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.

Fun Fact #49 What famous Trail Blazer’s ponytail was cut off at a barbershop on NW 23rd?

Fun Fact #49 What famous Trail Blazer’s ponytail was cut off at a barbershop on NW 23rd?

Answer: William Theodore Walton III, No. 32 Portland Trail Blazer


Bill Walton was known for his genius on the basketball court; he stood out with his Hippie hairstyle, vegetarianism and radical politics. Four decades before Ariana Grande’s ponytail was making headlines, this basketball player’s spectacular ponytail was in the news. NBA’s hippie superstar and 1974 first draft pick, 1978 Most Valuable Player, had an unique look on the court.

Before moving to Portland’s Nob Hill, the San Diego native was college player of the year playing at U.C.L.A., 1970 -1974 where he led the Bruins to 88 consecutive wins and two national championships. In 1977 Trailblazer Bill Walton was the Grand Marshall of the event “Splash,” a neighborhood fair and parade. The parade went from Couch Park to Wallace Park. His basketball career ended in 1986 after a foot operation. His connection with the Patty Hearst kidnappers, radical activists Jack and Micki Scott, is still being explored. Bill Walton is the most decorated player in the Blazer franchise history.

Barber Ed Delia was 72-years-old when he became nationally known for cutting off Bill Walton’s famous ponytail. (Walton lived a couple of houses off of 23rd on Kearney Street.) Edward E. Delia, owner of Ed’s Barber Shop on NW 23rd near Lovejoy was a native of Chicago, Ill. He cut Bill Walton’s hair just before the Trail Blazer championship game series in 1977.

Fun Fact #48 Which poet has a pocket park honoring her in Nob Hill?

Fun Fact #48 Which poet has a pocket park honoring her in Nob Hill?

Answer: Hazel Hall  “The Hazel Hall Poetry Garden”

Hazel Hall began writing at age 9- three years later she contracted scarlet fever. Scarlet fever is treatable today with antibiotics and many of us have had strep throat with a high fever; there was no treatment offered in 1898 and she was left paralyzed. She spent most of her life inside a small home in Portland’s Nob Hill, wheelchair bound, sewing for a living and writing poetry for her soul. On Mother’s Day in 1995, a small park was opened to the public, it replaced a few parking spots next to the home where Hazel Hall died in 1924. The park north of 106 NW 22nd Place was funded by the Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission the outstanding feature of the park is the granite markers engraved with her poems.

Fun Fact #47 Where was the first use of an Infant Incubator in Portland?

Fun Fact #47 Where was the first use of an Infant Incubator in Portland?

Hint:  It was not in a hospital.

” Side Show Baby” Image Courtesy: Norman Gholsten

The first use of incubators in the Pacific Northwest was as a carnival attraction on “The Trail” arcade at the 1905 Lewis & Clark Centennial Exhibition and Oriental Fair.  Admission was 25 cents for what proved one of the most popular exhibits at the Fair—premature babies benefiting from the latest technology.

Ticket sales covered the daily cost of $15 per child—the parents were not charged for the care.  Visitors to the exhibit viewed the babies and medical team through plate glass as the preemies were skillfully treated.  Half a dozen skilled nurses and two doctors cared for the babies, who averaged 2.5 pounds.  New arrivals were bathed in water and mustard and dosed with two drops of brandy.  Milk was provided by wet nurses. 

“Ten ingeniously constructed incubators hold the world’s little weaklings”, according to notices in local papers, which called the incubators “Rest and Assurance for the Tired Mothers”. 

The Morning Register of May 28, 1905—the month before the Fair opened—contained a glowing article about the “artificial mothers”.  “They are such delicate, frail tiny cherubs that they are not yet ready to begin their struggle for existence…the Infant Incubator forms one of the most interesting and thoroughly scientific features at the Lewis & Clark Centennial Exposition. “

Infant incubator exhibits operated for at least four decades and reunions of the children helped to market the lifesaving efforts and carnival attractions of Dr. Martin A. Couney, who created and ran incubator-baby exhibits on Coney Island from 1903 to the early 1940s.  Although he died in relative obscurity, he was one of the great champions of this lifesaving technology and is credited with saving the lives of thousands of the country’s premature babies.  The children were returned to their natural parents when they were healthy enough to live outside the miracle machines.

Fun Fact #46 Did a cat once own a building on NW 23rd?

Fun Fact #46 Did a cat once own a building on NW 23rd?

Did a cat once own a building on NW 23rd?

