Alameda History Walk: Saturday, August 11, 2018

Still more than a month off, but plenty of time left to sign up for an Alameda neighborhood walking tour we’re leading on the morning of Saturday, August 11th for the Architectural Heritage Center. Here’s a link to more information and to sign up. 10:00 a.m. to noon on what we hope will be a sunny day. Pre-registration is required, and the cost of the program supports the Architectural Heritage Center, which is a great organization to support.

The blurb says “moderately strenuous,” but the trickiest part is walking up Deadman’s Hill, where we pause halfway up anyway to appreciate the George A. Eastman Arts and Crafts style home on the south slope. We’ve led tours like this in the past, both for the Architectural Heritage Center and for interested neighbors. We love to explore the neighborhood with like-minded participants, and to share the many interesting history stories we’ve gathered up over the years. And of course you know our mantra: that understanding the past is the key to appreciating the moment and to shaping the future.

The mystery of Crane Street

On a recent walk, we encountered some buried Northeast Portland history that demanded investigation and made us think of a scene from an old movie.

Do you remember that last shot at the end of the original 1968 Planet of the Apes when a distraught, time-traveling Charlton Heston collapses to the beach as the camera pans back and in the distance we see the top of the Statue of Liberty, half-buried, sticking up through the sand revealing the beachy landscape he was riding across was actually the middle of New York Harbor? Kind of like that, but not really. We did not fall to the ground.

In this case, sticking out of the pavement and sidewalk in an otherwise normal neighborhood block were remnant clues to a stretch of street that no longer exists: NE Crane Street where it once passed through the southwest corner of the Alameda Park subdivision. It was called East Crane Street before Portland’s Great Renumbering created the four quarters of the city we’re familiar with today. Take a look at what we found:

Clues to what once was. Curb corners mid-block on NE 24th Avenue where Crane Street used to pass through. Today, the former street is occupied by houses, garages and driveways like the one shown here. Looking north on the west side of the street.

 

Cast into the this corner curb now marooned mid-block is a barely visible “CRANE ST.” Today, the nearest part of Crane Street is three blocks west.

Today, Crane Street makes a short run from NE 19th to NE 21st, but it used to go all the way through to 24th. It’s always been a narrow street, a bit wider than an alley, but not much. Go check it out, and then walk NE 22nd, 23rd and 24th and look hard along the alignment of where Crane used to go, you can see clues to its past: fully formed curb corners that are now driveways. CRANE ST. stamped into the abandoned curb at mid-block. Even the crown of now-gone Crane Street—the gentle sloping away from centerline—can be seen on NE 24th where Crane used to intersect.

When we found those clues, we had to know more, so we visited our favorite source of official documents: City of Portland Archives. From official records—ordinances about renaming and street abandonment (a process called “vacation”), and petitions from neighbors—we were able to piece together an understanding of Crane Street.

First, let’s remember—from our earlier exploration of what we’ve dubbed the Prescott Jog—how strange things can happen when adjacent development plats filed at different times by different developers bump into each other. This unique little stretch of Crane Street exists at the junction of four plats, each filed by a different developer at a different time: Hillside, 1894; Vernon 1903; Alameda Park, 1909; George Place, 1910. (Check out our collection of local plats that might be of interest.)

It’s probably also worth noting the topography here: this is the edge of Alameda Ridge where other streets have a hard time getting off the hill: NE 21st zigs and zags and feels like an alley as it tries to find the crest of the ridge before becoming a real street and heading downhill to the south. Mason doesn’t even bother going through: it turns into a footpath through the former orchard on the slope of the ridge. And NE 19th is impassable: it gets stuck in a cul-de-sac where it gives up and becomes a flight of stairs.

This detail of the Vernon plat shows it all. Crane Street (once named Mason) appears at the bottom of the map, with detailed notations of a name change and two “vacations” or street closures and abandonments. Click to enlarge. Yes, this is part of the Vernon plat, though the city thinks of this area as Alameda. Read more about the difference between plat names and neighborhood names.

