Frank Read 1885-1950

Lifetime Portland resident Frank Read had an eye for Tudor and colonial-influenced architecture. Of the 18 homes he built in Alameda Park, all but his first (which was a bungalow) trace their design roots to those styles. A cluster of nearby homes built in the late 1930s and 1940s near the Alameda Ridge have colonial roots. Others are from the Tudor revival style complete with exterior faux beams. In addition to being the general contractor, Read was also likely the primary designer of these homes, a common practice during this period.

3025 NE Dunckley, built by Frank A. Read in April 1939 at a cost of $10,000. Photo courtesy of John Haleston

3025 NE Dunckley, built by Frank A. Read in April 1939 at a cost of $10,000. Photo courtesy of John Haleston

His colonial-influenced homes are distinctive for their use of a garrison style overhang between the first and second floor, and pendant “drops” at the corners. He was also fond of plunging rooflines from the roof peak to just above the entry, tracing a link to early 17th Century New England homes. Regardless of design reference, Frank Read homes used many of the same building materials.

In addition to Read’s strong sense for design, he clearly had good business sense for real estate development and for construction economies of scale. The above-the-ridge homes are all located within 100 yards of each other. The places he chose to build were a quick walk from a stop on the Broadway streetcar which ran to 29th and Mason. Read had a good eye for developing the best of the remaining lots in the neighborhood that had not been built on until the 1930s.

Read was born in Portland on October 5, 1885 and lived here all his life. He died on June 20, 1950, survived by his wife Mae and three brothers. Mae, seven years his junior, died less than a month later on July 17, 1950. The 1930 Federal Census shows Frank and Mae living in Laurelhurst at 3469 NE Oregon. Polk city directories verify the Reads as long-time occupants of that home-it’s where they were living in 1950. The 1920 Federal Census shows them renting on NE 67th Avenue.

No obituary for Read appears in The Oregonian, though death notices for Frank run in the paper for several days and a funeral notice as well. A brief three-paragraph obituary ran in The Oregon Journal on June 24, 1950 (below).

Frank Read Obituary, Oregon Journal, 24 June 1950

Frank Read Obituary, Oregon Journal, 24 June 1950

The obituary describes Read as a builder and contractor for 40 years, so it is reasonable to surmise that other houses he built or worked on are in neighborhoods throughout the city. A search of permits for the Alameda Park, Olmsted, Homedale, Irvington and George Place additions (component parts of today’s Alameda Neighborhood) show 16 other homes built by Read. The earliest of his work I have found is a bungalow style home at 3630 NE 22nd Avenue, built in 1923. The other homes, including permit dates and construction cost, are listed below: 

Homes built by Frank A. Read

 2244 NE Alameda      3 April 1936                             $8700

2645 NE Alameda,     7 January 1936                      $8,700

2705 NE Alameda      2 July 1935                              $8,500

3100 NE Alameda      10 March 1938                       $9,000

3141 NE Alameda      7 May 1941                             $12,000

3265 NE Alameda      15 September 1934              $10,000

3015 NE Dunckley     5 January 1939                        $9,000

3025 NE Dunckley     3 April, 1939                           $10,000

3055 NE Dunckley     17 November 1938                 $8,000

3129 NE Bryce           30 September 1939                 $7,800

3137 NE Bryce           16 November 1939                 $8,500

2105 NE Klickitat      1938

3630 NE 22nd              22 June 1923                           $5,800

3733 NE 28th              20 March, 1935                       $9,000

4213 NE 28th              15 July, 1924                           $5,700

3838 NE 29th              23 June 1939                           $7,800

4040 NE 29th              21 February 1940                 $6,000

4050 NE 29th              21 February 1940                 $6,000


I’m confident there are others in the neighborhood, so I will add to this list over time.

Resources regarding Oregon and Portland architects/builders do not list Frank A. Read, which is not unusual. Other home builders as prolific as Read are also not mentioned.

-Doug Decker

9 responses

  1. He was active in Laurelhurst in the 1920s. So far I’ve found 29 homes and I’m only halfway done looking up all the houses (4 in 1922). He built an impressive number of houses! His brother must also have been a builder because he built homes in Laurelhurst too.

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  4. does anyone know if Frank Read was an avid photographer and was in british honduras 1910, 1920? trying to find the frank read that took some great pics in central america . there are some for sale on ebay. could this be the correct person? i guess family would know

    • Hi Jenny. This is not the same Frank Read. According to the US census, the Portland homebuilder Frank was here in Portland with with May, listed as a building contractor.

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