Fun Fact # 58 Which Slabtown building has the tallest fire escape?

Fun Fact # 58 Which Slabtown building has the tallest fire escape?

Which Slabtown building has the tallest fire escape?

Answer: Montgomery Park has the tallest series of fire escapes and possibly the most banks of fire escapes in Slabtown.

Two banks of fire escapes on the north facade. Courtesy Unico Properties purchased building in 2019 from Bill Natio Comp.

Currently, this building is the second largest office building in Portland.  Montgomery Ward & Company building was a department store and warehouse distribution center in operation from 1920-1985.

Postcard c. 1920 showing the Portland Montgomery Ward & Co. building. There were similar buildings in Oakland, Chicago, Baltimore, Kansas City, St. Pauls, and Fort Worth.
Close up of a fire escape on the south facade.
Cropped in image from the historic marker in front of the fountain on the west side of the building. The building is under construction yet you can clearly make out a train locomotive peeking out of the building (c.1920)

I use to think historic postcards that are bereft of the fire escapes were pulling my leg when they depicted a train with smokestack billowing entering the structure.  In fact trains were able to deliver directly to basement. The building housed a postoffice for many years.

Fire escape used in Drug Store Cowboy:

The Irving Street Apartments’ (now “The Irving”) the fire escape was featured in Drugstore Cowboy (1989) American crime drama film directed Portland film maker Gus Van Sant.Link to all PDX Location in the film. Image MLS Listing
Fire escapes are not protected in Oregon, even when they were included in the original architectural drawings and are attached to designated landmark buildings, and like curb guards they are fading away. During Covid-19 you might be looking for something new to watch why not pick a movie that features a fire escape?
The Irving Street Apartments’ (now “The Irving”) the fire escape was featured in Drugstore Cowboy (1989) American crime drama film directed Portland film maker Gus Van Sant.Link to all PDX Location in the film. Image MLS Listing

Fun Fact #57 What is the oldest retail business in Northwest Portland?

Fun Fact #57 What is the oldest retail business in Northwest Portland?
Chown Hardware Exterior C. 1900 Courtesy Chown Hardware Pinterest Page

The oldest retail business in Northwest Portland is Chown Hardware dating back to 1879.  Still a family owned business that has evolved to meet the community needs.

Northwest’s Legacy Businesses

1875 Good Samaritan Hospital

1879 Chown Hardware

1885 Fruit & Flower

1903 Besaw’s (Not in Continuous Operation)

1926 Friendly House

1941 Joe’s Cellar

1944 Ring Side

1958 Radio Cab (founded in 1946, moved to headquarters on NW Kearney)

1962 Cinema 21 (Theater operations in space since 1926)

1965 William Temple House

1973 Food Front Co-op

1975 Kitchen Kaboodle

1978 Inn at Northrup Station (Carriage Inn)

1979 Twist, Child’s Play (Mud Puddle Toys founded 1987 merge 2017)

1980 Elephant’s Deli

1983 Jim & Patty’s (Coffee People), Papa Hayden, Escape From NY Pizza

1984 Tavern & Pool (McMenamins)

1985 Kornblatt’s NY Style Deli, Dazzle

1986 Nob Hill Bar and Grill (Nobby’s), NW Examiner

1989 Anna Bannana’s

1993 West Coast Bento

1994 The Marathon Tavern

1996 Coffee Time, Istanbul Rug Bazaar

1998 NW International Hostel

1997 Kelsall Chiropractic

2000 Vivace, Le Happy Creperia & Bar, Baue Thai, August Moon

2001 Ken’s Artisan Bakery, Yurs

2005 Dragonfly Coffee House

(Pending 21st Grill, Marrakesh, Nob Hill Shoe Repair, Ling Garden, Uptown Barber Shop, Delphinos/Serrotto)

May Day Fun Fact 56 What was Bloody Wednesday?

May Day Fun Fact 56 What was Bloody Wednesday?