The Hillside plat of 1894 locked a single slice of Mason Street onto the map that other developers tried to line up with in the following years. In 1903 when the Vernon subdivision was carved from the surrounding forests and fields, Crane Street first appeared as Mason Street, trying hard to line up with the short stretch of existing Mason Street in Hillside and the Mason Street further west in an existing plat called Irvington Heights. Because the new Mason and the old Mason were so far out of alignment, local residents at this very south edge of Vernon petitioned the city in 1909 to just change the name of the street (which was still gravel) from Mason to Crane in an attempt to reduce confusion. When Alameda Park came along a few months later, the newly re-christened Mason became the chosen alignment for the Mason Street we know today.

Eugene Snyder, Portland’s leading authority on street naming, suggests the Crane namesake may have been either George Crane, an agent for Equitable Life Assurance Co., or Samuel Crane, agent for New York Life Insurance Co. We couldn’t find any logical connection to the area for these two Cranes, or any other Crane for that matter.

In 1921, a majority of property owners along East Crane asked City Council to vacate the stretch of Crane between NE 22nd and NE 24th. Along with the citizen voices was a strong letter of recommendation from Commissioner of Public Works A.L. Barbur, explaining: “this portion of Crane street is slightly less than 28 feet in width and does not in any manner form a ‘through’ street which can be rendered useful for general traffic.” Council unanimously approved the request on August 31, 1921. Soon after, the property formerly known as Crane Street between 22nd and 24th was purchased from the city, added to the Vernon plat as new lots, and homes were built. The left-over stretch of Crane between 19th and 22nd was still gravel.

In July 1930 another group of neighbors brought a petition to vacate their own stretch of Crane between NE 21st and NE 22nd, and another recommendation letter from Commissioner Barbur: “This portion is not improved and its vacation will in no wise affect the remaining area of the street, which connects with East 21st street on the east, thus affording a connection to the streets to the south. The property in this vicinity is all in residential usage and the proposed vacation will not be detrimental to the value of the surrounding property.”

A page from the petition signed by neighbors in 1930 to vacate East Crane Street between 21st and 22nd. Courtesy City of Portland Archives.

Council unanimously approved the request on October 15, 1930, and that property was purchased, replatted and built.

Today, five houses sit at least partially in the middle of those two vacated stretches of the former East Crane Street between 21st and 24th, made possible by the involvement of neighbors trying hard over 20 years to enforce order on a jumbled (and frankly bumbled) set of plats symptomatic of Portland’s chaotic early planning history.

Makes us wonder if maybe today’s Crane Street neighbors between 19th and 21st ought to get together for a block party to have a chat. Someone send for Commissioner Barbur…

In praise of alleys

Here’s something you probably have not spent much time thinking about: Northeast Portland alleys.

It’s OK that you haven’t been thinking about them—it’s hard to know exactly where they are, some neighborhoods have them and some don’t. And even where they do exist, they might be hidden behind a wall of blackberry bushes, or garbage cans, or yard debris.

But now it’s time to think about alleys and to go out of your way a bit to appreciate and understand their history, demise and possibility. Along the way, we should also examine the question of why one neighborhood has them and another doesn’t. Mull that over a bit while we explore this topic.

First, an important fact about Portland alleys: virtually all of them are on the eastside.

Downtown Portland, known for its small and walkable 200’ x 200’ blocks, has never had alleys, to the chagrin over time of some business owners and public works officials who have complained that our downtown grid makes deliveries and trash removal too complicated and public. If our city blocks had alleys, they’ve argued, those essential but less desirable functions could take place out of view, giving the front of the business more leeway and prominence.

Here’s a great map that shows the extent and location of Portland’s alleys. Have a good look at it then come back here and we’ll continue our exploration.

