Setting Sail on the East bank of the Willamette

This 1900s view of Portland Harbor from the east bank of the Willamette River in the vicinity of today’s Memorial Coliseum is from the precious scrapbook of family photos shared with us by Laurelhurst resident Bob Elston. You’ll recall the photos Bob shared last year, which led us into a reconstruction of 1900s life near the corner of NE 3rd and Broadway where his family grew up, and then into a deep dive to explore the history of the eastside gulches. It’s amazing where a few pictures can take us (we’re always looking for photos of the neighborhood and old houses, so go have a look at that box in the attic). Check out the name of this boat setting sail from the east bank, and click around to look at the details on the west bank as well.

Willamette River scene

It’s been a quiet spell here on the AH blog. My history work is avocation and passion, but I have a real job too, which has always come first, with history research and writing relegated to what’s left over after a more than full-time commitment of time and energy. This fall, I’ll be transitioning away from that commitment and shifting into a new chapter with a totally different role and pace. When that happens, the subjects of exploration here on the blog—and a desire to further engage with helping connect past and present—move into first position.

The result: more blog activity and insights into the stories of our old houses and neighborhoods; maybe a new branch or two of inquiry; a ramp-up in my ability to take on and complete individual house and building history requests; other ideas?

Thanks for following along on the journey these last nine years, for the ideas and photos you’ve shared. Looking forward to expanding the Alameda History conversation here in this next chapter.

NE 3rd and Broadway as you’ve never seen it

One of the great joys of our research is finding the unknown—more properly the long forgotten—in the midst of the known. Photos, memories, documents and stories from the past add new understanding to places we know (or think we know), and often bring a hint of the familiar: the profile of the ridgeline on the horizon, the curve of a street, the form of a building we recognize.

Sometimes these clues from the past are unreconcilable with the landscape we know today. In the world of Northeast Portland neighborhoods, pretty much anything after 1910 will carry a hint of the familiar. Turn back the clock a bit further and those hints are harder to detect.

Case in point: this Sanborn fire insurance underwriting map from 1909 of the Eliot neighborhood, showing the vicinity of the busy intersection at Grand and Broadway that we all know. Or think we know. Have a good look and pay attention to the location and extent of the gully shown as Deep Gulch, the wooden bridges, the buildings up on posts, the row of houses with their bay windows all to the side. Check out the State Laundry Company building too, and the note about the night watchman. (If you don’t know about Sanborn maps—which were used for fire insurance underwriting—be sure to check out our post on the topic).

1-16-16 Sanborn 289 Detail

Detail from plate 289, Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, 1909

Everything in this frame from 1909 is absolutely gone today—the gully, the buildings even the streets which have been widened—and most of us speed through here (being careful about the red-light cameras) on our way somewhere else. Below is a modern view of that intersection.

1-16-16 Detail from Google Earth

Thanks to Google Maps. Click the thumbnail above for the full photo.

* * *

Ready for an even closer look? This is the fun part where we get to try to imagine the landscape that once was, and how different it is today. As you study this photo, be sure to check out the detail: the awning style shutters; the orderly clapboard and fish-scale siding; the beautiful shingle roof; the decorative round gable end ornaments; the family members at each level; the gulch out back. The picket fence in the left foreground is running north-south along the edge of NE 3rd. The double gable end faces NE 3rd, so this view is looking off to the south/southwest at the corner of NE 3rd and Broadway.

1-16-16 Soden Home 3rd and Broadway

Home of B.T. and Cora Soden, NE 3rd and Broadway. Photo courtesy of Bob Elston.

And an approximate view today:

Site of Soden Home, NE 3rd and Broadway, northwest corner

237 NE Broadway in January 2016.

We’re able to feed this imagination thanks to fourth-generation Northeast Portland resident Bob Elston, great-grandson of Bartholomew and Cora Soden, who recently shared these and other family photos that got us to wondering about this part of the neighborhood, and to haunting these blocks ourselves in order to take a good look. Thanks Bob.

Fast forward a few years and a slightly different angle at the Soden place, this time looking west/northwest showing the barn out back, which is depicted in the 1905 Sanborn map. Note the same wooden bridge on Northeast 3rd over Deep Gulch, which keys the building into the northwest corner of that intersection. The dip of the gulch is still visible off to the left.

