Searching for the 1920s Alameda woodcutter

A few years back, about this time of the year, we found a story in The Oregonian from the fall of 1921 that caught our attention. It was about a so-called hermit, a woodcutter who had lived much of his life in a one-room shack near Bryce Street, before Bryce was even a street and before the neighborhoods were built.

The newspaper story was trying to be one of novelty, but underneath it was actually a story of displacement. O’Donaghue was being moved on from the shack in the woods where he lived because land was being cleared and houses built.

Joseph Albert O’Donaghue told of helping clear forests to make the roads we know today, and of wolves and bears he’d killed right here on Alameda Ridge.

Some of it sounded a little fantastical. Like his memories of being a rifleman in the Crimean war 70 years earlier. Of being at least 90 years old. Of walking from Portland to San Francisco and back again.

But a bunch of it had a ring of truth and carried enough information that 100 years later, we could do a little diligence on his stories.

So before we apply some research tools to Mr. O’Donaghue’s story, read the piece below that ran in The Oregonian back on September 18, 1921. And if you want to get in the right frame of mind, you might also read our post Time Passes In Alameda from December 30, 2010, reminding us of so many layers of history here in these neighborhoods.

A careful read of the 1921 story helps us identify certain things to fuel our inquiry:

  • Researchers like a name like Joseph Albert O’Donaghue. Distinctive and traceable.
  • He was from Pictou, Nova Scotia, Canada.
  • He worked for Bernard Brandenburg, and his Bryce Street shack was on property Brandenburg owned.
  • He knew P.O. Collier (who offered him a new place to live).
  • He was a Mason.
  • He was a firewood cutter.
  • He had family in San Francisco.
  • He was a reader.

That’s enough to get us going. Here’s what we found:

The 1910 federal census shows O’Donaghue at age 67, single, living as a “hired man” with two other boarders and a cook in an unaddressed building near 37th and Fremont. It lists his birth year as 1843, from Canada, his father from Ireland, mother from Scotland, and that he arrived in the US in 1878. He reported himself as working full time as a farm laborer. We couldn’t find him in the 1920 census.

The annual Polk city directories track O’Donaghue’s presence like this:

  • 1888 listed as a laborer, boarding somewhere in East Portland (that was us before we became part of Portland proper in 1891).
  • 1906 listed as a laborer, boarding near Fremont and 36th.
  • 1916-1917 listed as a laborer, living near NE 35th and The Alameda.
  • 1921 still working as a laborer, living near NE 35th and Fremont.

His trail goes cold after the 1921 newspaper story, no city directory listings. Nothing. Then in March 1927, a death notice in Esson, British Columbia for Joseph A. O’Donaghue, age 80. Is this our man? Hard to know.

So to the next question: where was O’Donaghue’s shack? We know the property where he lived was owned by Bernard Brandenburg, who owned quite a few lots in the Spring Valley Addition, east of NE 33rd.

Spring Valley is one of the oldest plats in the area, filed on November 6, 1882 by “Clara L. Files, Spinster,” and encompassing the area east-west between 33rd and 37th and north-south between Skidmore and Bryce, including today’s Wilshire Park.

Brandenburg owned six lots which today make up the north end of the two blocks just south of Shaver between NE 33rd and 35th (when 33rd was the only road out here, the numbered streets in this vicinity didn’t exist). We’ve circled them below in red. If he lived on property Brandenburg owned, we’d guess that could be the location of O’Donaghue’s old shack.

Here’s a look at the 1925 aerial photo, with the Spring Valley Addition circled in red. Was the shack somewhere out there?

1925 aerial photo over the Spring Valley Addition. Bryce is incorrectly labeled as Beech. The dense stand of trees is today’s Wilshire Park. Aerial photo courtesy of City of Portland Archives.

Perry O. Collier was a popular and successful local real estate salesman who worked these properties as they came on the market. He may have been the one who handled the Spring Valley property deal with John L. Hartman, the big-time Portland attorney-banker-developer behind Rose City Park and other major subdivisions. Hartman bought the Spring Valley Addition property and replatted it for subdivision in June 1921. Those plans are probably what was leading to O’Donaghue’s ouster in September 1921.

This is where the story might bump into something we already know.