Striking longshore workers occupy the railroad tracks near Pier Park and N. Columbia Blvd. courtesy of City of Portland Archives & Records A2004-002.9377,

What was Bloody Wednesday?

Bloody Wednesday on July 11, 1934 was a victory for the ILWU, in the effort to gain Union recognition.  The great West Coast Maritime Strike of 1934 left its mark in the trees of Pier Park.  Police shot at strikers blocking the train tracks leading to Terminal 4 in St. Johns,   Chief of Police B. K Lawson had been instructed to break the picket line. Four strikers Elmus W. Beatty, Peter Stephenson, Bert Yates and W. Huntington and many trees were shot by Portland Police.  “Police said not more than thirty-five shots were fired while strikers said several hundred were fired. Police Captain Fred West said a shot rang out in the woods of Pier park and men in brush and behind trees started a a rock bombardment. ‘I do not think anyone gave instructions to “fire” but the police considered themselves in danger.” (The Statesman Journal, July 12, 1934 pp 1,2).  The picket line held.

Fun Fact # 55 Marge Davenport, a staff writer for the Oregon Journal and author of several short story collections, wrote about many amazing dogs. Which dog from her books was the star of a silent film produced in Portland?

Fun Fact # 55 Marge Davenport, a staff writer for the Oregon Journal and author of several short story collections, wrote about many amazing dogs.  Which dog from her books was the star of a silent film produced in Portland?

Fun fact #55: Marge Davenport, a staff writer for the Oregon Journal and author of several short story collections, wrote about many amazing dogs. Which dog from her books was the star of a silent film produced in Portland?

Bobbie at The Reo restaurant at South Water St., Silverton.
Courtesy Vades Crockett, Silverton

The Brazier family of Silverton, Oregon—Frank, Elizabeth, Leona, and Nova—were the owners of Bobbie, a Scotch-collie dog was born in 1921. In 1923, when the Braziers were visiting relatives in Wolcott, Indiana, two-year-old Bobbie was attacked by three other dogs and fled. The Braziers searched for him around Wolcott, but eventually gave    up and returned home.

 

 

Where did the 3,000-mile journey of Bobbie the Wonder dog take him?

Oregonian (published as The Sunday Oregonian.) February 24, 1924 page 12

 

 

What made Bobbie so famous is that he travelled 3,000 miles to get home. Six months after going missing, “wonder dog” Bobbie came home, breaking the bedroom window to greet his master. Witnesses claimed Bobbie’s six-month, 3,000-mile journey started with him walking in ever-widening circles. Bobbie met lots of people on the way home to Silverton—one boy was nice enough to take Bobbie in and restore him to health. Bobbie then escaped and headed west and down the Gorge into Portland. Going south from there, Bobbie finally got back to Silverton.

The Call of the West featuring The wonder Dog “Bobbie” 1924 35mm nitrate film

A group of Portlanders made a silent film called “The Call of the West” , presented by the Columbia Feature Film Syndicate and featuring the actual Wonder Dog “Bobbie”. The film was directed by E. N. Camp, the scenario and title were by S. E. Chambers, and it was photographed by F. C. Heaton and Fred St John. The movie takes place before the family left for Wolcott, Indiana, presenting a fictional story using Bobbie the collie as the star. The plot begins with the dog being taken and driven off by a truck. Then the boy the dog belongs to in the movie gets help because he cannot drive to rescue his dog. He gets Bobbie back. He tries to convince a baseball team called the Tigers to let him be the team’s manager but a boy on the team said he has to pay for the team (or, as the boy puts, it “produce the coin”). He sells his dog to get the money for the baseball team but he steals Bobbie back from the man he sold Bobbie to. Link to watch the Movie. Link to Silverton Road Trip (since like me you’re stuck home out of school and can’t road trip right now. News story about Bobbie’s legacy).

Author of this Fun Fact was Berkeley Sherman’s Guest Author Age 12.  My son will be excited when school reopens.

Serious Fact #55.5 How Many Portlanders Died of the Spanish Influenza?

