I started alamedahistory.org in 2007 as a blog dedicated to collecting and sharing research about old houses, buildings and neighborhoods in northeast Portland, Oregon. My basic notion is that insight about the past adds new meaning to the present. My first post, “When Research Pays Off” was written to inspire others to learn more about their own homes.
While the editorial voice here is “we,” the blog is just me. Much of what’s here is driven by my own curiosity, but also an outlet for insights gained while conducting research for clients. I’m passionate about connecting past and present, which I do through Decker Historical, my research and writing practice.
I write for the Oregon Encyclopedia and serve on its editorial board, serve on the boards of Restore Oregon and the Oregon Geographic Names Board, and volunteer for the Architectural Heritage Center leading walks and lectures about local history. And I’m a part-time faculty member in Portland State University’s Hatfield School of Government. Busy is good.
Always glad to consider invitations to speak with groups and volunteer other activities that help inspire and teach about local history. Have an idea or question? Drop me a line and let’s consider the possibilities: firstname.lastname@example.org
Doug Decker holds the copyright to all text on the Alameda Old House History website.
Im trying to research the architect of our home for a story in Oregon Home. Ive been to the city and cany find any microfiche to help us.Any records or history you can help us with would be great. Our home is 3025 NE Dunckley St. Built in 1939
I’ll drop you a note with some research suggestions. I’m confident information about your home builder and architect are out there…just need to look in the right places.
It is so funny that I saw your letter in the Hollywood Star today because I’ve been trying to do research on my neighborhood all day. Do you have any information on houses in the Grant Park neighborhood? We do not have a historical house (it’s from the 1920’s, but not too charmin– on 35th ave, near the park) but I love to look at old photographs. In fact, I was at the historical society today and couldn’t find any photos of this neighborhood listed under Grant Park or Hollyrood. There were a few of the high school.
Hi Liz. Thanks for dropping by. The Hollywood, Grant Park and Alameda neighborhood photo files at OHS are indeed extremely thin. I have researched several houses in the Grant Park/Dolph Park area and have a few photos of specific homes. I’m sure there are photos out there in personal collections, but finding them will take some digging. I’ve posted some ideas about places to begin your old house research on the “resources” page of my blog (and there’s a link to some great resources compiled by the Multnomah County Library). Drop me an e-mail note if there’s something I can do to help.
I am in Portland today and I promised to call you last Saturday. I intended to call you today but did not bring your telephone number with me. Hopefully you can give me a call. Many thanks in helping me to find my Baptismal Certificate.
John, I’m glad my detective work on the Alameda Park Community Church led to finding a copy of your baptismal certificate. I look forward to talking with you when you get a chance.
I am so pleased to find your blog and have whiled away plenty of time reading it and following the helpful links.
Hubby and I are in the process of buying a house on Hamblet. Once we get settled in, I hope to do some research on the history of the house.
So far, all I know about the house, I learned from the Oregon Historical Society website. According to OHS, Joseph Jacobberger designed it, and it was owned (at least in the late 1920s) by William E. Bushong.
I am excited to learn more about the house where we plan to spend many a long year. You’ll be hearing more from me!
Hi Gilion. You have a cool blog too. Wow, you are a reader. Hoping Janet Ore is on your list.
I know the house on Hamblet (and knew the family that most recently occupied it). I have a jpg copy of a newspaper photo and story about your soon-to-be house from the December 22, 1912 Oregonian. I will e-mail it to you. Welcome to the neighborhood!
Hi there, wondering if you have more information about The Oregon Home Builders Inc from the 1910s… they built our home in Irvington and a google search led me to your site!
Doug…Im listing a house in the neighborhood and Im trying to get as much info on the original owner and potentially architecht…can you help?? Address is 2440 NE Mason
I was wondering what you have found out about the Olmsted subdivision, adjacent to Alameda Park? Your outline of Alameda Park is very good and thorough. The little I know about Olmsted Park is that it was developed simultaneously with Alameda but I believe by the Columbia Trust Company (developers of Beaumont). I presume the name was derived from John Olmsted, famous landscape architect and son of Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of Central Park in New York City.
I am the author of the Irvington history book & met you at a Bosco-Milligan kitchen tour a few years back. You have done a lot in Alameda and hope you are able to come out with a book on Alameda soon. Last fall, I finished my publication on the History of Albina.
regards, Roy Roos
I left a comment in your segment on the streetcar walk. Wonderful website.