There is at least one common denominator in this map’s seemingly random purple grid segments: they exist in neighborhoods platted before 1909. In Portland, as in so many other US cities, alleys were a utilitarian feature designed before the age of automobiles. The barn out back that might have housed a horse or wagon also contained garbage and other chaos that you didn’t want to have out front. But when the car came along—a symbol of convenience, independence and even status—garages began their migration from out back to the front of the house.

After about 1910, land development companies platting Portland’s eastside neighborhoods responded to this shift by dropping alleys and back garages from their plans. Not incidentally, this allowed houses to be a bit larger and to shift back farther from the street allowing for front yards and landscaping, as well as driveways and garages.

Alameda and its neighborhoods immediately to the north are a perfect illustration. Vernon, Elberta (not a typo) and Lester Park—the subdivisions just to the north across Prescott—were platted between 1903 and 1908 and they have alleys and 40′ x 100′ lots. Here in Alameda, platted in 1909 and built starting in 1910, there are no alleys, but 50′ x 100′ lots. North of Prescott, smaller houses crowd the street and yards are small. South of Prescott in Alameda, houses are larger and set back farther. No alleys. (Check out our Maps page and scroll down to find the original plats for Vernon, Elberta, Lester Park and Alameda Park.)

Yes, there are other contributing factors at play: Alameda has the ridge, which breaks the rectangular grid pattern. Plus, Edward Zest Ferguson and his Alameda Land Company wanted Alameda to be an upscale addition of larger homes, as opposed to the more compact homes and lots in subdivisions to the north. Irvington, for instance, platted even earlier than all of us above the ridge, does not have alleys. This was a function of the size and siting of much larger and costly homes on relatively constrained lot sizes. It’s hard to have both large homes and alleys given our compact grid.

The presence or absence of alleys was central to the question of site and building design, real estate value, and marketing potential at the turn of the last century. Throw in the advent of automobiles and you’ve crossed a tipping point away from alleys in the minds of early property developers. Why bother with alleys anymore?

So, there’s our answer to why some eastside neighborhoods have them and some don’t: it’s largely related to timing (pre- and post-1909 as the key date), with the advent of the car looming large, and a few other considerations like targeted market sector and house size. Bottom line is that after 1909, no more new alleys were built on Portland’s eastside.

Here in Northeast Portland you’ll find two types of alleys: the obvious ones that are a long straight laneway right up the middle of the block adjacent to back yards and paralleling the length of the fronted street (typically the numbered street). You’ll find these between Prescott and Alberta, from 24th to 33rd. Another form you’ll find is the tee alley, on either side of Ainsworth between NE 23rd and NE 33rd. This form provides a shorter cross alley (like the top of a letter T) that bisects the long laneway. These are interesting to explore and are in pretty good shape.

Once you start walking our alleys, you begin to see clues to the past and to future potential, and you can see how different neighborhoods have responded to their alleys. While we haven’t walked every Portland alley, we’ve explored a lot of them, and offer these observations as an enticement.

This alley is just off Alberta between NE 29th and NE 30th. Looking a bit like a gallery, the pools of light here illuminate boards that advertise the adjacent T.C. O’Leary’s Irish Pub. It’s an enticing sight.

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Most of the alleys between Prescott and Alberta from NE 24th to NE 33rd look something like this one: muddy ruts, grass, brush ready to grow over.

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Here’s one just north of Alberta between NE 27th and NE 28th. The entrance is crowded with garbage cans and recycling bins but adventure up a bit and you see a kind of graffiti gallery.

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Here’s one that has grown over. Looks like that laurel bush has eaten the garage too.

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The Piedmont neighborhood has great alleys that run south from Rosa Parks to Killingsworth between MLK and N. Commercial. Lots going on here: powerline corridor, pavement and some interesting ADUs.

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We came across quite a few alleys that had an entry threshold like this one with the gridded pattern scored into the sidewalk. This signaled the alley opening to passing pedestrians.