1-16-16 Soden Home 3rd and Broadway 1905

NE 3rd and Broadway, looking west in the late 1890s. Photo courtesy of Bob Elston.

 

Mildred, Willard, Frances, Raymond in front of the house on NE 3rd.

Frances, Willard, Mildred and Lester Soden, in front of the house on NE 3rd, 1898. This view is looking north on 3rd. Photo courtesy of Bob Elston.

* * *

Bart Soden was owner and proprietor of B.T. Soden Hay, Grain, Coal and Plaster, provisioner of vital goods for the eastside at the turn of the last century. His warehouse and business was located just a block east from the family home at the southeast corner of Union and Schuyler (today’s MLK and Schuyler). Scroll back up to the Sanborn map and look at it there in the upper right corner, labeled “Hay, Grain and Cement Ware HO.” Here’s a picture of Bart and a helper, probably from about 1905, showing the delivery wagon heading out on a run:

1-16-16 BT Soden Business

The southeast corner of NE 3rd and Union, about 1905. Photo courtesy of Bob Elston.

Here’s the same view today:

Site of Soden Business, MLK and Schulyer, southeast corner

Bart was born in Australia in 1849, came to Oregon as a young boy, and grew up in rural Polk County. He earned a degree from the Oregon Agricultural College in 1879, tried his hand at teaching for a while, and eventually moved to Portland in the 1880s where he married Cora Wells, 16 years his junior. The couple built the house and business we’ve been looking at here, raised a family of two sons and two daughters, and were active in Portland society. Bart died in 1926. Cora lived until 1950. Both parents and several of the children are buried in the family plot at Portland’s historic Lone Fir Cemetery.

We’ve recently come across a memoir by a Portlander who grew up a couple streets over about the same time as the young Sodens. Stay tuned for his observations, which will continue to help us bring this long lost landscape back to life.

A day in the life of Beaumont: June 1927

Here’s the final installment of Bessie Kramer’s Beaumont business district photos from the 1920s, and there’s so much to see. If you missed the earlier photos (including the great one of the houses at NE 40th and Failing), you can find them here and here.

This last one looks a bit like a Norman Rockwell painting: There’s so much going on. The view is looking north at the corner of NE 42nd and Fremont. From these same footprints today, we’d be looking at the edge of Pizzicato on the far left, and then Americana Frame and Silhouette. The building housing Tuk-Tuk, formerly known as Watson’s O-So-Good Restaurant and Sandwich Shop, hadn’t been built yet in the vacant lot behind the lineman on the pole. As noted in the earlier series, we think this was a sewer repair requiring deep trenching in front of 4223 and 4225 NE Fremont.

Click on the photo to enlarge for a good look yourself and then come back here for our take on what we see.

1-3-16-kirkland-photo WORK

 

4223 and 4225 NE Fremont, taken in June 1927. Courtesy of Bessie Kramer and Paul Kirkland Collection.

The other photos showed a display of fireworks for sale in the pharmacy window on the far right, hidden here behind the excavator, making us think this was late June or early July. Another one, shot from a different angle, indicated that the “Dutch Village” building across the street that now houses Gazelle hadn’t been built yet, which means this view is prior to 1928. Fremont Dry Goods doesn’t show up in the city directory until 1927, so by process of elimination, that’s our guess: late June or July 1927.

A man in a suit coat and fedora, who we think we saw down in the trench in an earlier photo, is taking a break here. Three boys are having a good look in the window at Mr. and Mrs. Witt’s Buy-Rite Grocery (did they have a fireworks display window too?). Two more, still on their bikes, are having a good look down the hole. A worker breaks up concrete, and another is at the levers of the excavator. A lineman is working on one of the omnipresent power poles. Everyone in this picture has a hat on.

We believe Bessie Kramer started out as a saleswoman and clerk here at Fremont Dry Goods, the middle store with the dresses and fabric in the window. According to the city directory of 1929 (the year after the new building had been built just across the street), Fremont Dry Goods disappears from its location in this photo and Beaumont Dry Goods appears in the space across the street occupied today by Shop Adorn. Hypothesis: Bessie moved the business across the street. A generation of Beaumont kids remembered Mrs. Kramer’s dry good store there on the south side of Fremont. They probably had more vivid memories of Mrs. Cox’s Variety Store, which was really a candy store, strategically located due east across from Beaumont School in the long narrow space now occupied by Daruma Sushi + Sake. What a great place for a candy business: literally a stone’s throw from the classrooms.

