We’ve been asked recently about the naming of Alberta Street in north and northeast Portland. The short answer is that it has to do with the British Royal family by way of Canada.
But it’s also a reminder about the development of early Portland.
Alberta was named for Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, the fourth daughter of Victoria, Queen of England. Her husband was John Campbell, Marquess of Lorne and Governor General of Canada from 1873-1883. In September 1882, the couple made a swing up the west coast, traveling by ship from San Francisco to her mother’s namesake: Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Having royals out this way was a very big deal in Canadian and American newspapers of the time.
Princess Louise Caroline Alberta about the time of her visit to the West Coast. Image source: The Royal Collection Trust, object 2903653.
Here’s where the Portland connection comes in.
About that time, our area was booming: the city we think of as Portland today was actually three separate cities, Portland, East Portland and Albina. There were similarities and some connecting common threads, but each had its own street system, addressing system, governance.
Albina, which historian Steve Schreiber reminds us was actually pronounced “al-bean-uh,” was just being platted. For more on Albina, check out Steve’s outstanding history (and his whole website on the legacy of Volga Germans in this area).
One of the developers planning Albina was Portlander Edwin Russell, who had immigrated here from England and was manager of the Bank of British Columbia in Portland. Russell had his own connection to royalty, having descended from the Duke of Bedford.
As Russell planned streets in the new suburb called Albina (and on a plat called Albina Heights), he named one street after himself: Russell; one street after his business partner: Williams; and one street after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, whose visit to the region was causing a stir, particularly among Queen Victoria’s emigrated loyal subjects. The Princesses’s multiple names were being applied to geographic features all across the western map, including Lake Louise and the Canadian province of Alberta.
Later, as Portland expanded east of today’s Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, the street named Alberta expanded east too.