Esquire Theater c.1940 courtesy Mike Ryerson

No.  Nina Churchman Larowe did not leave her building to a cat that is an urban myth. She bequeathed the theater building on NW 23rd valued at $25,000 to the Oregon Human Society in 1922. She was childless. Because her husband died young; Larowe was forced to make a living as an actress in New York City before trying her luck on the west coast. She struggled in Portland until the city elite took a fancy to her and sent their children to Larowe’s dance school and hall on NW 23rd and Kearney, in Portland. She purchased the German Savings and Loan Society’s Hall for $6,000 after renting various locations for the dance school. She sold the building[1] but because of default in payments it reverted back to her by 1919. The Oregon Human Society maintained ownership of the building for many years, using the income to help many cats.

[1] AKA Nob Hill Theater, the Esquire Theater (1932), currently Salt & Straw & Bamboo Sushi

Interior of the Nina Larowe dance hall.   Courtesy Mike Ryerson

The Oregon Daily Journal (Portland, Multnomah, Oregon) · 16 Mar 1921, Wed · Page 2

Teaser from our E-mail blast 11/29/18:

Did she leave the former dance hall known as the Esquire Theater to her cat in 1922?

Mrs. Nina Churchman Larowe, was a prominent resident of Portland. She arrived in 1888 trying to support herself in the burgeoning city Portland teaching gymnastics than elocution, she became dramatic critic and society editor of The Oregonian, she was unceremoniously fired. On Northwest 23rd & Kearney she established the first dancing academy of the city, retaining- her pre-eminent position as the city’s first and most popular ballroom dancing Instructress for more than 14 years. Her father was an intimate friend of Abraham Lincoln and she travelled for many months with Mark Twain through Europe and the Holy Land:

Nina Larowe (c.1860) Courtesy Mike Ryerson

I had come to Portland to live, to earn money. I found the city pretty small and pretty primitive In every way. The Esmond and the St. Charles, down on Front street, were the first clubs hotels. The Portland hotel had been begun but only “the foundation walls were built and there it stood like an old ruin. “There were no bridges, just antiquated ferryboats on a string and horse cars.

Pieces From The Cutting Room Floor:

Mrs. Nina Larowe owned a reputable dance studio on NW 23rd. The cultural shift from formal dancing to more free forms of dance led Larowe to convert the building in 1912 to the Nob Hill Theater showing silent film and staging local vaudeville act. The theater was reconfigures over concern over fire safety reopening as the Esquire Theater from 1938-1987. The building was converted to retail spaces in 1987 and most recently restored by owners C.E. John in 2011.

Larowe and other dance schools banned a number if popular dances as dangerous to morals over the years: “Texas Tommy”, “Grizzly Bear”, “Bunny Hug”, “Buzzard Lope” and the “Turkey Trot”. She described this “Turkey Trot” a dance invented in the Barbary Coast of San Francisco in 1909 as lacking grace. While dancing the Turkey Trot, dancers would sway to and fro, going in a straight line around the floor, while occasionally “Pumping or Flapping” of the arms was encouraged, thus giving the name of the Turkey Trot. Mrs. Larowe described “It’s like a turkey on a hot plate constantly lifting its feet so they won’t get burned. When danced in the extreme heads are held close together—too close together I should say.” Dancers across the US were fired from their jobs and some young women served jail time for dancing this trot. Dance halls claimed the moral high ground but the real threat was that these dances were popular and easy to master. Danceable by the average dancer the trot did not require professional lessons to learn.

Fun Fact #45 Tin Plate Laws: “Is there any hardship on anybody to merely acknowledge what he owns?”

Fun Fact #45 Tin Plate Laws: “Is there any hardship on anybody to merely acknowledge what he owns?”

The Oregon Daily Journal. January 6, 1918 p 9.

On October 3, 2018, our city council will vote on a proposed placard ordinance that if passed will require owners of unreinforced brick buildings to post a warning that their buildings are unsafe.  Has Portland ever required placards on buildings in the past?

Yes—over the years the City of Portland and the State of Oregon have required property owners of buildings in Portland to place various placards on their structures.

The earliest case of “scarlet letter” placarding in Portland that our history detective team uncovered is the 1913 Tin Plate Ordinance. Like the current earthquake safety proposal, the intention was to intimidate landlords. In 1912 the city was trying to clean up vice…it was very profitable for building owners to rent to a house out as a brothel. The intent of the ordinance drafters was to curb landlords’ rental practices, because they would not want to be associated with prostitution.