Hiya, love your site. Live in the area at 42nd and Wygant, and have always marveled at the bits of the past that somehow have survived the long slog of history. I have biked the old streetcar lines looking for relics, stared at old buildings and wondered of their ghosts. Thanks to your site and your writing, many of these echoes of the past now have a new clarity. Also appreciate your before and after photos, they are quite telling.
Thanks for visiting the blog, and for your very kind comments. Like you, I travel the neighborhoods with my heart and imagination in the past. There are so many stories here, so many clues. Building a literacy about how those clues fit together to tell something meaningful about the past in these neighborhoods is what this work is all about.
I took your Pearson Farm trip on the way home yesterday (and on the way to work today!). I’ve always wondered the story of that tree…
I must admit (from the ground) it is difficult to visualize the lost-pastoral scene. From the top of 33rd however I can almost see the small farms stretched out in the valley. The red house is very interesting. You’d never know it was the farmhouse, it blends in completely with the “new” neighborhood. Your writings and the narratives of the elders really made such familiar territory new again. It was as if my preconceived notions about the area were all incorrect, or at least incomplete.
I wonder if our switch from woodlands and wetlands and deep forest (with all parts of the understory and ground layers intact) to a homogenized grid is actually an improvement from 1820 conditions, when all ran free and natural. I rode thru the 33rd St. Woods and couldn’t help but feel cheated to have missed out on the wild character that must have thrilled neighborhood children. It is interesting to notice the survivor trees of the same vintage scattered thru yards between the park and Freemont; they remember.
Values such as these are mostly nostalgic. I don’t really think either reality is inherently good or bad. I’m just a sucker for the wilder places and it’s hard to see them go – even in the mind’s eye.
Although – wouldn’t it be cool to have a huge farm at 27th and Freemont? Or a deep dark woods on 33rd full of owls?
Glad you enjoyed the walk. Yes, the clues are there, but they are dim. The fact that you now have a point of reference for the 33rd Street Woods, or the Pearson Farm, or the old pond and sawmill is indeed nostalgic, but I think it also creates a new and special kind of appreciation for and connection with this place.
You must be a writer of sorts. I grew up, partially, in Alameda in two locations. 1st home 3524 NE 20th (1960-1967). two homes north on 20th and Fremont. Facing west and later 3535 NE 29th (1967-1972), one block North of Fremont on the corner lot facing East. I am the biggest of suckers for Nostalgia and your narrative of the area makes me want to cry with what I just KNEW in my heart was there. I could FEEL the older years, while I rode my 1965 Schwinn white with pink detailed cruiser bicycle all over, hill and dale with the wind in my hair and an imagination that matched your description of my beloved Alameda. OH YES it would be beyond cool to own a farm at 27th and Fremont, or a deep dark woods on 33rd full of Owls……………It will surely be what my Heaven will look like….
Jane McCallum Buck
My name is Dennis Eckols and I currently live a 4160 N.E. Alameda. Prior to that I lived at 2866 N.E. Dunckley. I’m not usre if this is of interest, but our home on Dunckley was supposedly built by Carl Mays. This was told to us by the neghbor behind us who has since passed away. Carl Mays in an infamous character. He was a professional baseball player and played for both the Yankee’s and Red Sox but was generally disliked by all even though he was one of the best pitchers in baseball between 1916 and 1926. He supposedly built the house and moved to Portland to get away from the media and attention. He is only one of 2 pitchers in history to kill a batter by hitting him with a pitch. He was also accused of some other shady things, but they were never proven I don’t think.
The house on Dunckley sits on 2 lots and we loved living there. There was a room above the garage where the maid supposedly lived according to our neighbor, but I can’t imagine doing that. Although, based on the storeis about Carl, maybe I should.
This is some information related to the post of 3/16/2008 on your website “Of Purple Boxes”
History of the bungalow at 4624 NE Fremont Street in Portland, Oregon
This home is located in Beaumont, “the beautiful mount” so named to highlight the heightened elevation above the rest of the city. Built in 1914, this classic Craftsman Bungalow was featured in the Oregonian on Feb 25, 1999 in the article “What Makes a Bungalow?”. The feature used a photograph of the home to highlight all the classic architectural details of the Craftsman style.