This great series of photos allows us to give AH readers a nudge: we’re always looking for pictures that might be in the family attic or afloat in an old shoebox. Street scene, family pose on the front porch, kids at Wilshire or near a school. We’re interested. Most of these photos from Bessie Kramer were originally very small: less than two inches by three inches. We’re able to scan them carefully and return them to you safely.

Beaumont 1927 Construction Photo Series

Four more tantalizing views of the Beaumont corner at 42nd and Fremont from the late 1920s (we think June 1927), all showing some major trenching and dirt-moving activity out in front of the shops on the north side of the street. All four are from the collection of Beaumont Dry Goods shopkeeper Bessie Kramer and her grandson Paul Kirkland. If you need help orienting yourself, we’ve placed current companion views to each of these at the bottom of this post.

You’ll recall from our earlier posts that Bessie Kramer ran the Beaumont Dry Goods and Book Shelf store in the 1930s, which—based on Polk City Directory records—we believe started out life as Fremont Dry Goods in 1927 here on the north side of Fremont, about where today’s Americana Frame shop is now, and later moved with a name and ownership change to the south side, where Shop Adorn is today, when construction of that building was finished in the fall of 1928.

Incidentally, we’re mapping the comings and goings of Beaumont’s various businesses over the years, and doing some homework on the Beaumont Market/Gazelle commercial building on the south side of Fremont at 41st (which is actually two buildings built seven years apart) so stay tuned for that. If you have photos or insights to contribute on the general topic of Beaumont business over the years, we’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, have a good look at the images below which we believe were shot all about the same time (click on each one for a larger view), and when you’re done, come back here for some discussion.

Beaumont Construction 1

East view

Let’s start by orienting ourselves here. Look carefully at the address over the door of the shop to the left, which is Fremont Dry Goods, 1213 East Fremont Street North. You can’t quite see the business name in the upper left, but you’ll see it in the next photograph. It reads “Fremont Dry Goods.” After Portland’s Great Renumbering in 1931, that address became 4223 NE Fremont, today’s Americana Frame. Next door to the right, at today’s 4225 NE Fremont, is Fremont Pharmacy, home of ice cream, cigars, drugs and on this day lots of fireworks. The pharmacy business shown here, (which moved across the street in 1929 and became a neighborhood fixture in the shop occupied by today’s Gazelle) is known to us today as Silhouette, a tailoring shop. There are two more businesses out of frame to the left–Buy Rite Grocery and Beaumont Hardware–but we’ll get to those in a moment. Click here to keep reading…

Then and Now | Criticize this house

A brief pause from the Beaumont photos here on AH to make a deep dive into back copies of The Oregonian and other research into several stories we’re working on, and to learn more about the early Beaumont business district. Interesting stuff, so stay tuned.

It’s always easy for us to lose ourselves in the serendipity of research, especially during the quiet days at the end of the year.

While looking for other things, we’ve come across some small gems. Here’s one from September 2, 1928: It’s either an interesting approach to real estate advertising, or a clever form of early market research, or both. It also makes for a good Then and Now. Check it out:

9-2-1928 House criticism ad (1)

 

4404 NE Cesar Chavez Blvd

926 East 39th Street North is today’s 4404 NE Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard, in northeast Portland’s Wilshire neighborhood.

Margaret Gray Montgomery took out several other classified advertisements during this period, including one that advertised her office being located at 910 East 40th Street North (4324 NE 40th). A site office in addition to the Porter Building address? Curiously, Margaret Gray Montgomery didn’t appear in city directories as a builder or otherwise connected to the real estate business, wasn’t listed as owner of this or the 40th Street property in construction or city records, and was invisible to the federal census of 1930 and 1940. For what it’s worth, the 11th floor of the Porter building (see bottom of ad) was a hot spot for real estate and mortgage companies in the late 1920s.