Starting in 1975, historic buildings in Portland participating in the state’s “Special Assessment of Historic Properties” property tax abatement program have been required to post a plaque. In the oldest such program in the country, to receive the property tax freeze “an approved plaque provided by the Oregon SHPO must be installed on the building.” This is similar but distinct from the bronze plaque that owners of properties listed in the National Register may purchase and place on their building.

In 2007 Portland’s fire marshal started posting red “U” signs on Portland buildings. They warn firefighters in the field that the building is unsafe and to ask dispatch about the special safety precautions before barging into the building.  The “U” stands for “unsafe” (not “unoccupied”—many buildings bearing the red “U” are not vacant).

The building owner always seems to have had a choice: to stop renting to prostitutes, to pay the full property tax, to bring the building up to fire code, or to bring the building up to seismic code.

“Is there any hardship on anybody to merely acknowledge what he owns?” October 29, 1912. Oregon Daily Journal, p 8.

Fun Fact #44 What is the wooden walkway and grate right at the beginning of the Lower Macleay Trail?

Fun Fact #44 What is the wooden walkway and grate right at the beginning of the Lower Macleay Trail?

What is the wooden walkway and grate right at the beginning of the Lower Macleay Trail?

Answer: Trash Filters

The urban stream known as Balch Creek goes underground in Lower Macleay Park, just before the Thurman Street Bridge.  The visible man-made barriers there are the wooden a wood trash filter or “trash rack” that prevents large logs and other debris from entering the combined storm sewer pipe taking the creek to the Willamette.  The “walk way” in question was designed to collect smaller objects from entering the pond created by the dam.  Archival construction images show the dam beneath the wooden grate system and the walkway (the “old maintenance bridge” has now decayed and often misidentified as a vestige of Lafe Pence’s 14-mile sluice system of 1906-07).

Balch Creek Diverted into Sewer

In 1921 City of Portland diverted the creek into a pipe (culvert).  The historic system was causing flooding so a dam and more vigorous 9,000 foot sewer system the Thirtieth Street Sewer (AKA Balch Creek Sewer) was proposed in 1930 and complete February of 1932 for a cost of $112,558.33.  The dam is hidden under the existing trash filter, constructed under the direction of the City of Portland’s the Public Works Administration the cost was passed onto rate payers in the region.  In addition to regular maintenance, major restoration efforts were conducted in 1945 and 1970.  Balch Creek runs 3.5 miles from its headwaters on the crest of the West Hills to the Willamette River.  A primary source of water for the City of Portland in the mid-nineteenth century, it was already contaminated by 1895.  Urban use and development from villains like Lafayette Pence (1857-1923) to residential development (1888-today) have degraded the watershed.  The creek, named for Danford Balch, who held the original donation land claim to the area, currently supports up to 4,000 isolated cutthroat trout.  Logs and wappato plants have been deliberately placed in the stream to enhance the habitat for the fish.

Fun Fact #43 What street in NW Portland should be renamed for John Callahan?

Fun Fact #43 What street in NW Portland should be renamed for John Callahan?

Many of the businesses Mike Ryerson identified in this map have closed, but Urban Outfitters is still there in the old Packard Building.

What street in NW Portland should be renamed for John Callahan?

There is no wrong answer to the Fun Fact #43 question as long as you listed an existing street in NW Portland! We propose that the block-long stretch of Westover Road between NW 23rd Place and NW 23rd Avenue be renamed “Callahan Street”. This would help maintain the alphabet experience along NW 23rd (Couch is the “C” street of the Alphabet District, renamed for Captain Couch in 1891, but it doesn’t intersect NW 23rd.)

John Callahan on the #53 (NW 23rd Line) bus. Courtesy The Neighbor (August 1984, p. 5); the photographer is presumed to be Janet Mandaville, who wrote “Under that blazing hair is a fertile and versatile mind, brewing ideas from the slightly off-color and iconic to the absurd and contradictory.”

Cartoon satirist John Callahan with his shocking red hair was the only contributor to the Willamette Week who was never edited. That does not mean that his cartoons (which first appeared in the PSU Vanguard) were not controversial—they challenged political correctness and forced viewers to re-evaluate their perception of the disabled community. Callahan, a cartoonist, artist, and musician who became a quadriplegic in an auto accident at 21, wanted people to stop walking on egg shells and start cracking eggs.

On July 19, 2018 join us at at The Legacy Good Samaritan Park (NW 21st & Lovejoy) for a free concert from 6pm-8pm.  The Callahan Garden is linked to the park, explore the neighborhood with us on a tour this summer.


Premiere of Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot. Gus Van Sant and Callahan family members at Cinema 21, June 12, 2018. Courtesy Norman Gholston.