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Some alleys like this one in Portsmouth have become debris dumping zones for neighbors, with piles of clippings, dirt and other debris forming impassable mounds. No more cars up this alley.

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This Portsmouth alley is so well used and traffic-friendly that residents have built a driveway off the alley that seems like a primary entrance to their house. No need for a front yard here.

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in alleys as public spaces that connect neighbors and neighborhoods. In many ways they are a hidden resource, public spaces in out of the way places. A few years back a consortium of city planners and urban design professionals launched the Portland Alley Project, which led to several alley maintenance and recovery projects. Here’s another great blog by San Francisco urban designer David Winslow with passages from his book Living Alleys: A new view of small streets.

Check these out, look at the map and then go for a walk. Get out there into this ready-made local trail system where you can slow things down and experience a completely different neighborhood than the one you think you know.

A Concordia alley

Alameda Walking Tour | Saturday, July 25th, 2015

Still more than a month off, but plenty of time left to sign up for an Alameda neighborhood walking tour we’re leading on the morning of Saturday, July 25th for the Architectural Heritage Center. Here’s a link to more information and to sign up. 10:00 a.m. to noon on what we hope will be a sunny day.

The blurb says “moderately strenuous,” but the trickiest part is walking up Deadman’s Hill, where we pause halfway up anyway to appreciate the George A. Eastman Arts and Crafts style home on the south slope. We’ve led tours like this in the past, both for the Architectural Heritage Center and for interested neighbors. We love to explore the neighborhood with like-minded participants, and to share the many interesting history stories we’ve gathered up over the years. And of course you know our mantra: that understanding the past is the key to appreciating the moment and to shaping the future.

 

Walking Alameda

These fall evenings are perfect for a walk through the neighborhood. We’d like to suggest three great ones next time you’re looking for a good excuse to stretch your legs, and a free group walk we’ve learned about that is part of Walktober that might be fun too. Let’s start with that one, because it’s tied to the calendar: Sunday, October 26th to be exact.

History walker, biker and Urban Adventure League founder Shawn Granton is leading a walk up and down the many staircases that traverse the Alameda Ridge. Shawn writes that walkers will gather at Case Study Coffee, 5347 NE Sandy at 4:30 that Saturday afternoon. Here’s what he says about the Alameda Stairs Walktober event:

The Alameda Ridge is a glacial feature running through Northeast. There are many stairways along the ridge, many built during the streetcar era when people on the ridge needed easy access to the lower lands to catch transit or just to shop. Many of them are tucked away between houses, and are not easy to spot, at least if you aren’t looking. We’ll follow the ridge and explore as many of these staircases as we can! Please note that we’ll be out a little after dark, and we’ll end at a spot where we can get food and adult beverages.

For more information on Shawn’s Alameda Staircase walk, visit his blog.

Now here are three of our favorite walks that make for a good break after dinner (or before breakfast). Click on the link below for more information

Broadway Streetcar Walk: This 3.1 mile loop will have you tracing the path of the Broadway Streetcar that served Alameda for generations. Consider printing the pictures and bringing them along to line up in the footsteps of history.

Pearson Dairy Farm Walk: It’s gone now, but the old Pearson farm defined the landscape of this area just before the turn of the 20th century. This .6 mile walk will trace the outlines of the farm and put you in touch with some landmarks you might not have known existed.

Alameda Park Plat Perimeter Walk: This 2.45 mile walk will take you all the way around the perimeter of the original Alameda Park plat. Bring the plat map along, and pay attention to the interesting alignments on the west edge of the neighborhood.

 

A few spots left for history walk…

Alameda Blog readers will assume we’ve gone into retirement due to the slowdown in posts here. But not so. Research continues, as do daily musings and wonderings about the stories from Alameda’s past. It’s been fun to see the conversation among commenters here on the blog. We’re glad to provide a water cooler around which we can share stories and thoughts.

