The Finest Corner in Concordia

We’ve just finished researching a home in the Irvington Park addition, one of the many underlying plats that make up today’s Concordia Neighborhood. It’s been a fascinating look back at what was once the far edge of Portland. Not Irvington, mind you, but Irvington Park: the 175-acre parcel bounded by NE 25th, NE 33rd, Rosa Parks and Killingsworth, first platted back in 1890.

We’ve written about this neck of the woods before, and it keeps drawing us back. Partly because we like to take the dog out on walks in the alleys that criss-cross the neighborhood, but also because we can imagine these lands as the forests they once were, sloping down to the Columbia Slough.

Addison Bennett, a long-time reporter for The Oregonian, visited Irvington Park in July 1915, when things began to finally gel for the young neighborhood. He had been one of the first newspaper reporters to write about the area 25 years earlier, so he knew the wild landscape in its pre-development days.

The narrative of Bennett’s 1915 trip to Irvington Park is worth a read: He called the corner of NE 30th and Ainsworth the finest corner in the entire addition, and for good reason. In part, it was the end of the Alberta Streetcar line. But apparently it was also the heart of community spirit.

NE 30th and Ainsworth, looking north. October 2019.

If you have time, read the whole article (at the bottom of this post), but here’s the part that jumps out at us, and something we like to imagine every time we walk through that intersection:

“One Tuesday night I went out to find just at the end of the streetcar track on the northeast corner of East Thirtieth and Ainsworth Avenue, in a lovely grove of pines, cedars and dogwoods, a great dancing floor, with rows of seats within and surrounding it, the trees a-sparkle with electric lights, a piano and trap-drum playing a twostep and about 40 couples upon the floor while seated around were perhaps 200 happy people of all ages from the wee infant to the aged men and women.

“A dozen or more automobiles waited on the adjacent streets; in some of them passengers were reclining and listening to the music and the glad voices of the dancers and the audience. It was a lovely summer night with just breath enough in the air to soften the heat—and in the heavens, overlooking and apparently guarding all, a full moon looked down upon the happy scene, which was really a picture taken from some story of a fairy land.”

The old frame structure standing on the northeast corner today dates to 1923, a few years after the days of the big dance platform and the dogwoods. That time traveler of a building started out as Hinrich’s Grocery—one of the neighborhood’s many mom and pop stores—and once had large windows facing Ainsworth, which you can see in this photo from 1944 looking north of the Alberta Streetcar parked at that intersection.

Looking north at NE 30th and Ainsworth, 1944. Courtesy City of Portland Archives, image a2009-009-4152.

Here’s Bennett’s full story from 1915 about Irvington Park (click to enlarge). Enjoy.

From The Oregonian, July 25, 1915

4 responses

  1. Love these stories and pictures that take us back to the past. Always look forward to new posts from your site. Thank you for all the information you provide. Really appreciate it.

  2. One of my memories from 30th and Ainsworth.

    In the 60’s and 70’s – the large building kitty-corner was Ainsworth Market (now an annex of Concordia University). For a couple of years, I would go shopping there for my grandparents, (who lived next door to us), when they could no longer get around.

    They would give me their shopping list — and their Social Security check.

    As a 16 and 17 yr. old I would present the check to the check-out clerk, who would (with no I.D. – they just knew me), cash it. On the rare occasion where there was a new clerk, the other employees would all quickly inform them it’s o.k. And I’d bring my grandparents their monthly groceries and the balance of their money.

    I expected no payment for my duties of course, but I would always drop by for some chocolate chip oatmeal cookies or French Toast or her Honey Cake or Russian Borscht ( big yum!)

  3. Hi Doug,

    I used to live in EZ Ferguson’s house, and met you once when you came over for a tour.  We moved to north Cully a few years ago. Sure is different from Alameda, but the neighbors are similarly great– lots of folks who have been here for 20 or 30 years and love the neighborhood, plus a vibrant youngsters scene.   With your recent pieces on Concordia, you are moving in our direction, so let me throw out the following as a little “mystery”.

    Our little subdivision is called Englewood Park on the plat maps. We have a neighborhood historian too, Susan Nelson, and she has shown me early maps of the area, back to the land claim days, that include the surrounding parts (east Concordia and north of the slough).  On these maps, city streets are shown if they have been platted (not built, and some still aren’t), so they show up as a dense cluster of ink.   Oddly, Englewood Park shows up as a subdivision on the maps from the 19 oughts, teens, and twenties when the rest of the development is still west of 33rd.  It’s a little island a mile or more away from anything.  It jumps out because everything else around it is 10, 20, 40 acre parcels.  It was there on a 1898 map, but not on one from 1891.   There are no houses in the neighborhood that appear to pre-date World War I.  Ainsworth St. was called that, even though there was a mile or so gap between it and the one to the west.  The other two EW streets were called Maple and Myrtle, (now Holman and Simpson).  It must have been an early developer with a big dream, way way ahead of his time.  There must be a good story there.  Which leads to my next story, triggered by your earlier article on orchard houses.

    Of course, this neighborhood consisted of farms not houses 100 years ago, mostly orchards judging from the number of walnut, hazelnut, and cherry trees around.  There was also a small dairy (your post on the closer-in dairies boosted that hypothesis greatly).  A few months after we moved here, the house right behind us came up for sale (4609 NE Simpson).  The lot is almost an acre — zoned for 7 houses plus of course the 7 more little ones, so 20+ additional cars — and the large house was advertised as a teardown.  What’s not to like?  It got a full price cash offer from a developer the first day (with a contingency to talk to the City).   We would have had two 2.5 story houses 10′ from our back fence.  It was 2013.  We had bought and renovated some extremely dilapidated rental properties the year before, so we were able evaluate the deal and move quickly,  and we jumped in and bought it (very reluctantly, with a big chunk of our retirement savings).  I was able to fix up the house into a nice rental.

    On this large lot, there is a small barn (26′ x 40′), with big bypass barn doors in the front, clearly built for something bigger than a Model A.  The barn is modern 2×4 construction, appears to be 1940’s or 50’s to me, maybe 30’s. Makes me think that maybe there was still an orchard here until after WWII.  Some of the houses were built in the 20s, and a very few in the teens, but it infilled in the late 40s early 50s (pre-ranches).  The house itself is dated 1917 by the county records, but the original part of the house has rough sawn framing lumber and board and batt siding, and looks to me more like 1890’s (not a contractor, but I was a carpenter for a while and I’ve done a lot of remodeling on a lot of old houses). The old part is only about 12′ x 30′.  The house sits way back on the lot, at an angle.  It doesn’t look like it had indoor plumbing. I thought “orchard house” as soon as I read your post.

    It’s interesting to see gentrification play out here in Cully.  It’s different from the old established neighborhoods because there is a lot of potential infill here (which the city is aggressively encouraging).  Yet, there has been little development in our corner of Cully (unlike other corners, or even Concordia). Buyers keep showing up who want the half acre, even if it means a little no-count house, and have enough resources to pay a little more than a developer.  At first, I think it was due to the perceived undesirability of the neighborhood, which limited the amount a developer could sell a new house for (most of our Alameda friends think it’s a low-income jungle — it took me months to convince my wife to look at houses “out in Cully”).  Now the neighborhood is more desirable, and I think you could sell an 800K house here.  But the people moving in are relatively better off too, and so far they are staying ahead.  There are several large parcels nearby (1.0 acre, 0.75 acre) that have tiny neglected houses and quite elderly owners.  When those parcels come up, that will be the real test.

    Thank you!  And thanks for posts, I always enjoy them a lot.

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