As a postscript with a story to tell: a three-line classified ad in the March 30, 1931 The Oregonian, sandwiched between other ads about house foreclosures and repossessed furniture, reports:

Crawford Range for sale, also dining room rug and Hoover; will sacrifice, leaving city tomorrow evening. Also equity in beautiful home, 926 E. 39th N.

Hmm.

Turning back the clock in Beaumont: Photo No. 2

For our second installment in the Beaumont-Wilshire photo series, let’s take a look at a scene that will be simultaneously familiar and a bit exotic, at least to our modern eyes. There’s lots to look at here in this view to the west on Fremont from NE 42nd, so let’s just stare at this for a minute (click on the picture twice to open up a larger view) and then come back here to analyze what we can see.

42nd and Fremont, about 1929

NE 42nd and Fremont, looking west, about 1929. Photo courtesy of Paul Kirkland.

The first thing that jumps out are the powerlines: high tension, high elevation, lots of them and probably lots of power thrumming through to feed the new homes in the Beaumont-Wilshire neighborhood. Note the lines taking off to the left and right while the main feed runs east-west along the north side of Fremont. Good thing we’ve restrung these over the years. Poles are still there in what looks like the same places, just not quite as toweringly tall.

Back to the picture, look left of center and you’ll see the familiar form of today’s Beaumont Middle School, then known simply as Beaumont School, a fully-contained K-8. Built in 1926 by Stebinger Brothers general contractors at a total cost of $225,000 from a design by Portland school architect George Jones, the school was both hearth and namesake for the neighborhood, hosting generations of local kids. Look beyond the school to the left (west) and you can see one of the portable units that functioned as the first Beaumont School starting in 1915, and then after 1926 was the venue for Beaumont’s shop and “manual training” classes. Look carefully and you can see there were actually a couple of buildings there. Alameda School was based out of portable units in the early years as well: something that we’ve written about here on the blog. Check out these stories here and here.

Our photo shows a 1928 Ford Model A Truck in the mid-ground, backed up to four businesses located where Pizzicato, Americana Frame and Silhouette are today on the north side of Fremont at NE 42nd. These buildings were built in 1929 and are still standing today—with some significant modifications. The “Dutch Village” commercial block across the street on the southside, which houses today’s Beaumont Market, is not visible in this photo, but was built in 1929. More about that building and the commercial hustle and bustle of the neighborhood coming up in future posts.

The four businesses visible in this early photo are Beaumont Hardware (which has since moved east a block); Henry and Anna Witt’s Buy Rite Grocery; Fremont Dry Goods Company; and Beaumont Pharmacy (which later moved across the street to the southside where Gazelle is today, where it became a neighborhood fixture for its soda fountain among other things). Not visible in this picture but tucked into these spaces in the years that followed were John King, barber; Gustaf Pulos and Absolom Barnard Shoe Repair; and Charles E. Riggs, grocer.

Also visible is what looks like rough surfacing of Fremont. Looks like dirt or gravel to us in this picture. We know that paving was a premium in early Portland, but our research suggests this stretch of road had indeed been paved by then. The next several pictures will show some street and sidewalk work in front of these businesses—which may have been why the photos were taken in the first place—creating some paving and road surfacing needs.

Lastly, the arc and sweep of tire tracks in the lower left of this photo might suggest streetcar tracks to some. But just for clarity, that wasn’t the case. We’ll write about the Beaumont streetcar in a future post, but it didn’t pass through here: it came up Wisteria and NE 41st, stopping in the vicinity of Klickitat Street. Stay tuned for more on that.

Time travel’s kind of neat, eh? Thanks Paul. Wondering what this intersection will look like 100 years from now…

 

Amazing early photos from the Beaumont neighborhood

If you’re a frequent AH visitor, you know we love old photographs, particularly when they include a house or building still around today, a vintage street scene that transports us back in time, or maybe a neighborhood mystery that needs solving.

Here’s an amazing photo you might think was taken in rural Oregon, maybe in the thick Douglas-fir forest up near Mt. Hood. Have a good look at the picture before you scroll down to see exactly where it’s from (click on the image for a very sharp and enlarged version).

 

40th and Failing looking Northwest

Ready for its actual location: Northeast 40th and Failing, looking northwest. Seriously.