The outlet this month for our neighborhood history energy is a walking tour of Alameda that we’re leading through the neighborhood on Thursday night, August 9th. At last check, there are still a few open spots, if you’re interested. Click on over to the Architectural Heritage Center’s website for more information about how to register.

More posts to come this summer and fall, including a great story about the baseball rivalry between Alameda and Irvington; some thoughts about current infill and remodeling underway in the neighborhood; and a profile of early architect Ida McCain. Stay tuned.

A Legacy Written in Stone (ok, concrete)

Who hasn’t come across the time stamp of history on neighborhood sidewalks? If you’re paying attention, even on a simple stroll around the block, you’ll find yourself on the trail of the past.

Curbs and sidewalks under construction, from The Oregonian, June 3, 1910.

Curbs and sidewalks under construction, from The Oregonian, June 3, 1910.

On most blocks–typically near the corners–you’ll find the name of the contractor who installed the sidewalks and curbs, along with the date of their construction, and even the names of the streets. Think of it as a signature, and appreciate the irony that even though the prestigious builders of the big houses are long gone, the identity of the grunt-work done by  ditch diggers, form builders and concrete finishers has stood the test of time.

The curbs and sidewalks on my block–block 23 of the Alameda Park Addition–were built by Warren Construction Company in the summer of 1912. Warren Construction, like other companies, had contracts with the city to excavate, frame and pour many city blocks worth of sidewalks and curbs. Look carefully and you’ll find the printed names of Hassam Construction, Krieq, Elwood Wiles and others.

elwood-wiles-stamp

So, here’s some insight into two of the of the companies you’re going to bump into walking around the Alameda Park neighborhood, and some great factoids you’ll want to hang onto for scintillating dinner conversation. After you’ve paid enough attention to these names–and learned a little about the companies and when they operated–you can almost tell what era and corner of the neighborhood you’re in just by looking at the names on the sidewalks.

Warren Construction Company

This company once employed world-renowned chemist and Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling as its chief asphalt inspector. Pauling, born in Portland in 1901, was a young man when he worked summers for Warren, testing the quality of its asphalt production facility. Pauling recalled, years later, how company bosses didn’t want him to go on with his studies…they wanted him to stay put on quality control. In addition to giving one of the world’s greatest chemists his start, Warren Construction also made a name for itself building and installing all of the concrete decking on the Interstate Bridge (first opened in 1917), and applying the asphalt surface once the bridge deck was complete. They also worked on the Columbia River Highway as well.

 

Elwood Wiles

If you are a walker, this man is a household name. You see him everywhere on Portland’s east side. For years, I wondered about his identity, and after doing the research, I finally have a few answers. Wiles was born in Canada in 1874, and came to Portland in 1887. After high school he worked in a variety of jobs for a local harness maker before going into the sidewalk business. From 1903 til about 1917, Wiles held the majority of all city contracts for excavating, framing and pouring curbs and sidewalks. After the big building boom of these years, Wiles dabbled in timber speculation, concrete pipe manufacturing, stocks and bonds, and insurance. In his later years, he owned an illuminated traffic sign company. He died in Portland in December 1956. Be sure to check out this photo of Wiles and biography I’ve written in  The Builders section here on the site.

Interested in helping create an inventory of sidewalk contractors in Alameda? A couple of us are setting out to do some documentation, and we could use a studious person with some time to spare (and a digital camera) to help. If you’re interested in joining in, drop me a note: doug@alamedahistory.org.

Click here to see what’s been done in the Hawthorne neighborhood.

If this topic really piques your interest, check this out.

History Walk | A Spin Around the Farm

Here’s another history walk–a short one this time at .6 of a mile–that will take you around the perimeter of the Pearson Farm, one of the earliest settlements in this area, dating to 1875.

The starting point for this one is easy: the Pearson Pine at NE 29th and Fremont. Go stand under its broad branches and be prepared for time travel back through our neighborhood’s past. Before you walk the farm, though, there are a few things you need to know.

The Pearson Ponderosa Pine presides over the corner of NE 29th and Fremont.