The original home owner was Herbert Bryan Ewbank, Jr., a New Yorker and inventor who worked for Thomas Edison prior to moving out west, according to the Oregon Historical Society. The invention that he was marketing was the Ewbank electric transmission car which was placed in service briefly by Southern Pacific on 4/19/1914. This new electric transmission replaced the gas motor and the electric trolley. A photo of Mr. Ewbank seated in the engine with his invention was purchased from the University of Oregon Archives and is posted in the home above the unique glass-framed electric panel.
Mr. Ewbank’s future was rosy in 1914; he built a beautiful home for his new wife, Hattie. The home stretched along Fremont Street for one city block. (Note the original hedge along Fremont between 46th Street and 47th Street). The garden was grand, a former neighbor remembers a pool and even a pony. A dumb waiter was constructed to haul coal up to the kitchen. The interior walls were originally painted in a ‘bungalow’ shade of green. The exterior concrete block was a new material at the time: An Oregonian article “Concrete is Used—Results are Striking” proclaimed that “the concrete block houses seem to afford a wide and varied range of design to the architect, as much as does wood or any other material, while the general impression gained is that the structure is an extremely high-priced stone building”. The advantages have been a cooling effect in summers and natural insulation in the winter without the normal exterior maintenance required from other materials. (No dry-rot, ever!). The original one-of-a-kind mission iron latches adorn the French doors and windows.
A fifties-style makeover left marmoleum in the breakfast room and a new sunroom fashioned out of the covered side porch. The kitchen was remodeled at this time and then updated again with top-end appliances, granite and flooring in 2005 by the current owner.
The home is listed in Portland’s Historic Resources Inventory published in the early 1980s which can be found in the library downtown. It is listed as ‘architecturally significant’ and could qualify as ‘historically significant’ for the National Register of Historic Places if more research was done regarding the architect/builder.
At some point, the large grounds became undesirable and the house became a rental. A developer purchased it and proposed to the planning commission that the historic home would not be demolished but would be surrounded by new condos that would mimic and compliment the original style of the Craftsman home. (See the article The Purple Box Pox from The Sunday Oregonian on March 16, 2008 describing this concept and highlighted in this website alamedahistory.org to get a feeling for the neighborhood and its rich history).
Doug, We’ve never met, but in working on Oswego/Lake Oswego history I’ve become aware of your work on Alameda. Through my website, I recently made contact with an individual who owns a photo album that belonged to architect Charles W. Ertz containing original 8 x 10 professional photos of some of his buildings. Among these are homes in Alameda. The owner kindly has granted permission to share these images without use restrictions. Would you be interested in scanning some of these? Marylou
Hi Marylou. Absolutely and positively. I’ll respond directly.
I have just found out my house was designed by Ertz in the mid 20’s.
I wonder if my house might be in the photos too?
It was built for Frank McGuire c.1925 and is a mediterranean in SW Portland. If you have any info could you contact me please.
I live on Bryce St. and am currently doing some remodeling. Last week we had the central chimney removed from the house, and heard from the person who deconstructed it that it was one of the best-laid chimneys he had ever seen. He was surprised to find that quite a few of the bricks bore what appear to be paper labels indicating that they were from Shope Brick in Portland, OR and giving info. about the bricks, including their specific color name. He had never previously encountered bricks with labels like these although the company he works for specializes in remodels of homes in inner NE neighborhoods like ours.
I’m curious to learn more about Shope Brick company but haven’t been successful with a general online search. Do you know anything about the company, know if it supplied materials for other houses in Alameda? Or have suggestions on how I might do research on the company?
Finally, if you present a program on Alameda neighborhood history in future I’d love to be notified of it so I could attend. Many thanks, Susan
We’ve recently bought a house in Irvington. We’re trying to understand what it was intended to be before we start renovations. We do know that it was built during 1939 into 1940 and it has some qualities that look like Frank A. Read’s work. Is there a email address I could send a photo to for your review? Thanks! Catherine
I am wondering if you happen to know anything about a house that was allegedly moved up Sandy Blvd from Irvington or Hollywood to NE Sacramento Street (7303 NE Sacramento) sometime in the 40’s. I am certain I have seen a newspaper clipping of this event and I am currently trying to do some research on the house for the elderly couple who have lived there for over 50 years. If you have any suggestions about sources for this type of research, I’d love to hear from you!
Hi Doug, great website! I just started managing SM for the Alameda Neighborhood Association and will be sure to share this awesome resource with neighbors.