Here’s the same view today.

Today 40th and Failing looking Northwest

This is the first of a series of photographs we’re going to roll out over the next few posts, showing the very early days of the Beaumont-Wilshire neighborhood, dating back to the 1920s. Life-long resident Paul Kirkland sought us out after learning of our passion for old photos and wanted to make sure his photos had a good digital home and were appreciated. Thank you Paul, and no problem there. We were thrilled to see these photos, which are about as close as possible to time travel.

The common denominator in these images that we’ll roll out in the next few weeks is Paul’s grandmother, Bessie Kramer, who lived in the neighborhood and ran Beaumont Dry Goods and Book Shelf store at the corner of NE 43rd and Fremont.

Bessie Bartos Kramer Weber was born in Iowa in 1894 and first appears in the Oregon record in the 1920 federal census with her husband Jessie and infant daughter Maxine. In the 1920s and 1930s, she lived in the neighborhood in several locations both as a boarder and then a renter.

Grandson Paul says that when this picture was taken, probably in the mid-1920s, Bessie and her husband Jessie Kramer were living in the small hip-roofed house on the left (which we think has been added to over time and is today’s 3829 NE Failing). The house on the right, which has recently been on the market, is 3905 NE 40th, built in 1922.

Stay tuned: some amazing pictures of Bessie’s Beaumont business at NE 43rd and Fremont are next, which will provide the basis for some good discussion about the early Beaumont business district.

Thanks Paul!

Birkemeier always remembered his first house

Ken Birkemeier, the prolific Alameda neighborhood designer and homebuilder, always remembered the first house he ever built: a cute little English storybook style home at 829 NE 41st.

 

Scan (3) (1)

829 NE 41st Avenue. Ken Birkemeier’s first homebuilding project. Photograph is from a 1932 story in The Oregonian about the sale of unused public property. The lot, located on a small peninsula just across the street from Laurelhurst School, had been kept in reserve in case the city needed it for school purposes, but was eventually purchased and developed by Birkemeier.

Birkemeier, whose work has come to signify the best of the Mid-Century Modern movement in Portland, built more than two dozen homes here in Alameda alone, often on steep or challenging lots.

According to homeowner and AH reader Gary Groce, Birkemeier dropped by one day during his later life, sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s, like a salmon returning back to where it all began. Groce wrote us recently with this account of his impromptu visit with the Mid-century Master.

As I recall, I was outside the house working on something when this largish car pulled up with an older couple inside. They were looking at the house. I walked over to the car and he introduced himself. My impression was that he had recently married this charming woman and wanted to show her the first house that he built. We invited them in and showed them things we had done to restore the house as close to original as possible including the re-acquisition of original art-deco slipper shade lights, etc.

I vividly remember him telling me as he looked at the mahogany beamed ceiling… “when we got the garage up, I used that as a shop and I remember cutting those brackets for the beams on my band saw in the garage.”

I remember him saying, “I used the best materials I could find because I wanted it to be right.”

I lamented to him that the original fireplace façade in the living room had been changed at least twice and that someday, I hoped to restore it to original. He very graciously invited me to his home in the west hills as he thought he might have blue prints, and sketches of the fireplace. I took him up on his offer.  I remember his home being this unbelievable, sprawling mid century modern with a fantastic view.  In retrospect, that home was undoubtedly of his own design and build. Unfortunately, he couldn’t seem to find anything of interest on our house so we just spent our time visiting.

I came away with the impression that this was a very successful, intelligent man who never lost the common touch. Very warm and personable.

In the years following the passing of his wife of 50 years (Marge), Birkemeier married Ramona, who he evidently wanted to see where all the homebuilding work began. Birkemeier died in 1996. The last house he built in Alameda is at 2830 NE Regents Drive (1952).

To read more about Birkemeier’s life and work, check out the profile here on the blog.

With thanks to Gary for sharing this memory.

Part 3: Alberta Bungalow Grocery Restored

Third of three parts: Bringing a great old building back from the brink

store (corner view) (1)

In 2002, with much of its south-side clapboard replaced with T-111 siding, a clear southward slump, rotted floors, and replacement aluminum sliding windows, the bungalow-grocery at NE 27th and Going was crumbling and weeks away from being torn down. Photo courtesy of Chad Crouch.

