Another View | 30th and Emerson

Recently we’ve written about the adaptive reuse of a former neighborhood grocery store located at the northeast corner of NE 30th and Emerson. Its rebirth as a health clinic and neighborhood coffee shop is as inspiring as another story is disappointing: the impending loss of the Logan Grocery at NE 33rd and Alberta.

Today’s post provides a 40-year look back at NE 30th and Emerson and is the fruit of time spent at one of our favorite places, Portland City Archives, where we’ve been recently working on several research projects (the Vernon water tank is in the pipeline, so to speak, and we’ve found some great photos of that giant coming soon).

While searching for views of some former local grocery stores we’re tracking, we came across this gem from 1980. Click in for a good look.

Looking northeast at the corner of NE 30th and Emerson, 1980. Courtesy of Portland City Archives, image A2011-028 APF/15624. A quick look back through newspapers and directories from the 1980s confirms that Premier Real Estate Services, owned by Wayne Jacox, operated from this storefront.

Here’s a similar view today:

NE 30th and Emerson, January 2019.

No telling when the thin clapboard siding went on (or the T-111 siding came off) and the transom windows were removed. Upstairs windows haven’t changed, nor has the utility pole out front with the stop sign on it. The corner entry is gone, as is the 30th Street entry to the upstairs apartment. Gas meters are still in the same place as 1980. And from the 1980 picture, you can see the two distinct storefronts from the way-back past that align with what the 1924 Sanborn map shows at 1122 and 1124 East 30th Street North.

Definitely worth 1,000 words. Thanks City Archives!

 

 

 

Concordia Conversations: January 12th

Here’s an upcoming free neighborhood event that will bridge past, present and future that might be of interest to AH readers:

“Concordia Conversations,” on the afternoon of Sunday, January 12th, will bring together a panel of neighbors to reflect on the drivers of change in Northeast Portland and to view a short film titled “Diary of a Street,” by Portland artist and neighbor Jordana Leeb. The program will be held at the Cerimon House (5131 NE 23rd) from 3:00-5:30 p.m. on Sunday January 12th.

Panelists include: Bob Boyer, long-time Concordia resident, former State Senator and Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods chair; Chris Guinn III, owner of Dwell Realty and Elevated Coffee; P. Elise Scolnick, current Board Vice-President for Alberta Main Street and long-time resident; and Diane Linn, Executive Director of Proud Ground, a Portland-based community land trust.

We’ll be there too with a brief program looking back at the early years of neighborhood history.

The program is free, though an RSVP is requested. For more information: tinyurl.com/concordiaconversations

Oregon Encyclopedia adds Alameda

Students of Oregon history should know about the Oregon Encyclopedia (OE), our state’s comprehensive collection of on-line articles covering the history of everything from Obo Addy to Jan Zach and everything in between (some 1,694 topics, in fact, and 24 longer essays on various history themes). It’s a project of the Oregon Historical Society and a tremendous resource for students of all ages. And it’s just good reading.

We’re proud to serve on the Oregon Encyclopedia Editorial Board, and pleased to see OE has just published our essay on the Alameda Neighborhood. Click in and check it out. The article features a little-known photo of the Broadway Streetcar originally published in the Oregon Journal (we haven’t seen it and we’ve looked at lots of Broadway Streetcar photos).

Courtesy Oregon Historical Society Research Library, Oregon Journal, 49061, photo file 1686. Photo looking north on 24th as the streetcar rounds the corner to the west on Fremont headed for downtown. Autos to the right are parked in the former gas station lot now occupied by Childroots Fremont Center Daycare. Another view of this intersection is here.

Here’s an idea for your next trip across Oregon: there’s a great feature of OE called the Oregon History Wayfinder which allows you to identify articles by location. Next time you’re planning a trip, check out the history along your route.

On the topic of digital access to history stories, if you’re in Portland you should check out the excellent PDX Social History Guide, which is both website and ap and provides pictures, oral history audio snippets and other resources.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way

We’ve been watching two commercial corners just a few blocks apart that share similar histories but are on very different pathways to the future.

