Home History School | Hidden horses

There was a time when Northeast Portland neighborhoods were alive with horses.

In the early days, they plowed the fields. Later, they built the streets, delivered the groceries, brought the fuel that heated our houses and the ice that cooled the kitchen ice box. Carted out the garbage. Hauled in building supplies and new furniture. Brought families here and there.

You name it: horses were essential to the early days of these neighborhoods and were as common a sight as a car is today.

Horses and men grading Regents Drive at the top of the hill near The Alameda (as today’s Alameda Street was known), taken in May 1909. From an advertising brochure produced by the Alameda Land Company.

Even though horses haven’t walked these streets for about 100 years, there is a silent herd slowly returning to remind us (with a smile) of just how common horses were to making our lives work way back when. This week’s Home History School contemplates the early role of horses in our neighborhoods and gets us all searching for the hidden herd you might be able to find on your street or just around the corner. Check it out:

Hidden Horses

Home History School | Oldest Living Residents

Each Monday this spring, we’re providing a weekly focus on local history explorations for kids of all ages that include activities and questions to get you going. This week, we’re focused on our neighborhoods’ oldest living residents…our trees.

This is a great time to be out in the neighborhood: as our trees bloom and leaf out, they silently remind us how much they add to our lives.

The shower of pink petals from the cherry blossoms; the emerging fresh new leaves on the maples and copper beeches. Shade from the afternoon sun. They’ve been waiting patiently all winter to remind us they are here. Take a moment to appreciate them.

Each tree has a story: in most cases, years ago, someone intentionally put it there to grow. Like this giant, the Pearson Pine:

The 130-year-old Pearson Pine, a Portland Heritage Tree, presides over the neighborhood from NE 29th and Fremont. Dairyman and farmer Samuel Pearson planted this tree on purpose in that location to mark the corner of his property back in 1885.

In this week’s installment, we get outside to appreciate (and to identify) the trees in our neighborhood, and to meet a few special ones–the Portland Heritage Trees–which have been here a lot longer than we have and will likely still be here when we’re gone (so, be nice to them).

Click below to get started:

Oldest living residents

Home History School |Active learning about local history

Maybe you have some young people in your world these days looking for things to do to feed their curiosities and continue their learning close to home. As in very close to home. The great pandemic of 2020 has turned our lives upside down in so many ways, and it’s brought your kids’ classroom to your dining room table.

Vernon School Classroom

Old Vernon School classroom, about 1915.

Here’s a sliver of good news: You happen to be living in a century-old time machine on a landscape that has been in constant change and full of opportunities for imagination, exploration, expression, activity and insight.

Each Monday during the spring of 2020, we provided a weekly focus on local history explorations that include activities and questions to get you going. We think these activities are fun and meaningful for kids of all ages, like us!

  • We started by encouraging history detectives to search out and meet the ubiquitous Elwood Wiles, whose name is on sidewalks all over the eastside from 1910-1915.
  • We suggested tools for figuring out the story of your house, including finding your earliest plumbing permits and your old street address.
  • Discovering your nearest streetcar route and considering what the streetcar meant to our neighborhoods came next.
  • We went on safari to neighborhood schools with 1924 maps in hand, and tales of school buildings long gone.
  • Our oldest residents—our trees, and in particular our Heritage trees—came next with walks, tree ID keys and stories of the Pearson Pine.
  • And then the horses: thinking about what horses meant to these neighborhoods. They were fundamental to our early life and the energy they invested still shapes the ground we walk. Their plows and wagons build the eastside grid.
  • Lastly, we put together a time capsule to pass forward to the future, a message in a bottle about what a strange time this has been.

Each lesson plan has a package of things to do and think about, from using old maps to drawing a map of your neighborhood today, to locating a current view from old photos, to exploring local parks in search of their history.

Enjoy.

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