It’s been a while—regrettably, a very busy spring—but just to refresh from Part 1: In 1910, the Alberta District was at the edge of a very fast-growing Portland. As real estate values and more people caught up with the region north of Prescott and south of Killingsworth, a booming residential and retail area began to grow.

One particular building at the northwest corner of NE 27th and Going merged both residential and retail. In Part 2, we covered how the modest bungalow storefront opened originally as a men’s furnishings store, and was adapted over time and changed hands through the generations, closely integrated with neighborhood life until it went out of retail use in the mid 1960s.

Deferred maintenance began to catch up with the building, and when it was sold to a developer in 2002, the property was well on its way to becoming a vacant lot. Fortunately for the building, an adventurous fixer-upper couple named Chad Crouch and Sheryl Eckrich bought it four months later and began to bring it back to life.

porch exterior-untouched

Missing siding, aluminum sliders and a rotting back porch were the least of the worries. Photo courtesy of Chad Crouch.

“I was attracted to its unusual live-work facade which I thought was very handsome, unique, and proportionally graceful,” remembers Crouch. But he also remembers that it was in very sorry shape. The southeast corner was rotted and sinking. The foundation and the floor of the store had to be completely replaced. The residential kitchen was a disaster.

 

kitchen untouched

The worn-out kitchen in the residence area, looking out the back door toward the porch. Photo courtesy of Chad Crouch.

While it had been almost 40 years since being an active retail store, Crouch and Eckrich found two clues, including a Franz Bread ad and the word “LIPTON’s” etched into window glass. Other than that, the store space held no clues to generations of retail activity. “It was very spare: plaster walls and painted wood floors.  Florescent shop lighting.  No original fixtures, stencilling, or noteworthy mouldings. There was a wood stove taking up a lot of floor space.”

 

new concrete floor

Inside the store space looking toward the front windows. Note the new foundation wall on the right (the building had to be lifted by jacks and the new foundation poured underneath). The new floor shown here is a poured concrete slab piped with warm water to keep the floor toasty during the winter. Photo courtesy of Chad Crouch.

 

guest room walls stripped (1)

One of the few clues to the building’s earlier retail life. An advertisement for Franz bread. Photo courtesy of Chad Crouch.

 

Crouch and Eckrich invested sweat equity and financial capital in the restoration, and did so in a creative way. “We used some of the original wood flooring in a step-up elevated dining platform and perimeter bench in the main room.  It turned out to be more work than it was probably worth, as the planks had been compressed by traffic patterns of 100 yeas of foot traffic. Some hand planing was required to work out the refinishing.  We put up salvaged tin ceiling tiles on the new span joists we ran to accommodate a master bedroom in the 1/2 story above.”

 

DSC00962

A view of the finished store space (front doors and windows are on the left). Note the fireplace, salvaged ceiling tiles, new hydronic slab, and built-in perimeter bench in the former store space. Photo courtesy of Chad Crouch.

 

A gallery of photos was posted on a real estate website when the building was sold in November 2013, so click around and take a look. Chad and Sheryl have done a great service to the future and to the past with their careful, thoughtful restoration. The Smythes, the Coulters and the other proprietors–plus the generations of families and neighbors who bought their groceries and necessities here–would definitely recognize the building and think it’s in fine shape for being 105 years old.

Today, Alberta’s bungalow-grocery is an attractive and vibrant old building that serves as a kind of time capsule for the neighborhood, showing just how nicely old buildings can be restored and repurposed instead of razed and replaced. In a neighborhood where change is the common denominator, this success story holds hope for the future.

 

 

Another Look at NE 33rd and Knott

Research can be so satisfying sometimes because often when you are not looking for something, you find something else of interest. That’s kind of the case here, in this other view of the Grant Park Market, slightly different than the last post. Here we’re looking due west up Knott. Check out the cars, houses and all those utility poles (click for a closer look). Taken on January 4, 1932. We’re always hungry for early views in the neighborhood and consider this one a gem. With thanks to the City of Portland Archives and their very cool website called Vintage Portland which you should bookmark.

1932-jan-4_east-33rd-and-knott-st_a2004-001-627

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