The Pearson Ponderosa Pine presides over the corner of NE 29th and Fremont.

About the Tree: This old timer has seen it all-the farms and orchards south of Fremont; the deep forest on the ridge to the north and the flats beyond that give way to the Columbia; the slow but steady reach of the street grid; an explosion of home building; construction of nearby Alameda School; the steady tide of young families moving in, and older people moving out. Like a sentinel, this tree has watched our corner of Portland grow up.

Planted in 1885 by Samuel Pearson to mark the northeast corner of his 20-acre farm, this Ponderosa pine has had plenty of room to grow to its noteworthy circumference of 15 feet, and estimated height of more than 100 feet. According to a family story handed down the years, Samuel salvaged the young seedling from an area burned by wildfire and brought it home to his farm. We nominated this as a Heritage Tree back in 2008.

About the Farm: The land was originally part of a Donation Land Claim granted by the U.S. Government in 1859 to William and Isabelle Bowering. Pearson bought the land in 1875 after it had gone through a quick succession of owners, and began to establish his farm. He was born in England, his wife Adeline in France, and together for the next 25-plus years, they tried to make a go of it milking cows on the edge of Portland. But it was not an easy existence. Cows grazed, were born, milked and died, right where today’s Alameda Elementary School sits. Contained elsewhere in the early Pearson landscape was a pond at the lowest part of the property, in the vicinity of today’s Northeast 29th and Siskiyou, with an operating sawmill nearby; pastures for the dairy cows; a large old locust tree (now gone) on Fremont at 27th and what the Pearsons described as “deep forest to the north.”

pearson-detail

This detail from a much larger map shows the area of the Pearson farm in 1906. NE Fremont runs across the top of the frame. NE 33rd is the main road running vertically through the middle. NE 24th runs vertically on the far left side, along the edge of Edgemont. Look carefully and you can see Klickitat and Siskiyou streets. Note the Bowering Tract. The Pearson Farm is the empty lot east of Edgemont and west of the Town of Wayne. Note our proximity to the city limits: the pink vertical line on the far right shows the boundary. The large number “25” is section 25 in Township 1 North, Range 1 East of the Willamette Meridian. Click the map for a large image.

Do you have that mental picture in mind now? OK, let’s walk.

  1. Start on Northeast 29th and Fremont, under the Pearson Pine, and head south on 29th for two blocks to Siskiyou. Along the way, you’ll note an empty lot on the right a few houses south on 29th…until two years ago, this held an original Pearson house.
  2. Turn right (west) on Siskiyou. You are now walking through what was a major wetland feature and pond, maybe a seasonal creek. If you look carefully, you can see what looks like a low spot in the pavement. Where they drained the swamp. You can also see the streets don’t line up just right here…a clue to the meeting of two developments.
  3. Continue on Siskiyou to Northeast 27th. You’ve just walked past a sawmill and small log yard. Can you hear the cows?
  4. Turn right (north) on 27th and appreciate the nice plaza and grounds at Alameda Elementary School. The pasture was off to your right where the playground is today. Check out the red farmhouse on your left as you approach Fremont. The third generation of Pearsons were born here and played on the porch. One of the Pearsons once said that porch was built extra large so the kids had a place to play outside that wasn’t in the cow pasture. In that day–1908–there was no school yet, no street, no sidewalk. Just a view of Mt. Hood and their pasture off the front porch to the east, and 20 acres of Scotch broom and dogwood out the back door.
  5. Turn right (east) on Fremont and set your sights on that big Ponderosa pine, back to where you started.

Much has changed in this place since the Pearsons first shaped the landscape. But the power of memory, and the silent witness of that tall pine, remind us all about our neighborhood’s connection to those early years.

History Walk | Broadway Streetcar Loop

Broadway Streetcar Walk-A 3.1 mile loop

Here’s an Alameda neighborhood walk that puts you on the pathway of the past: a history-hunt of sorts to see the clues and imagine a time when the Alameda Park Addition was young and connected to downtown courtesy of a clanky, drafty, dependable streetcar.