Serious Fact #55.5 How Many Portlanders Died of the Spanish Influenza?

Spanish Flu in Portland. October 10, 1918 to January 26, 1919, Portland had 16,633 reported cases of the Spanish Flu and 1,170 deaths. Former classmate and fellow PhD Andree Tremoulet assisted me with this graphic.

Today’s national news references to the 1918–1919 Spanish Influenza pandemic have focused on the contrasting experience of two cities—Philadelphia and St. Louis. In the face of the pandemic in September 1918, Philadelphia held a parade; over the next six months 16,000 residents died. St. Louis canceled its parade; its death toll was only 700. I wanted to learn more about Portland during the Spanish Flu—in particular how many people died in the 1918–1919 flu season? My article on the local quarantine history of that era will appear in the April issue of the NW Examiner. Until I can once again lead walking tours, I will continue to be a Portland history detective!

The answer: From October 10, 1918 to January 26, 1919, Portland had 16,633 reported cases of the Spanish Flu and 1,170 deaths (at that time Portland’s population was around 250,000). I spent weeks looking for daily reports of deaths in the local papers. Even when I found a hand-drawn chart prepared under the direction of Dr. A. C. Seely—which tabulated daily cases as reported to the city health bureau, the state board, and the consolidated health board for city and county—there was no summary data. I had to input Seely’s figures into Excel to show the answer.

City Comparison:

Nurse wearing a mask as protection against influenza. September 13, 1918. In October of 1918, Congress approved a $1 million budget for the U. S. Public Health Service to recruit 1000 medical doctors and over 700 registered nurses. Nurses were scarce, as their proximity to and interaction with the disease increased the risk of death. Record held at: National Archives at College Park, MD. Record number 165-WW-269B-5.

In February 1919, the Oregon Journal reported on deaths in various cities, but omitted a figure for Portland—so I added it back in. (The lack of record in the press is similar to my challenges years ago when looking for information on the smallpox cemetery. Out-of-state news press had more information on Portland than did our local press, which historically had wanted to boost Portland’s image and downplay the negative news.)

City-by city death toll as reported in the Oregon Journal 2/12/19 (with Portland’s figure included):

  • 18,590 Philadelphia
  • 14,563 New York
  • 7,584 Chicago
  • 3,165 San Francisco
  • 2,611 Los Angeles
  • 1,401 Kansas City
  • 1,170 Portland
  • 143 Louisville
  • 94 Grand Rapids
  • 59 Atlanta
  • 81,427 deaths in US

Links to great resources for further study: National Archives “The Deadly Virus”

A link to Portland on the Influenza Archive which uses a great methodology to determine the rate of death in 50 large US cities produced by Influenza Encyclopedia University of Michigan Library with funding from the CDC.  Their findings for Portland are higher than mine and worth exploration.

Fun Fact #54: Which Slabtown grade school student became the invisible Dodger?

Fun Fact #54: Which Slabtown grade school student became the invisible Dodger?
At the front of the hose, from left to right, are James Peterson and James McDowell, at the rear are James Green (in hat) and Captain James Neal, Charles Neal is watching in the background. Image Courtesy City of Portland Archives A2001-025.245 Guild’s Lake Jr. Fire Squad 1944

Charles Lenard Neal, a former student at Guild’s Lake School and member of the Guild’s Lake Fire Brigade, became the spidery speedster and batting star of the 1959 World Series. This fun fact was inspired by the Portland Diamond Project’s event celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Negro League.  While Charley is most identified with Texas, he lived briefly in WWII housing in Slabtown and grew up to play in the World Series. His parents were passionate about baseball. He began his career in the Negro Leagues with the Atlanta Black Crackers. Signed by the Dodgers in 1950, Charlie spent six years on the Dodgers’ minor league farm team, reaching the major leagues with the Dodgers in the 1956 season. In the majors he was mentored by Jim Gilliam and Jackie Robinson. He ended his profession baseball career playing for the NY Mets. He died in 1996, at age 85. For more  on Charlie Neal’s career I recommend a piece by Warren Corbett. Corbett coined the term the invisible Dodger because of the overall talent on the team during his career: “He was still invisible; several of his Topps baseball cards printed his name as “Charley” even though his autograph on the same card said “Charlie.” 

