Slabtown Tours Fun Fact #38

Slabtown Tours Fun Fact #38
Portland Ice Hippodrome c. 1914 Angelus Studio Courtesy University of Oregon. Libraries. Special Collections University Archives

What is left of Slabtown’s Olympic-Sized Ice Rink?

The Portland Ice Hippodrome opened on November 9, 1914 at 20th Avenue between Marshall and Northrup Streets. The structure covered two city blocks (175 x 360 feet) and offered seating for 5,000 and surface ice for 2,500 skaters (but you might want to bring your own skates). Twenty miles of pipe kept the ice surface frozen at 12 degrees above zero and two and a half inches thick, spanning 321 feet by 85 feet. It was the greatest and largest artificial ice rink in the world when it opened and the lead instructor was James Bourke, a champion figure skater known as the “Canadian Crack Shot”, once mentored by Norval Baptie.

Courtesy The Oregon Journal

From out of this arena that the “Portland Rosebuds” (officially the “Patricks”) came the first American hockey team engraved onto the first Stanley Cup—back in 1915–16 when safety equipment was minimal and they technically did not win the game. The original “Portland Buckaroos” played there 1928–1941.








Advertisement 1913 Oregon Daily Journal


The broken wall sections are all that remains. (Image TLM)

The remaining evidence of the massive ice skating arena is a former retaining wall (running in a jagged pattern along former party wall) painted blue just west of Marshall Manor. The cost to maintain the ice and cover the lease payments proved unsustainable for the owners. The ice rink (also known as Portland Ice Palace) reopened as Coliseum Ice in 1925, and was commonly referred to as the Marshall Street Ice Rink.


The city was never confident in the structure’s supporting system and forced it to close in the 1950s because of fire safety egress limitations.

Fun Fact #37 Bat Light

Fun Fact #37 Bat Light
Above is the Mackenzie house light. Where you see two light bulbs was once were gas jets flamed forth to light the entry.

The original cast for these bat lights is from the Mackenzie House. The Nathan Lob House (726 NW 22nd) is also has one that quite possibly is a replica. The original lamp at the Mackenzie House was a interior gas lamp. In Scottish folklore the bat is associated with witches, dark magic, sorcery and necromancy.   The bat in this piece of art is the messenger between witches and the devil. Satan is often depicted in art with bat-like wings where as angles have bird-like wings.

Hand caste replica sold online by Rejuvenation.


The snake, on the other hand, is a symbol of medicine. This single snake on a rod is not the common medical symbol–the caduceus, which features two, snakes a stick and wings. This is linked to the Greek God Hermes–the rod had been a gift from Apollo and the snakes were battling and the rod was used to separate them.   Doctors traveled and the walking stick was associated with itinerate medical men and Hermes the winged god was  their patron saint.

The Mackenzie House in Nob Hill

Dr. Mackenzie was a Scot and a prominent physician. The lamp in the entry of his house, (615 NW 20th /2023 NW Hoyt) with the snake over the bat, depicts the triumph of medicine over the occult.  A single snake on a rod it is the asklepian (the Rod of Asclepius son of Apollo). The snake that’s wrapped around the rod may symbolize rejuvenation and held by the deity of medicine and healing.

Update 9-7-18:

The house is currently on the market. This is an image from Dan Volkmeer’s Marketing Materials a well lit image of the famous bat light.

Fun Fact #36

Fun Fact #36

How many houses have been moved in the Alphabet Historic District?

Morris Marks House September 30, 2017. Karen Karlsson, Felicia Williams & Tanya March


The Morris Marks House was cut in half and moved in two parts across PSU this past weekend—that got us thinking.  In early Portland moving houses was once more common—horses and oxen would pull houses set on rolling logs. 



Which structures do we know were moved around in the Alphabet Historic District?

1970 Captain John Brown House Courtesy: & Mike Ryerson

The first that comes to mind is the Captain John Brown House; it was moved from 2035 NW Everett to Couch Park in the 1970s, but that effort failed and the house was eventually demolished.  Adding up structures from memory, asking Rick Michaelson, going over Mike Ryerson photo files and consulting and the Alphabet Historic District Nomination, I came up with at least ten more:

The Elliston in 1903 Courtesy Mike Ryerson

1) The Elliston Apartments (425 NW 18th, NW Portland Hostel), moved from the SW Park Blocks by oxen.