We’ve written here about the Logan Grocery, the mom-and-pop grocery store that for more than 100 years has anchored the southwest corner of NE 33rd and Alberta and is now slated for demolition. Here’s a look just as a refresher:

NE 33rd and Alberta, December 2019

In the last week or so, a sign has been posted on the building showing a rendering of the future, which includes demolition of the historic building and then construction of a three-story mixed-use commercial building including a 19-apartment hotel (which we think probably means Airbnb-like short-term rentals) and no on-site parking. Yes, you read that right. Take a look (click to enlarge).

Interviewed in late September, developer Bob Bochsler of Box Real Estate Holdings explained that he wanted to consider ways to utilize the existing building, but that concerns associated with the cost of reinforcing the old foundation drove the demolition decision, nixing any kind of adaptive reuse that would allow the existing building to be repurposed for a new future.

Note that no informational meeting is required for this significant change, though there is contact information and a cryptic note that the project might be amended.

~

Meanwhile, A few blocks over, at the northeast corner of 30th and Emerson, a similar but very different story is unfolding. Here, a 107-year-old wood-frame mixed-use commercial building that was once also a grocery store (and many other things) is being restored and repurposed as the home of a medical practice and neighborhood coffee shop. Take a look:

Dr. Thomas Grace and Rachel Buckwalter inspect the southwest corner of their future place of business. Clinic entry to the right, coffee shop entry to the far left. December 2019.


West side, coffee shop to the left, clinic to the right. Apartments upstairs. December 2019.

There’s lots more to learn about this old building, constructed in 1912, which once housed two businesses on the first floor facing NE 30th, and two apartments upstairs. Back in the day it was a grocery store. It’s been Cecilia’s Drapery Shop, Jack Emerald’s Barber Shop, The Quaint Shop (an art supply business), a men’s clothing shop, a dry goods store and many other things.

Here it is in the 1924 Sanborn Fire Insurance map, showing it’s pre-address-change addresses of 1122 and 1124 East 30th Street North (downstairs) and 1122 ½ (upstairs). Look in the lower right-hand corner. S=shop. D=dwelling. A=automobile or garage.

Detail from Sanborn Fire Insurance Map Plate 535, 1924.

Dr. Thomas Grace and Rachel Buckwalter bought the two-story building this last year and have been busy getting it ready for its next chapter, which begins this coming spring. The couple own and operate Natural Pain Solutions, a chiropractic practice focused on non-surgical spinal decompression, integrated care and treatment for pain. When it opens in spring, the practice will be Move Better Chiropractic.

Their former clinic had been located in the Macadam Center building which was destroyed by fire in January 2018. After the fire, Thomas and Rachel—who are Vernon neighborhood residents—were on the lookout for a new venue. When Rachel saw the for sale sign on the building last spring, she called on a whim, walked through later that day and fell in love with the building. Thomas saw it the next day and they knew renovating the space would work for them. Within weeks, they had started talking with architects.

Since then, there have been plenty of conversations with engineers, estimators, architects and contractors to determine the feasibility of adapting the building to meet their needs, but in their minds demolition was not a solution.

Yes, the foundation is 107 years old and like all old foundations in the neighborhood has its issues and needs. But instead of considering that a deal breaker, a partial new foundation wall has been added, seismic stabilization work has been done, and additional structural timber has been added.

The renovation design concept—by Portland firm Works Progress Architecture—starts with the structural work and completely renovates the interior space, fitting it inside the existing exterior building envelope, offering a contrast between old and new. The clinic and a new coffee shop will occupy the first floor, with glass roll-up garage doors in the coffee shop on the north face of the building opening onto an open outdoor patio and hanging-around space. Friends of Grace and Buckwalter own and operate Full City Rooster (a craft coffee roaster in Dallas, Texas) and will be helping Grace establish the coffee shop in the renovated building.

North side where the roll-up garage door will open into the patio/open space. December 2019.