Broadway Streetcar, looking south from NE 29th and Mason, about 1948. Courtesy of Bill Hayes

Broadway Streetcar, looking south from NE 29th and Mason, about 1948. Courtesy of Bill Hayes.

You can enter this walking loop just about anywhere on the course of the streetcar’s roundabout transit through the neighborhood, and you can head either north or south. But, just to be orderly about it, how about starting at the end of the line: 29th and Mason. That’s where the Broadway streetcar stopped; where the motorman would step outside for a smoke and a look at his watch; where he’d flip the seat-backs around to face the other direction for the ride back downtown.

 

From 29th & Mason

From the end of the line walk south on 29th to Regents, where the streetcar passed through the “Bus and Bicycle Only” notch at Regents and Alameda. The streetcar turned right and went down the hill here, and you should too, following Regents to 24th, where you turn left on 24th for about a block and then right on Fremont. Continue a couple blocks west on Fremont, just like the train did, to NE 22nd Avenue. The train turned left (south) here. Continue south on 22nd and note just how wide the street is: a clue that you are on the streetcar route.

After a good, long straight stretch, when you hit Tillamook and 22nd, you’ll find a little “S” curve, where the streetcar zigged and zagged on its way south to connect with Broadway. Follow along just for fun. But once you hit Broadway, instead of turning west (right) like the streetcar did on its way downtown, turn left (east) on Broadway and walk back to NE 24th, where you turn left (north) and head back toward the neighborhood. Now you’re back on the path of the Broadway Car, and headed toward home. Continue north, cross Fremont and turn right (east) on Regents, where you go back up the hill on your way to the end of the line.

At the top of Regents, pass back through the bus notch again and go a few more blocks to Mason, and you’ve arrived at the end of the line. The photo looks south on NE 29th, from the southeast corner of Mason. See if you can line up in the footsteps of history 

Summarizing:

  • Start: 29th and Mason
  • Walk south on 29th to Regents, turn right and go down the hill.
  • At 24th, turn left (south off of Regents).
  • At Fremont, turn right and go two blocks west to 22nd.
  • Turn left on 22nd.
  • Walk south on 22nd quite a ways (through the zig zag) to Broadway, turn left.
  • Walk east on Broadway to 24th, turn left.
  • Walk north on 24th, crossing Fremont, and turn right on Regents.
  • Walk up the hill on Regents to 29th, turn left through the notch.
  • Walk north on 29th to Mason and you have reached the end of the streetcar line.
  • Tip your hat to the motorman and the generations of Alamedans who depended on this train.

Total distance traveled: 3.1 miles. You can do this at a nice pace in just under an hour.

 

Some things to look for on your walk…

Want to look for clues to our lost streetcar line? Notice how 29th narrows on the north side of the intersection. The wider stretch of street to the south was necessary to accommodate the rails and the traffic. Have a good look at Northeast 22nd and you’ll notice how much wider it is than any of our north-south streets. There are other clues to be found in the alignment of power poles, and in the remnants of rail unearthed from time to time during street repairs.

A little more history about our streetcar…

Two generations of our neighbors grew up here in Alameda relying on the Broadway streetcar to take them where they needed to go. Ever-present, often noisy, sometimes too cold (or too hot), but always dependable, the Broadway car served Alameda loyally from 1910 to 1948.

Sensitive to the transport needs of its prospective customers, the Alameda Land Company financed construction of the rails and overhead electric lines that brought the car up Regents Hill to 29th and Mason. Developers all over the city knew access was one key to selling lots, particularly in the muddy and wild environs that Alameda represented in 1909.

In 1923, a trip downtown cost an adult 8 cents. Kids could buy a special packet of school tickets allowing 25 rides for $1. In 1932, a monthly pass for unlimited rides cost $1.25. Alamedans used the streetcar as a vital link to shopping, churchgoing, commuting to the office, trips to the doctor. Some even rode the line for entertainment.