Not long after starting the blog—way back in 2007—we met three of the “boys” who grew up in this part of the neighborhood in the 1930s and 1940s. As often happens, our conversations led to questions, maps in hand, that would help turn back the clock. The boys told us about an old man who lived in this area, and we wrote about it in the post Memory Fragments | An old man and his dog, and a follow-up post Memory Map, which featured handwritten notes made on an old Sanborn map from one of the boys—Dick Taylor—about that exact property…that it was owned by the old man’s family. Hmm.

Is this our man? We’ll never know.

But the trip back in time is enough to reset our mental picture of the neighborhood we think we know today, and to feed our imagination. Think about that the next time you’re out on an evening stroll up Bryce on a cold night at the end of the year.

Another neighborhood goodbye: Food King Market

We know change is the only real constant in our neighborhood life, but it seems we’ve been saying goodbye to businesses and buildings more frequently than usual these days.

Today is the last day of business for Food King Market, located at 2909 NE Prescott. The building has recently sold and the family that has met the neighborhood’s convenience store needs for the last 20-plus years is closing up shop. There most certainly is a story here about owners David and Kaybee and their own history in the place and where their path leads from here. The neighborhood will miss them and the convenience of having a small market nearby for last-minute needs.

For the building, it’s unclear where the path will lead. The new owner is in conversation with the city regarding permitting and here’s what the official status of remodeling plans says:

“Remodel and change the use of the existing structure (which is now consisting of three units: a grocery store, a residence, and a current vacant unit), to either 100% office or a combination of office and retail sales and service. Also proposed is to convert approximately 500-800 sq ft of existing footprint into covered or partially-covered outdoor areas.”

The silver lining at this point for the neighborhood appears that this is not a multi-story Airbnb hotel or condominium. It seems the new owners are considering repurposing aspects of the original building.

Which leads us to this photo, which accompanied this post we wrote 11 years ago describing the history of the stores that have operated on the site, and shared memories of some of the “kids” who dropped by for iced cokes on credit.

1955, looking northeast from the corner of NE 29th and Prescott. Photo courtesy of Tom Robinson.

Thanks David and Kaybee. We’ll miss being able to zip over for the missing ingredient at the last moment, and we wish you well. And we’ll continue to follow remodel plans for this building which has been a neighborhood institution of sorts for almost 100 years.

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 was quite near the native village known as Neerchokioo, which existed 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.

Remembering the landmark at 33rd and Webster | Old St. Charles Church

For more than 40 years, a dignified and simple clapboard-sided wood frame church presided over the corner of NE 33rd Avenue and Webster, serving as a local landmark for its parishioners and for the neighborhood that was steadily growing up around it.

Old St. Charles Church, March 1931. Looking southeast at the corner of NE 33rd and Webster. Note that 33rd (at right) is paved, Webster (to the left) is not paved. Photo courtesy of the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon Archives. 

The original St. Charles Catholic Church has been gone now for almost 70 years and recollections about its life and times are slipping close to the edge of living memory. The parish relocated to its current home on NE 42nd in 1950 and demolished the original building. But when you know where it once stood and its place in the evolution of the Concordia, Vernon, Cully and Beaumont-Wilshire area, you’ll want to keep it alive in your own imagination and sense of place.

Let’s put the ghost of this old building on the map: Webster is the east-west street intersecting NE 33rd Avenue just north of Alberta and just south of today’s New Seasons Concordia grocery store. The church was sited with its long side adjacent to Webster, and front doors and stairs facing 33rd, right at the corner.

Detail of 1940 aerial photo showing location of original St. Charles Church at the southeast corner of NE 33rd Avenue and Webster Street. Photo courtesy of University of Oregon Map and Aerial Photography Library.

In February 2019, construction is underway on the site: a three-story 12-plex apartment building, which is being built pretty much in the footprint of where the church stood from 1916 until its demolition in 1950. In fact, while excavating recently for new footings, workers came across parts of the foundation and basement slab of the old church.

Looking southeast at the corner of NE 33rd and Webster, February 2019 (above). The same view in much earlier years (below), photo courtesy of St. Charles Parish Archive Committee.

 

Below is the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map plate from 1924 that will give you a good snapshot of where the building stood (upper left hand corner), and just how sparsely built up the surrounding area was then (click to enlarge the view). Read more and see other old photos in this recent post about the intersection of 33rd and Killingsworth, this post about Ainsworth and 33rd, and this post about the old fire station one block south at Alberta Court and 33rd.