Image of 1959 World Series winning team. Courtesy Monroe Morning World, October 3, 1959, Page 11-A

1957 Topps-Baseball 242 With the miss spelling of Charlie-Neal’s 2nd Baseman for the Dodgers

I knew that Charlie—a Texan at heart—spent time in Slabtown, but I’ve found had no other evidence besides the single image taken by the Housing Authority of Portland,. He was not included in any of the Guild’s Lake School quarterlies, nor do his parents (Houston & Verdell Neal) appear in any Portland City Directories. The 1940 census lists four siblings: James (age 10), Charles (age 9), Harlod (age 6), and baby Vivian—all living in a home owned by their parents in Longview, Texas.

The Dodger of 1956 at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn Charles Neal is on the second row five in from the left his mentor Jackie Robinson is four more down. Courtesy Marty Lederhandler/Associated Press

Nob Hill Fun Fact #53 What bands might you have seen…1970s?

Question: What bands might you have seen at NW 21st and Irving in the 1970s?

Answer: Just to name a few: Dead Kennedys, The Ramones, The Dils, The Wipers, Rubbers, Smegma, Stiphnoyds, Inputs, Cleavers…  Numerous punk rock/new wave bands played at The Earth Tavern at 632 NW 21st.  The club offered all ages shows and some of the live recordings have made it in onto Youtube. This fun fact was a spin off from a real estate agent continuing education class I led last month.  Once we returned to the  Coldwell Banker Bain office at 636 NW 21st I was asked about the history of their office building.  I’m sure none of  these punk flyers are going up on the walls at the office.  Below I also imported in a flyer from a Food Front Fundraiser that included poets in-between sets, the local resident and author of Geek Love Katherine Dunn was on the list.

Nob Hill Fun Fact #52 Why do some curbs in Portland have metal curb guards?

Nob Hill Fun Fact #52 Why do some curbs in Portland have metal curb guards?
Question: Why do some curbs in Portland have metal curb guards?
 
Curb on NW19th and Flanders, Summer 2019.
 There are existing historic street pavements in Northwest Portland that were installed prior to the annexation of East Portland, Albina & St. Johns.  Many sidewalk curbs in the Alphabet Historic District had a simple “N” the mason’s kit was not missing the letter “W”.  The wrote iron or meta edge iron curb is not unique to Portland. And were often installed along dirt roads.  In the United States the metal on curb corners was used to prevent damage from the steel wheels of wagons just after the turn of the 19th century.

Pedestrian Facilities and ADA Compliance has over time slowly replaced a curiosity enjoyed along our tour routes. The arrival of tactile paving and curb cuts is laudable we only ask that you appreciate those that remain from our days when horses were the main source of transportation.  Lucky the horse rings are protected under current codes.  Our tours guests and guides appreciate that in 1903 the city phased out wooden sidewalks; the wooden sidewalks must have been quite slippery.

COVID-19 has stopped our tours for now. My family and I created a fun Curb Guard Scavenger Hunt. Link

Fun Fact #51 What is the name of the first park in St. Johns?

Fun Fact #51 What is the name of the first park in St. Johns?

c.1899 View of the picnic grounds in Cedar Grove along the St Johns railroad line. City Archives A2004-002.6027 Note that the females on the far left appear to be on a swing.

Clip of 1905 Sanborn Map of St. Johns showing Cedar Park

Answer the first park in St. Johns was Cedar Park.  You still will get full points if you answered Pier Park which is the oldest remaining park in St. Johns and the first public park in St. Johns. After the timeline there is additional information on Cedar Park.

St. Johns Parks Timeline 

c.1899 Cedar Park 3 acres – 10 acres Location: North Fessenden Pier. Named for the plentiful cedar trees in the park offered for sale $10,000 in 1907 trees cleared in 1909.

