–Buy Rite Grocery and Beaumont Hardware–but we’ll get to those in a moment.
Let’s inventory the people we can see: In the left foreground there’s a gloved man holding a plank looking down into the deep trench that has been opened up directly in front of the buildings. We’re guessing that at least these two businesses were temporarily shut while this digging–perhaps a water or sewer repair was going on; we’re guessing sewer given the depth of the trench–and that it generated a fair amount of commotion in the neighborhood, worthy of getting the camera out. Down in the trench, another man holds what looks like a shovel. A ways off behind these two to the east are two men (note how small they appear given the perspective, meaning they’re some distance to the east). We’ll see them in one of the other shots. Coming back our direction, you can see two boys on bikes atop a dirt pile looking into the trench. And if you’re very observant, you’ll also note the shovel operator sitting at the controls of his big machine, wearing a hat. Look carefully and you can see clods of dirt flying. Nice action shot.
Looking further east, the empty lot in the distance straddles both sides of Northeast 43rd on the north side of Fremont: in the foreground of that lot is today’s Tuk-Tuk restaurant (which was once known as Walton’s O-So-Good Sandwich Shop). Beyond is George Weir’s gas pump and service station, at the northeast corner of NE 44th and Fremont. And then there are the omnipresent extra tall power poles, like a parade of stick figures, and the criss-cross web of electricity they brought to the neighborhood.
This is another rich image, a bit sharper than the others, which we appreciate. Here you get a good view of all three businesses. The building where Buy-Rite Grocery is located is about where today’s Pizzicato is. There’s another connected business out of frame to the left: the original Beaumont Hardware which was at the northeast corner of NE 42nd and Fremont until about 1961. That part of the building has been modified to create the parking area and the setback that makes up the “Beaumont Plaza” area at that corner. These four businesses make up this block of four–contained in one building–here the northeast corner of 42nd and Fremont.
Check out the people in this frame, working left to right: directly out in front of the grocery are two people, one of whom looks to be a grocery clerk with white apron, supervising the dig, which appears to be under full throttle complete with flying dirt in this picture. Next, our shovel operator has his hands on the levers and is making all the noise. Note the shed roof over his operating area. A few years earlier this might have been a steam-powered shovel, but we don’t see any steam boiler here, so we’re guessing this one is gas. At far right is man-in-hole-wearing-coat-and-fedora. We’re frequently amazed and impressed with the clothing choices of the working men of this time. He might even have a tie on. Supervisor, engineer, plumbing inspector or laborer? Hard to say.
The building awnings, which protected the businesses along their south exposure, are tucked up out of harm’s way. The display in the far right window of the pharmacy is our clue that this is late June or early July: the window display area is filled with rockets and other pyro-toys from National Fire Works. And if you look at the far right edge of the building you see a small shingle hanging out with the outline of a bell: looks like the pharmacy had a pay phone.
To our eye, that big piece of equipment is sitting awfully close to the building, and we’re a little concerned for the structural integrity of the building itself and its foundation. By the way, we’ve gone through all of the building and plumbing permits for these properties showing work done in the past, and there’s nothing on file showing what this excavation might have been.
Our eye naturally goes to the kids on the dirt pile first: one on a bike and the other, who looks like he’s biting his fingernails. They’ve been supervising all the commotion (calling to mind the classic Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel story, our favorite book growing up). Look above their heads in the distance, and you can see the lineman working on a pole at the corner of NE 41st and Fremont. Our guess is that pole is at the southeast corner right out in front of today’s Gazelle.
Staying with our people-view and working to the right, a woman watches from under the awning in the distance, which we’re guessing is on the Beaumont Hardware store at the northeast corner of 42nd and Fremont. The awnings had been pulled up on the eastern three businesses, but the hardware store was far enough away from the action that it wasn’t in the way. In the mid ground, we have the operator at the controls and two fedora-ed men looking into the trench. Business owners? Local officials? Workers? In the near ground, we have two men in overalls working in and above the trench, possibly digging, positioning pipe or getting ready to.
Notably missing to the left is the building that houses today’s Gazelle. Some people refer to it as the “Dutch Village” building (a topic we are going to take on in spades in a future post), which was constructed during the summer of 1928. In this photo, it appears not to have been built yet (we think the corner of it would be visible in the vicinity under the lineman). The houses visible off behind the kids and below the lineman look to us to be the backs of the houses on the east side of Northeast 40th.
This angle really shows what’s going on here. Taken from near the doorway of Buy-Rite Grocery, this shows the heavy work of breaking out the concrete sidewalk. You can see the workman in the trench, the operator at the controls of the machine and in the distance, one of the men in overalls in the trench and possibly a youngster leaning over looking in. The trees and brush apparent along Fremont remind us that this was still at the far edge of development, in fact, just barely inside the city limits at that moment in time.
Because we love lining up in the footprints of old photographs, at the bottom are a few scenes from the general vicinity today, taken on a rainy December afternoon to match as near as possible the historic views.
We have one more oldie we’re saving for last in a coming post. If you’ve liked these, you’ll like this one. In the meantime, tell us what we missed in our analysis of these photos, or other things you might know or think about what was going on here.