 

Knowing what you know now about the prominent role local property owner John D. Kennedy played in shaping the area from 1900-1930 (his early influence can’t be overstated), you won’t be surprised to learn the church building and the entire St. Charles Catholic Parish trace its founding back to him. Parish historians Jeanne Allen and Joseph Schiwek Jr. both credit Kennedy with encouraging then Archbishop Alexander Christie to found St. Charles Parish in the first place, sometime in late 1913. Kennedy did all he could (including providing property for a public school) to create a community from the surrounding rural landscape.

In March 1915, the Catholic Sentinel newspaper characterized the area and its scattered population like this:

“This parish, which is in sparsely settled territory in the northeast portion of the city is made up of earnest workers.”

Said a little less carefully, everyone knew this area was out in the middle of nowhere in comparison to the rest of Portland proper, and that most of the people who lived here were immigrants and first-generation citizens from Italy, Ireland and Germany.

The newly founded St. Charles Parish congregation of 25 families held its first mass on February 3, 1914, in a grocery store built and owned by Henry Hall near the corner of NE Alberta and 32nd Place. Here’s a look at that old store, which stands today. It’s one of the older buildings on Alberta Street, by the way, dating to 1911. The congregation held mass there every Sunday from February 1914 until the completed church was dedicated and opened on October 1, 1916.

3266 NE Alberta (formerly 986 East Alberta before Portland’s addressing system was changed in 1931), originally known as the Hall building and later as Herliska Grocery. Photographed in February 2019. High mass was said here every Sunday between 1914-1916. The building is one of the oldest in this section of NE Alberta.

News stories during that interim reported on the new building’s planning and construction, sharing details from Portland architects Houghtaling and Dougan about the 40’ x 80’ wood frame building with its full concrete basement hall (think potluck dinners and parish events), including this rendering (we particularly like the clouds):

From The Oregonian, June 4, 1916

The church steeple, rising some 50 feet above the street, didn’t turn out quite like the rendering: an octagonal tower with cross was built instead of the traditional peaked steeple. Here’s another view, from sometime in the 1940s.

Photo courtesy of St. Charles Parish Archive Committee

The dedication was covered by The Oregonian, the Oregon Journal and the Catholic Sentinel. All three newspapers noted the church building was just the first phase of construction that would eventually include a parish school and a rectory.

By 1918, with help from John D. Kennedy, the parish bought the two lots immediately to the south with the future in mind: one was vacant and the other held a house that became the rectory. A growing number of young people in the St. Charles parish—many of whom traveled to St. Andrews at NE 9th and Alberta and some to The Madeleine at 24th and Klickitat—had hopes of a school closer to home and the congregation was doing everything it could to save and raise money.

These photos show the rectory (inset) and its location two lots south of the church. You can see the northwest corner of the rectory at far right in the larger photo. From The Catholic Sentinel, March 4, 1939. The rectory was moved to the new site on NE 42nd in 1950, and destroyed by fire in 1978.

But in 1924, the parish experienced a major setback when an overnight fire on June 27th did significant damage to the church building, altar, pews, statues and paintings that added up to almost $3,500: a major loss that would not soon be overcome.

The origin of the fire was disputed at first (fire investigators not really wanting to talk about arson) but then emerged in the stranger-than-fiction tale of Portland firefighter Chester Buchtel. A capable firefighter from an established Portland pioneer family, Buchtel admitted to setting at least 16 fires in 1923-1924–destroying Temple Beth Israel and the German Lutheran Church, both downtown, the St. Charles Church, lumber mills, garages and barns city wide–and causing more than $1 million in damage.

Repairs were made and the building was rededicated on November 23, 1924, but the wind was out of the sails for any school development fund, which continued to be the case through the Great Depression years and beyond.

Parish historian Schiwek picks up the story in the mid 1940s at the end of World War 2, from his book, Building a House Where Love Can Dwell: Celebrating the first 100 years of the St. Charles Borromeo Parish, 1914-2014:

“There were now thousands of GIs coming home to start life afresh with new homes and new families. Such was the case in Northeast Portland. Many new houses were built as families moved into the parish, with the result that by 1950, the old church, that was only capable of seating 300 persons, was fast becoming obsolete. Moreover, demand for a school was increasing and there was no land available at the existing site to build one. There were over 300 Catholic children in the parish at this time and at least half of them were attending neighboring parish schools that were themselves overcrowded and the rest were in public schools without any religious education.”

In the spring of 1950, Archbishop Edward Howard made a change in parish leadership. By that summer, the parish had obtained a site and was into construction on the St. Charles school and campus that exists today 12 blocks east at NE 42nd and Emerson. The old rectory was jacked up from the lot south of the old church and trucked to the new site in a careful two-day moving process.

The final mass at the old church was held on October 15, 1950. A photograph was taken from the church balcony to document the end of an era. And on October 22, the new St. Charles was dedicated with mass held in temporary quarters on the new site until the new church building could be completed in 1954.

Photo courtesy of St. Charles Parish Archive Committee

Long-time parishioner Jeanne Allen remembers that while there was excitement about the move to a new site and anticipation about the brand-new school and fresh start as a community, leaving the old building was hard on some of the established families who had known it all their lives. So many family events—baptisms, weddings, funerals and every Sunday in between—took place there at the corner of NE 33rd and Webster.

“There was something very comforting about the inside of the old church,” she recalled recently. “It was simple, dignified, spiritual.”

With the parish installed in its new quarters, the old church was demolished, likely sometime in 1950. No parish records remain about the demolition and property sale, nothing in the newspapers and no one we’ve spoken to remembers those final actions.

Photo courtesy of St. Charles Parish Archive Committee

Rest of the Story: The Lost House at 33rd and Fremont

Our recent post about the old gravel pit and landfill at NE 33rd and Fremont produced some interesting mail and conversation that helps complete the picture of the house that once stood at the southwest corner of that intersection.

First, a photo from frequent AH source and long-time neighborhood resident John Hamnett showing the house. John and his father were out in the neighborhood with a camera on the sunny day following the great Columbus Day Storm of Friday, October 12, 1962 documenting damage and downed trees. John remembers they came upon this toppled fence and wall on the south side of the house. The blue and white enclosure surrounded the swimming pool. The Oregon Encyclopedia entry about the storm reports wind speeds were clocked as high as 170 mph.

Looking north at the southwest corner of NE 33rd and Fremont, October 13, 1962. Photo courtesy of John Hamnett.

Next, we re-discovered this 1954 photo looking north up the hill toward Fremont from the corner with Klickitat. When you click into this image, you can see both the mid-century modern house that was eventually removed from the site, and the house behind it, which still stands. Looks like a vacant lot just downslope.

Photo Courtesy of City of Portland Archives, image A2005-001.955. Click to enlarge.

And last, this helpful comment from Judy Wathen, who used to own the house, and remembers it from its heyday of the 1950s.

My husband and I were the ones who bought the house with the swimming pool on the corner of 33rd and Fremont in the ’90’s. Before we bought it we had two different geological engineering firms test the soil and evaluate it’s stability. Both said that it was stable and leveling the house could easily be done. Both were wrong. The cost to stabilize the house was beyond our resources. Fortunately, a grade school classmate, Terry Emmert, offered to buy the house and move it to become the first remolded home on the Street of Dreams. We sold the lot with all the engineering studies to a builder who hopefully did what was required to stabilize the land before he build what is there today.

A little bit more history about the house. I grew up in Laurelhurst in the 50’s-60’s. Our family drove by that house regularly on the way to Riverside Country Club, where we were members. My father told us about the house. My father’s friend, who owned the well known Fox Furniture Co., built the house with the swimming pool  as a wedding gift to his daughter and her husband and that it was built and finished to the highest quality. That certainly was true, except for understanding the engineering of the foundation.

Goodbye (again) Kienow’s

We heard news over the holiday that QFC will soon be closing its Grant Park market, located at NE 33rd and Hancock.

The imminent closure has sparked comments and memories here on AH and elsewhere, not about QFC (sorry about that, QFC), but about Kienow’s Market, which is what that place was for most of its life, from the mid 1930s until 1999 when this Kienow’s closed and the store became a QFC. For the record, we will miss the convenience of being able to slip into QFC for a few quick items on the way home.

Beyond living memory? Here’s the original store that stood at the southwest corner of 33rd and Hancock, pictured in 1939. The store also had a dwelling unit on the south end. This building was demolished in the mid 1940s when the full-block version of the store that most people remember was built. From The Oregonian, May 26, 1939.

You couldn’t grow up in this part of northeast Portland in the mid 20th Century and not have a Kienow’s memory, and AH readers have been sending us theirs, which we wanted to share here. We also wanted to reach back a bit before living memory to understand the earliest history of groceries at that corner.

We’ll do this chronologically, taking us back to 1912 when a small store attached to a home existed at the southwest corner of NE 33rd and Hancock. Building permits suggest that first store + house (you can see its grainy photo above from the late 1930s) was actually an old repurposed school building from 33rd and Tillamook (the first Fernwood School) that was moved to the Hancock corner, where a basement was dug, a chimney built, and a storefront stuck on the front.

At that time, the property was owned by Carl Abendroth and later by his brother Adolph and was known both as Abendroth’s and as Fernwood Grocery, after the school building we know today across the street was built in 1911.

Abendroths tried to sell the shop and property starting in late 1915. Here are two ads that help us imagine what the place was like:

From The Oregon Journal, November 28, 1915

From The Oregonian, January 9, 1916

 

The store and property was still in the Abendroth family in 1921, but by 1932 it was known as Randall’s and whoever owned the property placed classified ads selling off the “timbered land” adjacent to the shop to the south. Here’s the Sanborn Fire Insurance map of the property from 1924. The store is in the bottom right corner (but there’s a lot to look at here). Click to enlarge:

In this detail from the 1924 Sanborn Fire Insurance map, we can see a relatively small Fernwood School occupying the full block between Tillamook (which used to go through to 32nd) and Hancock. The precursor building to Kienows is there in the bottom right hand corner (see the “S” next to the “D,” that’s shop and dwelling). It’s interesting to see how little of the neighborhood to the north is built, and check out the greenhouse, sheds and old farm house in the fields to the north. Read more about Sanborn maps here.

Aerial photos from 1936 and 1939 show a vacant lot south of the original building that looks like it’s been planted in rows. A garden? Here it is in 1940, still a shop and house at the corner of NE 33rd and Hancock and a path through the vacant lot to the south, not yet the full-block store that became the Kienow’s that everyone remembers.

Detail of aerial photo from 1940. Click to enlarge. Aerial photo courtesy of University of Oregon Map & Aerial Photo Library.

 

The first mention of the site being owned and operated by Kienow’s is this full page ad in The Oregonian that appeared on May 26, 1939. Click to enlarge and inspect (10 cents for a box of Rice Krispies!):

Kienow’s was on the leading edge of transforming Portland’s grocery market from the more than 700 mom and pop grocery stores to a much smaller number of midsize and big stores. Fred Meyer and Safeway were also blowing up the small grocery world during these years. But it seemed that Kienow’s was just a bit more down home than its two biggest competitors.

Readers of Beverly Cleary’s Beezus, Ramona, Henry and Ribsy children’s books will also recognize Kienow’s as the grocery store seen out the window of the nearby school. Read more about the local geography of Cleary’s imagination.

Aerial photos from 1948 show the old store and house have been demolished and the full-block storefront is in place, setting the stage for most of the Kienow’s memories we’ve been reading in the last week. Here are a few:

From long-time resident John Hamnett: A few things that I remember about the old Kienow’s store was the meat section and the box bin. There were mirrors on the back of the counter where the meat was displayed. There was a button you could press for the butcher. He would slide open a section of the mirrors to talk to the customers. The box bin was next to the check out registers. Rather than paper bags, the groceries were put into boxes from items that were stocked in the store. The registers were the kind with the rows of numbered keys. The clerk rang up each item one by one and punched in the amount that was stamped on each item. I always marveled at how they could hit the correct keys without even looking at them. It was not like the scanner we have now. Kienow’s had a turnstile at the entrance. You had to leave the store by going out through a check stand and a separate door. As I recall, it didn’t last long before they took it out. There was a 5 & 10 cent store on the north end of the grocery store. I think it was called Lou’s, but I may be mistaken. It was a separate store, but it also had an opening into the grocery store. After school, kids would go over there a buy candy. My favorite was a Tootsie Pop for 2 cents or bubble gum for a penny. In later years, the Bohemian Bakery might have been in this space. 

In the early days of the new full-block Kienow’s, there was also a food counter / diner inside, maybe the precursor to what John mentions as Lou’s. In the late 1940s it was known as Smitty’s Fountain Lunch, and in the 1950s it was the Penguin Café (which relocated here after leaving the Sellwood area). All three businesses sponsored bowling teams (a very popular activity at the time) and searches in the newspaper for any of those names–Kienow’s, Smitty’s or Penguin Cafe–will lead you to a bowling score, not an important factoid about the business.

From Steve Goodman: I remember the original Kienow’s building. It had one row of parking in front, a larger parking lot in back. And the Bohemian Bakery counter that was always busy. In front was a mechanical horse, with leather fringes on the saddle, that I usually tried to beg my parents for a dime to ride up and down. A couple of gumball machines that took a penny were inside, as was an old Coke vending machine where you could see the bottles thru the window. I think a dime for a bottle of Coke.

A major fire struck Kienow’s at noon on March 7, 1952, causing $75,000 in damage, destroying stockrooms filled with cans, and bringing an end to the school day for the children at Fernwood School across the street who were let out to watch the spectacle.

What do you remember about Kienow’s?

We wonder what will happen next with that property. Given the growth of condos and apartments at the intersection to the south, we wonder if the entire two blocks that make up the former Kienow’s (QFC) and the long-vacant Jackson’s convenience store will soon transition to housing.

Light Atop Mt. Hood

105 years ago tonight, Portland craned its neck and squinted to the east for a glimpse of a light atop Mt. Hood. Light rain fell in some places. But across Portland’s eastside at 10 o’clock p.m. many eyes were intently looking east.

During the previous week, an adventurous climbing party from the Portland YMCA had been making its way east first by interurban trolley car to Boring (along today’s Springwater Corridor) and then on foot and by automobile to Government Camp. It was no small task 105 years ago to reach the base of Mt. Hood—something we take for granted today—and the climbing party’s progress was noted in front page news coverage in The Oregonian.

The culmination of the group’s two weeks of hiking, camping and climbing, was to be a planned night-time ignition of 50 pounds of red flare powder atop Mt. Hood to signal all in Portland that the party had achieved its objective. The group carried bags of what reporters referred to as “redfire,” which was probably strontium nitrate powder, known to burn bright red: the same material as in modern road flares.

You have to read the build-up to this big event to appreciate the imaginativeness and chutzpah of this group, and the confusion and dueling stories that followed. Let’s start on July 15, before the group left for the mountain, as they were deciding that they would dig bunks atop the summit for a good night’s sleep.

From The Oregonian, July 15, 1913

 

The Oregon Journal sent reporters out across the eastside to talk to those who were watching. The next day, here’s what they reported, including eyewitness testimony from people who saw the redfire plainly.

From the Oregon Journal, July 22, 1913

But the real story of what happened, finally reported six days later when the group made it back to Portland, is a little more complicated, real and wonderful. Read on:

From The Oregonian, July 26, 1913 (click to enlarge)

With all the build up, neighbors were ready to see what they wanted to see, despite the sleet and the YMCA group’s turning back that night from the summit. Was it that people wanted to be part of something bigger than themselves, to close the distance between what was wild and the city? Or was it just the moon on a misty summer night?

Tonight at exactly 10 o’clock we’ll be watching.

A Radio Documentary You Might Like

Pretty much everything here at AH is about neighborhood history, old houses and connections between past and present, with a focus on Portland, Oregon. But every once in a while we come across a story about history, family, places and connections across time that strikes some universal cords worth sharing. If you’re an AH follower or frequent visitor, these themes are something you care about too.

We’ve come across just such a story close to home that you might want to have a listen to. Radio journalist Emma Decker has produced a piece airing this weekend on Irish radio that brings these topics right to the top. It’s a 38-minute gem exploring the power of family, choice and a commitment to making the world a better place. And it celebrates mothers, sisters and strong Irish women.

We’re a bit biased about this (yes, it’s that Emma Decker), but when you come across something so honest and moving, you want to just sit down, listen and appreciate.

Listen to the documentary “Sisters” here on RTE’s Documentary on One page.

Portland’s Horse Tethering Rings

You’ve probably seen those old iron rings tethering toy horses to curbs across Portland’s older neighborhoods, a kind of whimsical tip of the hat to our pre-automobile past. But that old hardware rusting on the curb in front of your house is more than just a quaint antiquity: it had an important job to do back in the day.

Many eastside neighborhoods like ours were conceived and built when horses and wagons ruled the streets. In the early 1900s, as Portland was expanding and our neighborhoods were the newly minted suburbs, cars were an unproven, mostly unavailable commodity. In 1905 there were only 218 cars registered in the entire state of Oregon. People got around on foot, horseback and by horse and wagon, but mostly our predecessors here in eastside neighborhoods got around by streetcar. And mostly, neighbors did not keep a horse and wagon at home. So, what’s with all the hitching rings embedded in our curbs?

Every commodity and supply that came to your house in those days was delivered by horse and wagon: firewood, coal, ice, groceries, dry goods, laundry, building materials, parcel post packages. A page of classified ads in The Oregonian from 1900-1910 looks like the land of opportunity for horse-wagon delivery teams and people with strong backs. If you had a horse and wagon, you had a job.

In 1907 Portland City Council passed an ordinance requiring that new curbs in front of houses have “ring bolts” installed every 25 feet so that delivery vehicles could be securely tied down to protect pedestrians and other wagons using the street.

From Ordinances of the City of Portland, 1910

Horse tethering rings weren’t quaint. They were the law.

Many delivery drivers also carried a heavy weight attached to a strap they would place out on the ground—kind of like an anchor—to prevent the horse and wagon from moving around when the deliveryman hopped out and ran up the steps.

Horse tethering weight. These typically weighed 25 pounds and were attached to a wagon by a leather strap. The driver placed these out on the ground when away from the wagon.

By the late 1920s, the automobile (and delivery truck) had almost completely replaced the horse and wagon. Interestingly, streetcar ridership also began to drop off in the late 1920s as more people bought cars and drove where they wanted to go—unleashing a raft of other problems—leading to the demise of Portland’s streetcar system by the late 1940s. But we digress.

When tethering rings became obsolete, the cities of Vancouver and The Dalles passed ordinances requiring their removal due to safety concerns. Here in Portland, one visitor’s misstep resulted in a similar proposed ordinance to do the same. This was actually a front page news story on August 16, 1938:

 

From The Oregonian, August 16, 1938

Editorial response to the proposed ordinance was immediate, sarcastic, nostalgic. The next day, this unsigned piece appeared on the editorial page, bearing the distinctive style and cadence of editor Ben Hur Lampman, columnist and editorial writer, and eventually Oregon’s poet laureate.

 

From The Oregonian, August 17, 1938

 

City Council declined to take action in 1938, but the topic re-emerged in 1947 on the editorial page rising from what appears to have been a chit-chat between Ben Hur Lampman and his grandson. Kind of wistful, we’d say…evidently a topic close to his heart.

 

From The Oregonian, April 9, 1949

 

Over the years, the city’s Public Works Department adopted an unofficial policy of removing tethering rings. Some were saved, but many were dumped. But in 1978, when the city went to work on a curb in Ladd’s Addition, one unhappy homeowner picked up the phone and called the newspaper. His complaint, and his desire to remember the past, caught the attention of City Commissioner Connie McCready (who went on to become Portland mayor). The ensuing dust-up put horse tethering rings back on the front page of The Oregonian. Who would have thought?

 

From The Oregonian, January 7, 1978. Click to enlarge.

 

In recent years, the rings have re-entered the public consciousness in the form of the Portland Horse Project, dozens of photos and entries about the tiny horses tethered to curbs all across town (just Google “Portland Horse Rings”), and hundreds of acts of creativity and imagination by horse and history fans across the city.

There’s some magic about all of this: the horse rings are here with us in this moment but represent and call to mind a totally different world and time. They ask us to step out of ourselves for a moment to put time and place into perspective, to contemplate both change and steadiness, to acknowledge that what we know about the world today is not necessarily all there is to know. Our old houses do that too.

We love the line from Lampman’s 1938 editorial: “Something there is about the past, there always is, that causes us to put the present to the question.”

 

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