) Callahan’s pen-and-ink drawing, loving placed by his friend, contemporary artist Martha Wurzelcher, in her garden across from Slabtown New Seasons in full public view.

Fun Fact #42 Rush Me out of the Ballpark

Fun Fact #42 Rush Me out of the Ballpark

How did they put out fires under the stands at Vaughn Street Ball Park?

The Wooden Vaughan Street Ballpark courtesy Mike Ryerson

Sand was used to put out fires at the old ballpark—sand shoveled on to a fire covers the burning materials and extinguishes the fire by cutting off the supply of oxygen.  With the news that the Portland Diamond Project was exploring two sites for a new major league stadium in Portland.  I was enchanted that one of the proposed sites is the Esco parking lot—the site of the Vaughn Street Ball Park that was the heart of Slabtown from 1901 to 1955.  Gone are the days when a home run is camouflaged behind plumes of smoke from the adjacent foundry and an outfielder prepared with a ball in his pocket can successfully fake that he has caught a fly ball!

The industrial smoke from steel manufacturing over the Vaughn Street Ballpark Courtesy Oregon Hist. Soc. Research Lib., OrHi54896

Benevento at Vaughn Street Courtesy Benevento’s Granddaughter

The attractive wooden stadium (above) was closed because it was a firetrap.  The fan seating eventually grew from 6,000 to 12,000, and fans even sat on the field for popular games.  Fans young and old knew that the beloved groundskeeper Rocky Benevento expected them to shovel sand from conveniently located barrels to “douse” fires started by a stray cigarette among the paper wrappings and peanut shells.  It is safe to say that not only will any proposed stadium lack a smoking section, but sports promoter Lynn Lashbrook has pitched rebuilding a wooden structure of high-tech cross laminated timbers that meets current fire and seismic codes (less we forget the World Series Earthquake of 1989).  The really fun question will be:  Can Portland economically support the Webfooters by filling the 32,000 seats for 83 home games?

Fun Fact #41 How did three US Olympic hopefuls rank on the largest-ever man-made night ski-jumping structure?

Fun Fact #41 How did three US Olympic hopefuls rank on the largest-ever man-made night ski-jumping structure?

Photographer: deLay Nighttime Ski Jumping Tryouts June 8, 1951

How did three US Olympic hopefuls rank on the largest-ever man-made night ski-jumping structure? (in Portland, Oregon, in 1951)

The 1951 Rose Festival was building up to the 1952 Oslo Winter Olympic Games by hosting an international ski jump competition: The Golden Rose. During the summer of 1951, a 155-foot-high structure designed by engineer Peter Hostmark rose in the Portland skyline above Multnomah Stadium (today’s Providence Park). The 15-story-high structure was covered with 200 tons of snow and was intended to promote winter sports at Mt. Hood. The newspapers called it the largest man-made hill built for night ski jumping.

Summer ski jump in Multnomah Stadium June 1951 City of Portland Archives and Records Center A2014-003.880


Among the 19-man field of A-class jumpers were three who qualified for the United States Olympics team. They hurtled down a 35-degree incline on a surface of finely ground ice to catapult high above the stadium roof in front of a crowd of 23,024 spectators. (The event proved so popular that the jump was rebuilt in 1953 to host the International Ski Jump Competition.)



The three qualifiers were:

Mr, Wegman 1960s Diet Rite ad Courtesy: Vintage Ads


Keith R. Wegeman (3rd)

12th place in Olso, placing best among Americans.  This native of Denver started skiing at age three.

(known as the “Jolly Green Giant”, later technical director at Squaw Valley in the 1960 Olympics and inducted into the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 1989.  Link: Video of Top Seven Facts about Keith R. Wegeman.)

Image of Art Tokle Courtesy

Arthur E. (Art) Tokle (4th)

18th place in Oslo

(Norwegian-born American ski jumper who competed for the USA, inducted into the Ski Hall of Fame in 1970, and technical director for the US team in the 1980 Winter Olympics.)

Video of Art Tokle in Colorado “King of American Ski Birds”

Willis S. (Billy) Olsen (5th)

Willis S. Olson of Eau Clair, WI courtesy US Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame and Museum


The young American came in 22nd place in Oslo, 43rd place in Cortina d’Ampezzo in 1956.  Known in ski jumping circles as Billy the Kid.

(inducted into the US Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 1972)





Side Note:

Torbjørn Falkanger (2nd)

A young Norwegian who came in second to his fellow countryman Christian Mohn in Portland, Oregon ended up earning a silver medal in the 1952 Winter Olympics in ski jumping.