Upstairs, the existing apartments are being renovated. In the future, Grace and Buckwalter hope to convert the two existing apartments into four studio apartments.

A repurposed small building in the open lot to the north will hold Buckwalter’s new business, “Moss,” which will feature an unusual mix of garden-related items and specialty intimate clothing for women.

The couple—who live a few blocks away in a 1912 bungalow with their four children—appreciate living and working in vintage spaces. The building is not far from the busy Foxchase corner of NE 30th and Killingsworth, and just a few blocks north of Alberta. Being on Trimet Bus 72 is also a plus (they’ve added a get-out-of-the-rain portico to the west face of the building for riders).

So, why did they decide not to go for the demolition option and to invest in making an old building work?

“We like the building and we think it will look beautiful with a couple upgrades and modifications,” said Grace. “We see this location as a natural transition between Killingsworth and Alberta Street, and hope to be a connection point in the community. We hope that the outdoor space will serve as a public area and place of informal gathering.”

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Oregon Home Builders Company: The rest of the story

If you’ve been following along on our exploration of the various builders who shaped our neighborhoods long ago, you’ve seen the pieces we’ve written about both the Oregon Home Builders Company and their factory building at NE 33rd and Broadway. This high-profile Portland company built more than 100 beautiful homes during its five years of operation from 1912-1917.

When we first dove in with both feet to explore the company, its people, its houses and its legacy, we were hooked by their compelling story; by their five-year arc from an auspicious launch with great promise, to their design and construction of durable and beautiful homes, to an embarrassing end, crashing in a mess of bankruptcy, unfulfilled promises and questionable business practices.

From The Oregonian, May 13, 1917

Recently we’ve come across some further insight which confirms our belief there was something fishy about company finances that led to their demise, despite their quality designs and construction methods.

A bit of background is necessary to fully appreciate this, so bear with us:

One of the fine homes the company built was for eastern industrialist Thomas Prince: it’s called the Thomas Prince House and it’s on the National Register of Historic Places and we’ve written about it here.

From The Oregonian, July 22, 1917

Prince was a wealthy and successful captain of heavy industry from Massachusetts. In 1895, he retired to Oregon with a small fortune and with his son to grow walnuts near Dundee, which he did on a grand scale. By the time Oregon Home Builders was formed in 1912, he was 72 years old. Company president Oliver K. Jeffrey knew him from real estate circles and somehow convinced him to serve on the company’s board and to invest his own funds in getting the company started.

From the Oregon Daily Journal, November 15, 1907

The company built a house for Thomas Prince in perhaps the most visible place in the Alameda Park subdivision: right at the top of Regents Hill at the crest of the ridge where the Broadway Streetcar passed by dozens of times a day. It was a trophy house for the company, built to show investors and potential clients they knew what they were doing.

When this house was built in 1916, Prince was 76 years old and in ill health physically and cognitively. He lived there only briefly, before dying of a stroke in California. But still, it’s the Thomas Prince House—as it should be—named for its first owner and occupant. Somehow, in Prince’s final years, the persuasive Jeffery convinced him to invest in the company at a very large scale. We’ve recently come across court documents that provide a bit more insight about what happened.

Oliver K. Jeffrey, 1916. From the Photographic Business and Professional Directory, American Publishing Company, 1916.

Thanks to an Oregon Supreme Court Case heard on appeal of a Multnomah County Circuit Court ruling about Prince’s guardianship, we’ve learned the full story about where the company’s money was coming from. Read on:

“In 1915 his [Prince’s] faculties had become impaired by ill health and advanced age, in which condition he was induced by one O. K. Jeffrey to consent to finance the construction of dwelling-houses situated upon lots in Portland, Oregon, which lots, were acquired or controlled by Jeffrey. The money so advanced was to be repaid upon the sale of the dwellings so constructed. The enterprise was conducted under the unincorporated firm name of Oregon Home Builders, Jeffrey being the active head thereof: the dwellings did not sell readily, and from its inception, the concern lost money.”