The Lawn Apartments Courtesy: Norman Gholston

2) The Lawn Apartments (133 NW 18th Avenue, AKA George H. Williams Townhouses), moved within the same block in 1922.

1731 NW Glisan Courtesy:

3) 1731 NW Glisan (built in 1890), moved from Good Samaritan Hospital to current location in 1978.

4) 1721-1723 NW Glisan (built in 1886), moved within the block 1978.


Mike Ryerson watching 504 Lovejoy house being moved December 1977.

5) 504 NW 18th (built in 1906), relocated from 2188 NW Lovejoy in 1977.

6) 2067 NW Lovejoy (built in 1890), moved to lot in 1928.  Is currently occupied by a business “A Women’s Time”.

7) 2061 NW Hoyt (built in 1884), moved from NW 17th between Kearny & Lovejoy c. 1916.

8) 621-623 NW 22nd (According to the AHD Nomination, pp. 150-51, a 1894 building on this site was demolished in 1930 and this duplex structure was moved onto the location c. 1930, the MLS and Portland Maps thinks this is the 1894 building but the State Historic Preservation Office has the Mary Shephard House as c. 1930)

516 NW 18th City Archives and Record Center

9) 516 NW 18th (William H. Doran House built in 1886), moved from NW 17th Ave and NW Flanders Street in 1977 and is currently for sale.  Image to left clearly shows the building upon bricks with faux tarpaper like brick exterior.  This Italianate has been lovingly restored and you would not believe it to be the structure in this image.

Courtesy: Mike Ryerson

10)  1628 NW Everett (built 1880) The image on the left taken by Mike Ryerson and a story Rick Michaeson about a house he moved to Everett getting stuck leads me to conclude this Italianate was moved despite the fact that the AHD Nomination does not indicate that Thomas & Lizzie Whalen house was ever moved.

Of course, there are also the houses/apartments moved from the 1905 Lewis & Clark World’s Fair site.  Join us for our tours of Slabtown and St. Johns neighborhoods to learn more moved building stories.

 How many more can you help us identify???


Fun Fact #35 How many blocks in Slabtown were slated for Urban Renewal/Residential Demolition in 1952?

Fun Fact #35 How many blocks in Slabtown were slated for Urban Renewal/Residential Demolition in 1952?
Vaughn Street Urban Renewal 1952 Housing Authority of Portland map 

The 1950s Vaughn Street Redevelopment Area’s project area included 44 blocks (35 whole blocks and 9 partial blocks details shown on map to the right). They spanned NW 18th to 27th and NW Savier to York. Three areas in the city of Portland were surveyed for urban renewal, and according to a Housing Authority of Portland report in August 1952 “the Vaughn Street area was most in need of such a plan”. Albina and South Portland were razed; Vaughn Street avoided Urban Renewal in 1952–53. While many Slabtown homes were lost to the Fremont Bridge anchors, the 1963 highway project, and the 1970s I-505 debacle, in the end rapid population growth and high land values sealed the fate of these “blighted” homes.

The Vaughn Street urban renewal area intended to maintain many commercial structures in good repair, “…but all residential structures will have to be removed because the area will be redeveloped for commercial and industrial purposes.” The redevelopment agency intended to help renters find other adequate housing within their means. Rental properties, such as the Fairmont Hotel at 26th and Upshur, would not have yet had landmark status and would have met the wrecking ball. Although the judges considered the area blighted, activist residents defeated the effort in the courts and they rallied—150 strong—and won at City Hall on May 26, 1953. Protecting the dwellings surveyed by HAP, housing 900 families (53% of whom owned their homes), the activists were described as having a “vindictive resistance toward the encroachment of industry”.

Fun Fact #34 Meteorite Drops By Slabtown

Fun Fact #34 Meteorite Drops By Slabtown

When did the largest recorded meteorite drop by Slabtown?

While the Willamette Meteorite now lives in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, in 1905 it first came to Slabtown to be displayed at the Lewis & Clark Fair. It is believed to be the iron core of a planet that shattered in a stellar collision billions of years ago. The artifact had spiritual meaning for the indigenous people of the area. Sadly, when the Willamette Meteorite was found in 1902 by Ellis Huges (an early settler in West Linn) he started a chain of events that separated “Tomanowos” from the Clackamas people. Mr. Huges found the 15.5-ton meteorite on his neighbor’s land. After failing to purchase the adjoining parcel from the Oregon Iron and Steel Company, he dragged the meteorite ¾ of a mile over to his property, with the assistance of horses and family members—it took him 90 days. The meteorite heist was quickly prosecuted when he was brash enough to charge the public admission to see it. This significant rock had traveled from Canada or Montana some 12,000 years ago in the Missoula Floods. Its short trip to Slabtown, on a specially-built horse-drawn wagon, was barely recorded in the press at the time, owing to the number of 1905 Fair activities. It was sold by Oregon Iron and Steel to a New York socialite who donated it to the Museum in New York.

Courtesy University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections Division 1905 Transportation of meteorite to L&C Fair grounds.


However, you don’t need to fly to the Big Apple to experience the meteorite. There are two replicas in Oregon—at the United Methodist Church in West Linn and at the University of Oregon in Eugene. A piece of the original meteorite is in the Museum of the Oregon Territory in Oregon City, and another is in the collection of the Oregon Historical Society—Executive Director Kerry Tymchuk loves to show to visitors.

Image courtesy Norman Gholston, Slabtown historian, from his trip to NYC with family c. 2015.



From the plaque in New York: “The Clackamas named the meteorite ‘Tomanowos’. According to the traditions of the Clackamas, Tomanowos is a revered spiritual being that has healed and empowered the people of the valley since the beginning of time. The Clackamas believe that Tomanowos came to the valley as a representative of the Sky People and that a union occurred between the sky, earth, and water when it rested on the ground and collected rainwater in its basins.“

Fun Fact #33: What’s Home Front Activity might have contributed to the Vanport Flood?

Fun Fact #33: What’s Home Front Activity might have contributed to the Vanport Flood?
Image of War Surplus Trailer at Guilds Lake Courts Courtesy Norman

In 1948 many victims of the Vanport Flood were relocated to the Slabtown neighborhood.  Some white families were placed in existing defense housing in Guild’s Lake Courts and charged $48/month in rent.  Other families (disproportionately families of color) were housed in surplus trailers and charged $32/month in rent.  These families were assisted by local organizations like Fruit & Flower and Friendly House to overcome the trauma. The desperation for scrap metal  home front activity we hypothesize was responsible for the failure of the railroad “dike” (berm).

Lincoln High School Students Oregon Journal  October 11, 1942

Metal used for tanks, guns, ships required 50% scrap metal.  The desirability of metal is possibly responsible for the weak structure of the berm, 200 section of the berm collapsed. The Vanport Flood  forced 100s of families to relocate to Slabtown. Home Front children were active in efforts to win the war. Lincoln High School was the high school that geographically served the Guild’s Lake Courts Defense Housing project.  Propaganda like this intentional dehumanized the enemy. In researching three similar earthen dam failures each flood could be attributed to the removal of the metal pipes intended to relieve the pressure on the structure. The Johnstown, PA Southern Fork Dam was designed in 1840.  Like the structure in Oregon it bust during heavy May rain fall.  The Johnstown Flood killed 2,208 people the official narrative of the Vanport Flood was that 15 people were killed.  Similarities between the conditions leading up to these two late May floods include excessive melting of snow pack, and excessive rain.

Image courtesy Johnstown Area Heritage Association

In 1875 Pennsylvania Railroad sold the damaged dam Southern Fork Dam.  The new owners further compromised the dam by removing the cast iron valves and pipes and sold them for scrap.  The dam and surrounding property was flipped again in 1879 for the development of a resort.  This narrative of metal relief systems is not unique it has just been well documented in English because of the overwhelming death toll.



Guild’s Lake Clean Up Week Courtesy City Of Portland Actives and Record Center.


Help Beat the Axis

Scrap drives like the purchase of war bonds and war stamps in WWII were competitive.  Papers ran head lines with “Get in the SCRAP …for Victory.  America’s War Plants Must Have Scrap Now! This Job Is YOURS! IT is Urgent!” It is Vital! WE MUST NOT Fail!”  over of $2,000 of prizes were offered the Oregon County able to bring in the most scraps.  School had their own scrap drives.  Scrap “harvesting” was a patriotic effort “if you fail some boy will die”.   Half the metal in ever tank, gun and ship was scrap metal.  If on the home front if everyone’s duty was to lick the shortage of scrap metal and “every pound is a slap at the j*** and a swat at the swastika” it follows that some old metal pipes in an earthen rail road berm (referred to more often as a dike or dam) would be repurposed for an effort that was encourage as a necessity for victory.

Fun Fact #32 What’s the story behind Sherlock Street a wee bit of Irish History in Slabtown?

Fun Fact #32 What’s the story behind Sherlock Street a wee bit of Irish History in Slabtown?

Sherlock Street is a short street in Northwest Portland named for an Irish immigrant. William Sherlock was born in Newross, Ireland, in 1817; he arrived in Portland, OR in March of 1850. This early Portland pioneer was a horse aficionado and operated a livery business (hackney cabs). His mansion was located on NW 21st in Nob Hill but the street named for him is close to the river, near the edge of his 45-acre site known as Sherlock’s Addition. He was often seen around town with one of his eleven children, and was able to retire in 1876 (died 1901, estate settled 1903). William Sherlock owned the land where the Sherlock Building stands today.

Want to learn more about prominent Irish in Portland? here are just few:

Patrick & Bridget Ryan. Bridget Higgins Ryan (b. 1850, d. 1934) She opened “Pacific House” on 3rd & Ankeny, a boarding house in Portland with two fellow Irish women. She married Patrick Ryan in 1882; a decade later they built the Ryan Hotel on SW Fifth Street across from City Hall.

Johns Wilson (b. 1826, d. 1900) arrived in Oregon in 1849 (his personal library collection is housed in the Central Library in the Johns Wilson Rare Book Room).

Dr. Marie Equi, an anarchist who took particular interest in immigrant rights, advocated for the eight hour day.

James & Katherine Barrett. James was born in Odorney, County Kerry, in Irelamd in 1855. An impressive mason, he played a key role in the construction of St. Patrick’s Church (completed in 1891) and Trinity Episcopal Church, as well as a number of stone houses

Stephen J. McCormick was mayor of Portland (1858-1859) and the first president of the Portland Hibernian Benevolent Society.

St. Patrick’s Day Parades use to start at St. Lawrence Catholic Church in old South Portland and end at St. Mary’s Cathedral (in Nob Hill).

Nob Hill Slabtown Fun Fact #31: Why is there such a variety of exotic trees at Couch Park?

Nob Hill Slabtown Fun Fact #31: Why is there such a variety of exotic trees at Couch Park?
North Pacific Sanatorium Postcard copyright: Norman Gholston

Couch Park has amazing trees—40 different species. Our current snowstorm drew my attention back to our local arboretum. According to the Couch Park 2003 Master Plan, “The variety and beauty of the many trees in the park are its most valuable resource.” Tree maven Phyllis Reynolds, an amazing historian, botanist, and author, helped write “The Trees of Couch Park”. But the history represented on the map left out an interesting reason for the park’s tree diversity.

The variety of trees is not just the results of planting efforts by Portland’s elite. The exotic trees were planted as part of the marketing of the North Pacific Sanatorium (1901–10), an adaptive reuse effort that repurposed the Levi White residence. The facility was rebranded as the Portland Convalescent Home (1911–12).  As the wealthy recovered in this post-hospital care facility with top doctors, the grounds were planted with amazing trees from around the world. The sanatorium (a sanitarium is a health resort) operated on two full city blocks. Sanatoriums advertised themselves in the Polk Directories (the old-fashioned version of the white and yellow pages); this one’s advertisement read: “Grounds covering nearly two blocks, beautifully adorned by more than a hundred varieties of ornamental trees and shrubs, gathered at great expense from every continent of the globe. Rugged and picturesque scenery with four eternally snow-capped mountains (Mts. Hood-Adams-Rainer and St. Helens), with the beautiful Willamette River and the busy harbor of Portland to claim attention and cheer the view presented from the Sanitarium, a private hospital owned and controlled by medical men.” Guest also sent out postcards with images of the facility much like one would expect of a hotel rather than an assisted care center.  Interest in more history of Couch Park head over to our blog.

Slabtown Nob Hill Fun Fact #30: The American Inn a small piece of a historic hotel saved

Slabtown Nob Hill Fun Fact #30: The American Inn a small piece of a historic hotel saved
The American Inn (Courtesy Normal Gholston) A view with Guild’s Lake in the foreground.











Yes the American Inn Condominiums were build out of materials from the American Inn

The images I have come across over the years are like the one above.  I thought it was possible that the center section was saved and moved to NW Northrup.  I only recently found an advertisment below for the hotel and realized that the hotel was a much more massive building than I had previously thought.

John Karlyle had a permit out for a new three-story “flats” structure on July 25, 1906-December 22, 1906 permit for 691 Northrup street. What was exciting was the hand scrawled note on the back of the permit card.” This bldg., is built with material from the American inn if the fair grounds.” More curious perhaps was the note on the other side of the card “This man I had arrested for doing work with out license.” The permit had no name of the plumber just “hired [his] owner.” Pretty exciting that a hundred years ago a city inspector could have a contractor arrested.

The advertisement below right is from the Sunday Oregonian August 26, 1906 for a “high-class Hotel” situated at 689-691-6930695 Northrup Street to be completed next month. The drawing looks far more akin to the American Inn than the reality on the street today. With this drawing in hand in the field you can see where many of the decretive front façade columns and porch features were once attached. The stucco patches are clearly visible and the doors to nowhere on the second and third floors would have once been for access to the former porches.


Oregonian Ad for the completion of the Hotel on NW Northrup
Oregonian Ad for the completion of the Hotel on NW Northrup August 26, 1906 p 18- the address of the agent at the bottom and the 1930s change of address and no referance to the American Inn  made this ad a hidden treasure.
"The American Inn, World's Fair Grounds, Portland Oregon" The Pacific Monthly-Advertising Section
“The American Inn, World’s Fair Grounds, Portland Oregon” The Pacific Monthly-Advertising Section 1905











The permit card was enough to close the case.



Slabtown Nob Hill Fun Fact #29: Where was the Pest House?

Slabtown Nob Hill Fun Fact #29: Where was the Pest House?


The first official municipal “pest house” opened in Portland in 1862. It was a private home rented to the city for the purpose of quarantining the communicable sick. Not everyone ended up in the pest house—private homes would fly a yellow flag in warning if there were ill residents under quarantine. In September 23, 1873 the Oregon Statesman reported that “the pest house had burned on Wednesday morning”, with no location noted.

In 1873 the city of Portland built a pest house alongside Balch Creek to quarantine smallpox cases and possibly other illnesses such as leprosy.  The city auditor selected the site because a tract of land near the head of “Giles’ Lake” had been offered to the city for that purpose—however the connecting road cost several thousand dollars to construct. (East Portland also had a pest house.) In November 1888 the Albany Daily Democrat accused the Oregonian of underreporting the number of smallpox cases in Portland. A reporter from the Pioneer had enumerated 30 houses flying smallpox flags and had been informed upon his visit to the pest house that there were 20 smallpox patients receiving care.

Man with Small Pox
The New Northwest (Portland, Oregon) · Fri, Jun 21, 1872 (There are no known images of the Balch Creek Pest House)

While tuberculosis was the leading cause of death in the city in 1897, smallpox was a constant threat (in 1889 there had been a smallpox epidemic).  The police chief, James Lappeus, was tasked with bringing infected individuals to the Balch Creek pest house for care and treatment.

The Oregon Daily Journal reported on Sep. 3, 1902 that for $500 dollars Dr. James C. Zan would arrange for the architect and to have the new main pest house building constructed, in order to separate the confirmed cases from symptoms of a suspicious nature. Dr. Zan was the health officer for the city from 1900 to 1905. Fatalities from smallpox were not uncommon and victims were often interred in unmarked graves under what is now Montgomery Park’s parking lot. In 1903 the Oregonian tried to upset readers by reporting that the pest house residents were living large at the city’s expense with the headline “Smallpox Patients are Banqueted like Monarchs”.