Sam Olimansky 1882-1974

Solomon “Sammy” Olimansky was a prolific builder on Portland’s eastside from the mid 1920s until the late 1940s. He did it all, from laying out foundations and pouring concrete slabs to building and fitting kitchen cabinets. With his wife Eva as business manager, his homebuilding enterprise sustained a family and grandchildren and launched family building careers for two generations.

Olimansky was born July 20, 1882 in the Stolin District, Brest Region, Belarus, originally part of Poland at the time, and today part of Russia. While as a younger man in his home country, Sam had apprenticed as a violin maker. Sam and his wife Eva left Russia in November 1907, traveling to New York and settling for a decade in Bayonne, New Jersey. He was a talented carpenter, cabinet builder and finish carpenter and quickly found work across the greater New York area. His 1918 U.S. draft registration card lists his profession as “Carpenter, Atlantic Loading Company,” and his home as 640 Avenue C., Bayonne, NJ.

In 1919, Sam and Eva left New Jersey for Oregon. The first reference of his building business in Portland was a classified ad that ran in The Oregonian beginning in October 1919.

Olimansky was devout in his Jewish faith and began each day in prayer. In Portland, he and Eva settled in the tightly-knit Jewish community in South Portland (a 54-square-block area that was demolished in the late 1950s and early 1960s during “urban renewal” of that era). According to his grandson Gil Olman, Sam was also a lay leader in Synagogue Sharrie-Torah where among other duties he was responsible for directing how the dead were prepared for burial, a deep honor filled with respect.

Olman—who learned the building trade from his own father George Olman and grandfather Sam Olimansky—remembers Sam’s work ethic, his design and building abilities, and his simplicity as a person. And the way he enjoyed talking with other people in a fast-paced half-Yiddish and half-English. Many of Gil Olman’s recollections about Sam and his grandmother Eva are from that Portland homeplace, which Sam built himself near the corner of Southwest 3rd and Lincoln, and where Yiddish was the primary language spoken.

“In the evening he would come home, rummage around in his suitcoat pocket, which he always wore even to work—to find a half-smoked cigarette. He never smoked a full cigarette.” Gil remembers that Sam was known to sketch out building plans on an envelope or scrap of paper pulled from his coat pocket that he would bring into the building bureau in City Hall for inspectors to review and write a permit. “’Hello Sammy!’ They would say when he would walk in with his scrap of paper in his hand,” remembers Gil. “Everybody knew Sammy and he was always happy to meet people.”

Gil remembers his grandfather as a person who could build or fix anything and was both frugal and practical. During his growing up years, Gil spent long hours straightening out pulled nails for his grandfather so they could be reused.

Sam and Eva were successful in becoming naturalized United States citizens in 1956. Copies of their citizenship applications and their final certified documents are in the digital collection, including photos of both of them from 1956.

As Portland’s homebuilding business heated up in the early 1920s, Sam’s work shifted from casework, cabinets and office fittings to homes. The earliest documented Olimansky-built home is the duplex at 3113-3115 NE Broadway, built in October 1925 for $4,000.

Here is a list of Olimansky-built properties identified during research through building permits, early newspapers and with the help of Sam’s grandson Gil Olman:

Address Date Comment
Torn down 3250 Schuyler


11-24-1924 $4,000 House was at the corner of 33rd and Schuyler where Jackson’s empty store is today.
3113-3115 NE Broadway 10-25-1925 $4,000. Yellow duplex at 31st and Broadway N. Side.
3712 NE 13th 1-15-1926 $2,500 Lot 6, Block 10
1317 NE Beech 1-5-1926 Lot 6 & 7, Block 10 There was an old house here torn down in 1925
2807 NE Hancock 11-3-1926 $4,000 between 38th & 39th
1916 NE 28th Ave 11-3-1926 Between Hancock and Tillamook
1003 NE Thompson 6-5-1927 $6,500 Duplex
1710 SE 42nd 1-19-1931
1718 SE 42nd 8-8-1930 Between Clay and Harrison
Torn down 5207 NE 35th 2-6-1931 $3,500 (between Alberta-Webster)
Torn down 5140 NE 34th 4-19-1931 Sold to Keith LeRoy
2205 NE 19th 7-18-1931 $3,500 Turreted
3221 NE 30th 5-25-1931 $3,000
1625 SE Holly 2-5-1936 $2,800
2804 SE Lincoln 11-7-1937 Sold to Edwin Kaufman
3341 SE Lincoln 8-14-1938 The turret becomes a peak
2429 SE 89th 1-29-1939

Photo from 1-29-1939 advertisement

405 SE 32nd 7-28-1939 $3,000
3260 NE US Grant Place 8-1940 Per Gil Olman Interview, 2-28-2019
836 NE Pacific 3-29-1942


Duplex. Photo from 3-29-1942 advertisement

3535 SE Tibbetts
7606 SE Flavel 1950 A series of connected apartments
7620 SE Flavel 1949
7632 SE Flavel 1951 Remembered by Gil as Sam’s final project.
7642 SE Flavel 1949
7706 SE Flavel 1940
7226 SE Flavel 1941


Here’s a gallery of buildings by Sam Olimansky. There are some notable family resemblances.

3113-3115 NE Broadway  | 1925

3221 NE 30th  |  1932

1625 SE Holly  |  1936

3341 SE Lincoln  |  1938

3260 NE U.S. Grant Place  | 1940


An interview with Sam Olimansky in the September 5, 1971 edition of The Oregonian included memories of his early years in the homebuilding business:

From The Oregonian, September 5, 1971

Eva Olimansky died in Portland on June 5, 1964. Sam died in Portland on October 4, 1974 at age 93. They are buried at Shaarie Torah Cemetery.