“In May, 1917, Mr. Prince suffered a stroke of paralysis, in connection with which he was compelled to undergo a surgical operation, whereby he was confined in a hospital for several months. During that time, Jeffrey acquired a tract of land, and while Mr. Prince was convalescing the Oregon Home Builders erected a plant thereon for the manufacture of aeroplanes; Jeffrey prevailed upon Mr. Prince to advance the funds required to construct the plant and also to agree to advance the money necessary for the weekly pay-roll of those employed in the manufacture of aeroplanes, amounting to about $1,000 per week.”

Former Oregon Home Builders warehouse and workshop at NE 33rd and Broadway, briefly a factory to build World War 1 aircraft parts. Photo taken in 2012.

You may have known this building as Gordon’s Fireplace Shop, now closed. Oregon Home Builders built and used this building for almost two years as warehouse and workshop where the company constructed its built-ins and kitchen cabinetry until Jeffery transformed it—briefly in 1917 until funding reality caught up—into a place where spruce aircraft parts were built.

Photos from a January 1, 1918 spread in The Oregonian about the factory.

In an August 5, 1917 story in the Oregon Journal, Jeffrey was quoted as saying his workers were cutting 25,000 board feet of spruce parts daily for airplane stock and that the product would be shipped to eastern finishing plants. He told reporters: “Large orders for finished material have been secured by my company and the present force of 26 men will soon be doubled.”

Many different products have been manufactured in this building over the years: excelsior, pasta, furniture. It’s even hosted street-facing retail including barber shops and diners.

But let’s get back to the Oregon Supreme Court document for the clincher:

“By January 1, 1918, Mr. Prince had advanced in cash to the Oregon Home Builders about $157,000, and in addition had incurred a number of large obligations.”

“In part payment of the funds so advanced, Jeffrey, in the name of the Oregon Home Builders, conveyed to Mr. Prince, at excessive prices, nineteen or more dwelling-houses in Portland, Oregon, with the land upon which they were situated and a tract of acreage in Clackamas County, also eight sales contracts for the sale of dwelling-houses. All of the properties so transferred were already encumbered. Mr. Prince was compelled to borrow large sums to meet the demands for money made by Jeffrey.”

The brief goes on, but to summarize, a Prince family member from back east came to help the ailing Thomas, saw what was going on and immediately shut down the airplane factory and established a guardian for Prince, cutting Jeffery off.

This is what was actually going on behind the scenes, not reported on by any of the papers. And here’s what it looked like in The Oregonian during that time, with Jeffery as the prominent young businessman, patriot and pilot hero.

From The Oregonian, August 1, 1917

Did you catch the last two sentences? Sheesh.

“As president of the Oregon Home Builders, a concern which has gone far toward aiding those of small means in home building and owning, Mr. Jeffery is well known. The airplane factory is distinctly his own, although he will still retain his interest and presidency in the first firm.”

You can read the company history to see how it all ends (which we’ve updated with this new nugget). Proof that the early neighborhood-building years were a little crazy as investors and speculators jostled to get in on the profits.

At the moment—among several other research topics—we’re focusing in on another series of amazing neighborhood homes from the same era built by another company—Arnt Anderson’s construction company—which appears to have traveled a similar path, though Arnt was convicted and served time in a federal prison for larceny. More to follow.

Saturday program: Exploring the Oregon Home Builders Company

Our friends at the Architectural Heritage Center tell us there’s still room this coming Saturday morning (10:00 a.m. December 7th) for our program on the Oregon Home Builders Company, which is our deep dive into the story of this high-profile Portland company that built many beautiful homes during its five years of operation from 1912-1917 before crashing in a mess of bankruptcy, unfulfilled promises and questionable business practices.

Here’s a taste of the OHB vision and operation, from an advertisement in The Oregonian on April 28, 1912:

On Saturday morning, we’ll explore the business side of the company’s operation, its charismatic president Oliver K. Jeffery, and its homes, which have stood the test of time. Read more about Oregon Home Builders and its work on the AH Builder’s page.

In the dining room…

Because many of us will be spending some time this week in our dining rooms participating in the annual giving of thanks with family and friends, we thought it would be of interest to share these plans and word picture of a state-of-the-art dining room, circa 1914.

Arthur C. Clausen was a Minneapolis and then Portland-based architect and writer who wrote a regular column for the Oregon Daily Journal from 1913-1914 on home design and construction. Often using interesting language (and clearly some dated expressions and ideas) Clausen was trying to influence the thinking of home buyers, architects and builders at a time when homebuilding on Portland’s eastside was taking off.

We like Clausen’s notion of the dining room as a place to welcome our best friends with the least formality and where both pleasant and problem-solving conversations flourish. Read on (click to enlarge):

From The Oregon Daily Journal, August 3, 1913

Clausen’s described dining room bears a striking resemblance to our own: bay window, wainscot and dust-collecting plate rails (he was right). Maybe you recognize elements of your own dining room? We’ll share more of his columns down the road, but this one just seemed timely.

Good Thanksgiving wishes from our dining room to yours.

Upcoming Local History Programs, Fall 2019

We’re working on two upcoming public programs that may be of interest to AH readers, and that continue our ongoing exploration of local history:  the evening of Monday, November 25th at Northeast Portland’s Kennedy School; and the morning of Saturday, December 7th at the Architectural Heritage Center.

The History Pub program at Kennedy School on November 25th will explore the layers of history in Alameda, Sabin, Beaumont, Wilshire, Concordia, and Vernon neighborhoods to examine how changes in the physical and human landscape have shaped the places we know today (and how little we actually know about earlier lives lived here).

The Architectural Heritage Center program on December 7th is our deep dive into the story of the Oregon Home Builders, a high-profile Portland company that built many beautiful homes during its five years of operation from 1912-1917 before crashing in a mess of bankruptcy, unfulfilled promises and questionable business practices.

Mark your calendars!

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

Another view of the Tourist Cabins at the Spur Tavern and a lesson in layers of history

It’s been a year since demolition of the old Spur Tavern and 42nd Avenue Tourist Cabins near the corner of NE 42nd and Holman. You might remember these buildings in their old age: bright green, broken down, painted over with graffiti, a little scary.

While researching them we met Mike Brink who spent some of his growing up years in one of the cabins, and also in his grandmother Ugar’s old farmhouse (now gone) a couple blocks away near the corner of NE 41st and Highland. Since that first conversation with Mike, we’ve been intrigued with his memory of walking through the open fields that are now built up neighborhoods west of Fernhill Park.

Whenever we’re over that way with the dog, we think of Mike’s open view across the fields toward Kennedy School; his every morning walk along the long block of Ainsworth to pick up the Alberta Streetcar at NE 30th and Ainsworth for the ride to St. Andrews school, at NE 9th and Alberta.

Recently, Mike sent along a few photos he came across taken out front at the tourist cabins. We thought AH readers might enjoy seeing them too, and a recent look at progress on what is now the construction site. So, have a look.

Here’s young Mike in about 1945 standing in front of his Uncle Joe’s pride and joy—a 1941 Packard convertible, parked in front of Cabin 6, behind the Spur Tavern.

Photo courtesy of Michael Brink

And here’s another: Mike’s dad, uncle and a pal in front of the tourist cabins, looking the other direction, open fields off to the north.

Photo courtesy of Michael Brink

Here’s the update photo of what’s rising where the Spur and tourist cabins once stood, taken right about where Mike and his family posed for snapshots back in 1945.

Nesika Illahee Apartments, NE 42nd Avenue and Holman, October 2019

And here’s where it gets even more interesting, particularly when we consider layers of history. Long before the Spur, the tourist cabins and the farms on these gentle slopes, this part of the landscape once held the native village known as Neerchokikoo, which existed here along the south banks of the Columbia Slough.

The Nesika Illahee Apartments, under construction on this early village site, are a joint venture between the Native American Youth and Family Center and the Native American Rehabilitation Association, and will provide 59 units of affordable housing and culturally specific support for tribal members. Read more about this unique and fitting development.

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