1920 Pier Park 87 acres 10325 N. Lombard Street. Named for Stanhope S. Pier in 1921, who served as a Portland city commissioner in the late 1920s and as acting mayor in 1931.

1932 Chimney Park 16.76 acres Location: 9360 N Columbia Blvd. Named the city incinerator chimney that was once at the site.

1941 St. Johns Par 5.77 acres Location: 8427 N. Central St. Named for pioneer James John who settled in the area in 1846.

1968 Cathedral Park dedicated opening in 1980 23.31 acres Location: N Edison Street and Pittsburg Ave. Named for the gothic arches under the St. Johns bridge.

1971 George Park 2.03 acres Location: N. Burr Ave. & Fessenden St. Named for US Congressman Melvin Clark George.

2015 “White Oaks” Location: N. Crawford St. & N. Polk 2.92 acres Former property of Simon Benson’s child, unnamed parked but there are two heritage white oak trees on the property.

More History of Cedar Park

The first park in St. Johns was Cedar Park; a private park owned by City and Suburban Railway Co. Lines Steam streetcars operated by City and Suburban Railway Co. Lines reached St. Johns in 1889. By 1900 the company’s trains arrived at St. Johns every 20 minutes.  Cedar Park was owned by City and Suburban Railway Co. and leased out to various managers over a few years.  There was a station a Cedar Park/Cedar Grove servicing the popular picnic amusement park with 500 electrified lights, a merry-go-round, little miniature railway (moved to Mt. Tabor).  The first electrified trains reached the park in 1903.

Fun Fact #50 Nonsensical Concrete Pads

Fun Fact #50 Nonsensical Concrete Pads

Cropped image of Water Towers with Ivy Forestry Center in background on the left.  Image Courtesy Norman Gholston

Are the concrete rectangular pads on the NE corner of NW 28th and Thurman the footings of the 1905 Lewis & Clark Exposition water towers?

Image of Norman Gholston standing on top of one of the cement pads June 2019.

The past is in itself unobservable. After leading walking tours past the empty lot across from Cracker Jacks on the NE corner of the intersection of NW 28th and Thurman for years, we were motivated to attempt to corroborate the water tower narrative because we thought that the site was finally going to be developed because of arrival of a construction fence. As historians we have to use indicators (in this case a cluster of concrete pads) and postulate a causal relation between the observable facts. Typically, on tours the pads are not that exciting so they never made it onto the tour as a stopping point.

Cropped image of the Water Towers c. 1905 pre-ivy Curtesy Norman Gholston
Zoomed in scan of a 1905 Souvenir Map. Courtesy City of Portland Archives and Records Center.

Using the lens of the archeologist we explored the theory that the multiple concrete pads were the remainders of the footings of massive water towers. Neighbors, using the image of the 1905 exposition’s fairgrounds as shown in contemporary guidebooks, had asserted that this was the site of the water towers, so it seemed reasonable. However, the layout of the fair was on a different axis than the street grid iron, which can throw us off.

Zoom and cropped image from June 1905 Color Portland Sanborn Map

But when we opened up the June 1905 Sanborn map to the page for the site, we could see that in 1905 our location contained the western end of the Museum of Art (“Fine Art Building”), not the water towers, which were farther north, in the middle of what is now the intersection of NW 28th and Upshur. It is possible the concrete pads are related to that building—more research and measuring is needed. Unfortunately the artistic rendering map of the 1905 “Lewis and Clark Centennial and American Pacific Exposition and Oriental Fair” has created a false narrative. We reached out to the long time owners of the property based on a neighbor recalling witnessing the arrival of the pads 30 years ago.  They kindly responded “they were footings for a mixed use building (commercial and residential) that we were going to build in the mid 1990s…there is no interesting historical story behind the vacant lot.”  There may be no remains from the 1905 Fair but there is an interesting historical story.

Marketing Materials lead us astray, but it was a fun history hunt.