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

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?


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”.


Slabtown Fun Fact #27: Where is Fordham Heights?

Slabtown Fun Fact #27: Where is Fordham Heights?

fordham_heightsAnswer: “Fordham Heights is situated at the head of Lovejoy and Northrup streets”

Having successfully reintegrated the name “Nob Hill” into the urban fabric in the 1970s, a decade ago Mike Ryerson recruited his friends to bring the “Slabtown” name back to the working-class section of NW 23rd.

Resurrecting historic place names takes time and sometimes becomes confusing. For example, the “Alphabet District” is larger than the Alphabet National Register Historic District, but despite the subtle difference, they suffice as wayfinding devices. Perhaps historic place names only matter when word-searching text from the distant past to delve into the community’s neighborhood history.

But the heritage of a place can be rooted in disused names. The old names convey and embody heritage, but if they have fallen out of use they can lack a tangible connection. Historic names are like dates—often tedious and requiring rote memorization. Once we lose the oral use of a place name it can be lost to collective memory. With the advent of the car it seems to me that many mini-neighborhoods have morphed into larger tracts of land/geography and melded into one larger place name.

We at Slabtown Tours work with the Dan Volkmer Team, Northwest Children’s Theater, and the Northwest Neighborhood Cultural Center to produce an annual home tour on Father’s Day. The tour runs from 11am to 4pm on Sunday, June 19, 2016.

The theme of this year’s event is The Fifth Annual Walking Tour: Historic Homes of Old Nob Hill. The homes are clustered near the top of Lovejoy. (The all-volunteer team was not comfortable with any of the titles I had brainstormed, either because of a double-entendre or because the names had fallen out of use. The struggle to “brand” an event was exacerbated by a desire to retain historic integrity yet define a sense of place that the visitor could identify. Since no one recalls Fordham Heights or Goldsmith Hill those were unusable.)

Here are some forgotten Northwest Portland place names:
Atkinson’s Addition: Upshur, between 25th & 26th.

Blythswood: On Thurman & Aspen, the northwest part of Willamette Heights.

Fordham Heights: The south side of Cornell, northwest of the top of Marshall.

Goldsmith Hill: The top of Lovejoy, Marshall, and Northrup Streets

Murhard Tract: North side Thurman, west side 21st.

Nob Hill Terrace: Top of Lovejoy.

Wilson’s Addition: North side of Thurman at 23rd.

Whitechapel District: 14 blocks, bounded by SW Pine, Second, NW Flanders and Fourth