During the day, cars ran every 10 minutes, and Alamedans referred to them as “regular cars” or “trains.” During the morning and evening rush hours, additional cars called “trippers” were put into the circuit to handle additional riders. Trippers did not climb the hill to 29th and Mason, traveling only on the Fremont Loop to save time. At night, our line was one of the handful in Portland that featured an “owl car,” a single train that made the circuit once an hour between midnight and 5 a.m. Owl service was a special distinction. The downtown end of the line was Broadway and Jefferson.

The Broadway streetcar was replaced by bus on August 1, 1948. By 1950, all of Portland’s once ubiquitous streetcar lines were gone. In the early days of neighborhood life, our streetcar was indispensable. It was one catalyst that made development of Alameda possible. It linked us to downtown and to other neighborhoods near and far. To hear the stories of those who rode it frequently, it linked us to each other in a way too.

Let me know what you find as you walk the Broadway Streetcar Loop.

History Walk | Alameda Park Perimeter

These fall evenings are great for a brisk walk. Leaves everywhere, woodsmoke in the air, raindrops. And local history ripe for the imagination.

Alameda Park Plat Map, c. 1912

Click on the map for a larger file you can print

The northwest corner of “The Park” (as in the Alameda Park subdivision) is a little confusing, particularly around Crane Street, which has been significantly changed over time (and is actually part of the Vernon plat). Rather than trying to follow the zig-zag of the property boundary, I just walked Prescott to NE 20th to the shadow of the big water tower. Then south to Alameda Drive and around the corner to 21st, then west on Ridgewood to 20th, and then left down the hill. When you are on 20th above the ridge, from Prescott to Alameda, you can see the difference in the neighborhood plats, with Sabin to the west on one side of the street with smaller homes on smaller lots.

Turning left (east) on Fremont, you have the long straight south edge of The Park to walk, passing by where the streetcar ran up 24th and the busy commercial hub that included the Alameda Pharmacy, the old Safeway (now the bank) and what used to be two gas stations. I think of the northeast and northwest corners of NE 24th and Fremont as the gateway to The Park because that’s where the streetcar ran, and because of the business district here.

Next, you pass east by the school, built in 1921 after much lobbying by the locals and a few protests that the construction contract was awarded through some favoritism (future blog post, stay tuned). The plats off to your right are Waynewood, the Town of Wayne and Edgemont, names long forgotten.

Tip your hat to the Pearson Pine, the big old ponderosa pine tree on the southeast corner of NE 29th and Fremont. It’s been there since at least 1885.

Up the hill you go. As you pass the staircases that head up to the top of the ridge, keep in mind there are old water mains under those steps, placed when they were built in the teens. At one point, maybe in the 1920s and early 1930s, women from the Alameda Tuesday Club acted as ushers for young children passing up and down these stairs on their way to and from school.

The crest of the hill at Fremont and 33rd is Gravelly Hill, which was both a gravel pit and garbage dump for many years. The dump was under the southwest corner, where a fine house sits today.

As you walk north on 33rd, think about the 33rd street woods (today’s Wilshire Park), originally part of the Kamm Estate, which was a dense forest that played a large part in the memories of youngsters who grew up there in the 1930s and 1940s. While you’re enjoying the evening, you can also tip your hat to the home guard, made up of Alameda dads, who patrolled the neighborhood at night during the World War II years, enforcing blackout rules and making sure families kept blankets and light dampers up on their windows.

And then there are the thousands of stories that rise up from the generations who have lived in the homes you’ll pass. Lots to wonder about as you and the dog push on around the corner at Prescott and head into the home stretch (being sure to have a look up the alleys north of Prescott as you scope your next walk). So nice to be out on a history walk on a brisk November night.

Next: Walking the route of the Broadway Streetcar.

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