Remember Manitou?

It’s OK if you’ve not heard of the Manitou Addition, a small chunk of neighborhood that once had its own identity, now lost to time. In my research on Alameda-Beaumont-Wilshire, I’ve kept running into references to Manitou-this and Manitou-that and wondered where it was. While reviewing plat maps recently, I found it: the long block between 33rd and 35th that includes the north side of Fremont and both sides of Alameda.

Manitou Plat Detail, March 3, 1910

Manitou Plat Detail, March 3, 1910

The plat for Manitou was incorporated by Fred and Gussie Jacobs, who were partners in the Jacobs-Stine Company, which platted many Portland subdivisions with fancy sounding names, only two of which are in circulation today-Errol Heights and Argyle. Fred Jacobs told a reporter in April 1910 that Manitou was named for Manitou Springs, a picturesque mountain community about 65 miles south of Denver. (Incidentally, Fred Jacobs was the Portland real estate man who died in the crash on Stuart Drive that resulted in it being known as “Deadman’s Hill.“)

Of course, when I found Manitou, it begged another question because that plat is a subdivision of the Spring Valley Addition. Now there’s another name that has fallen out of use. Spring Valley is easily one of the oldest plats in the area, filed on November 6, 1882 by one “Clara L. Files, Spinster,” and encompassing the area east-west between 33rd and 37th and north-south between The Alameda and Skidmore (including Wilshire Park). Interesting to note that until 1941 (when development really came to that part of the neighborhood) the Spring Valley plat showed a major planned north-south thoroughfare called Broadway, located about where NE 35th is today.

The cumulative mushroom effect of historical research guarantees that you can’t look into the history of the Spring Valley Addition (or Manitou) without bumping into other nearby mysteries, including plats for Maplehurst (south of Fremont), Irene Heights, Fullerton, Whiterose, Rossdale, Rosyln, Calman, Wilshire and Railroad Heights (nope, no railroads ever ran up here, but you might have been able to hear a train or two).

Beaumont, not to be outdone

Not to be outdone by Alameda Park or Olmsted Park or any of the dozen-plus subdivisions beginning to spring up about this time, the Columbia Trust Company commissioned their own artwork (and copywriter) to sing the praises of their development. Take a look:

Beaumont Ad, The Oregonian, May 1, 1910

Beaumont Ad, The Oregonian, May 1, 1910

If you squint just right at their ad, you can imagine Wisteria or NE 42nd Avenue curling down from the ridge. But when this ad ran in the spring of 1910, the big improvements in Beaumont–paved streets, sidewalks and graded lots–were still more than a year away. In fact, real estate folks in existing developments like Irvington went out of their way to point out that places like Beaumont and Alameda Park were just pipe dreams, and only they were able to sell actual houses on actual lots in neighborhoods with actual paved streets. Competition for buyers was as fierce as the pace of homebuilding, which was faster and more ambitious than anything before or since.

Stories of Success by Homebuilders

I’ve been going through early issues of The Oregonian in search of stories and photos about homes and neighborhoods. It’s been a fascinating journey marked with some real jackpots of information about Alameda, Olmsted Park and Beaumont. Photos, catchy advertisements, stories about who was building what, and where. The Portland of 1909-1915 feels definitely more boastful, a little rowdier than today, with the challenge of meeting day-to-day necessities a little closer to the top.

When you get to reading these papers, you can just feel time flowing through your hands. Each news story or photo is a small thread in the fabric of time. Important at that moment, but entirely forgotten or unobserved today. 

I happened on a great series of stories that grew out of the boastfulness of new neighborhood development. The Portland Realty Board got together with The Oregonian to launch and run a series of columns that invited new Portland homeowners to tell their own stories about how they built (and financed) their new houses. Their modest houses, in most cases. This was not a focus on the big Craftsman or Dutch colonials being built (they had their own limelight on the pages of the Sunday Oregonian). These were grass roots stories about saving money under your mattress, living out of the tent on your new lot, and building your bungalow with your own two hands. Inspiring, really.

Called Stories of Success by Homebuilders, this column was the outgrowth of a weekly contest for the best story. Cash prizes were given, and winning essays were printed in the Sunday Oregonian. The unstated purpose was to help motivate first-time home buyers. In setting up the first essay, the Portland Realty Board wrote:

It was a difficult problem for the committee on awards to decide which of the number were the three best stories, as each contained features deemed of great value in emphasizing the purposes for which the contest is being held. The spirit which underlies the authorship of the essays is wholesome, cheery and inspiring.

So I’m going to pick out of a few of the best and share them, along with a translation of the address for the house today, in case you want to ride by on your bike for an informed look (and a tip of the hat to the first homeowners who made it happen).

Here’s Ed Mack’s submission from April 7, 1912. The home he and his wife built is at 3122 NE 47th Avenue. It appears there have been some significant changes made to the house since the Macks knew it.

 680 East Fortyseventh Street, North is today's 3122 NE 47th Avenue.

%d bloggers like this: