Stuart Drive was once Rugby Drive

 

We came across this on a recent walk up Deadman’s Hill (Stuart Drive) from its base. It’s well cloaked in moss, but clearly visible, there on the south side of the street, at the base of the hill, just upslope from the stop sign. Take a look:

Right next to Rugby in the curb is our old friend Elwood Wiles, 1910, the ubiquitous curb stamp across much of Portland’s east side, made by the prolific concrete contractor and former Alameda resident.

We’re sensitive to names because they are signposts to history, but Rugby is a new one on us, not encountered on many trips through Polk City Directories, the Federal Censuses, old news articles, legal proceedings and other documents stemming from the Alameda Land Company. Elsewhere on this site, you’ll find a handy reference about other neighborhood street names. But no Rugbys encountered in pursuit of those stories either. Recently we sorted back through the city directories from 1900-1920 looking for any Rugby, but no luck.

And just for the record, Portland did have another Rugby Street–a short section of street located in Willamette Heights–which was renamed NW 34th Avenue during the Great Renumbering of the 1930s.

To be clear: the original plat for Alameda refers to this as Stuart Drive, even though there is no curb stamp that names it so (the original one may have been at the top of the hill on the north side of the street, perhaps obliterated from curb repairs). So Rugby joins Glenn and Laura as mysteries awaiting solution. Any ideas?

Always on the lookout for a little mystery like this. Seen any lately?

Alameda Library? Unlikely.

If you live in Alameda above the ridge, you’ve walked, ridden or driven past this very nice home many times. It’s on the wide sweep of Regents Drive, just north of the intersection with The Alameda, on the east side of the street.

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3032 NE Regents Drive, Portland, Oregon. Built 1923 by C.O. Waller at a cost of $12,000, which was a lot of money in 1923. This was on the high end for construction costs of other houses built in the neighborhood at the same time. Some families who have lived here over the years have used the west wing of the house (with all the windows you can see above) as a place for their books.

It’s been a favorite of ours, particularly all the casement windows; the curved approach walk with the formal shrubbery, the welcoming way in which the building is sited at the corner with Regents and Dunckley; the brick, the tile roof and all the Tudor details. It’s a nice place.

So we were intrigued recently when picking up the real estate flyer advertising this as the former Alameda Library. Hmm. Really?

As a historian who loves a good mystery, I dug into the resources to see what I could find. And despite the realtor’s listing citing this as a “local legend,” I can report the following, to the contrary:

  • The construction permit for this house was taken out on May 18, 1923 by Mr. C.O. Waller. Presumably, the house was completed in late 1923 or early 1924. That period was during the second boom of construction in the neighborhood, following the first wave from 1910-1914. There is no record of public bidding process about any buildings in the neighborhood (except for Alameda School, built in 1921 at a cost of about $40,000…and there was a flap about that bid which ended up in The Oregonian, another future post…stay tuned).
  • The house sits on two lots in the Olmsted Park Addition: lots 25 and 26. Interesting to note that it’s actually had three addresses during it’s lifetime. The first one was 924 Dunckley, which was changed to 3054 NE Dunckley during the great renumbering of the early 1930s (click here to learn more about that and about Alameda Street Names). And sometime — not sure when — it was changed to its current Regents Drive address, 3032.
  • The two subdivisions across the street from each other in this location — Alameda Park Addition to the west and the Olmsted Park Addition to the east — had strict building covenants and restrictions that prohibited the construction of anything except houses. That goes for commercial buildings, community buildings, even churches (as we know from the lawsuit and protests associated with the Alameda Park Community Church just up the block, built about the same time…more on that story soon). A public library would never have been permitted, or tolerated, in this spot. The most likely library that would have served the needs of this community were either in Albina on NE Knott (just west of MLK in what is today’s Tidal Wave used book store) or in the Hollywood area (that branch has moved around over the years).
  • I’ve met with a former resident who grew up across the street from 3032 and he recalls that it was not a library, but home to the Johnson family. Mr. Johnson was the contract carrier for The Oregonian (as in the chief distribution guru).

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Perhaps the urban myth of “Alameda library” arose from the fact that several homeowners at that address have used that west facing wing — with all those windows — to place their bookshelves. Or from the fact that if you squint your eyes just right, the architecture and the layout of the building on the site does indeed feel like a welcoming, friendly public building.

-Doug Decker

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