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.


Fun Fact #40 The Proposal of Groundhog Day as a Public Holiday, and Other Oddities.

Fun Fact #40 The Proposal of Groundhog Day as a Public Holiday, and Other Oddities.

The proposal of Groundhog Day as a public holiday, and other oddities.

An art activity from the January 30, 1916 Funny Pages of the Oregonian.

The beloved groundhog — the original weather prophet — is not indigenous to Oregon. The February 2 issue of the 1897 Oregonian informed readers that they would just need “to rely on weather bureaus and almanacs for information about the coming spring.”

The state’s lack of groundhogs did not prevent a 1911 state lawmaker from declaring “the second day of February to be known as Groundhog Day and enjoin the public schools of the state to observe this day by suitable exercises.” He was displeased by a bill that made Columbus Day a public holiday and the introduction (by Rep. Fouts) of St. Patrick’s Day the same day. Sadly, Groundhog Day never became a legal holiday, despite the argument that it was far more American than Columbus Day or Seventeenth Day of Ireland.

The oddest story related to Groundhog Day was a bit of western justice served up by Judge Deich. Oregon went dry in 1916 (three years before national Prohibition). On January 19, 1922, Edward Hopkins was sentenced to county jail until Groundhog Day, if on that day he had recovered from hair tonic and moonshine enough to clearly make out his own shadow. Mr. Hopkins felt that, were he not able to sober up in two weeks, it was only fair that his stay in jail be extended until spring.

Fun Fact #39. Fun Fact: What sort of Escort Service did Mike Ryerson start in 1975?

Fun Fact #39.  Fun Fact: What sort of Escort Service did Mike Ryerson start in 1975?

The Portland Police Were Displeased with Mike Ryerson’s Escort Service.

Mike Ryerson selling his famous photograph “Expose Yourself to Art” at Portland Saturday Market.

This “escort service” was organized by Mike Ryerson when he was a display manager for Montgomery Ward department store.  Seven NW Portland women had reported being raped, and the serial rapist was attacking nurses and women employed in local bars.   

The anti-rape escort services with six volunteers operated only one night Saturday November 22, 1975, escorting 25 women home.  Upon returning home that night Mike was intimidated by police, who were more interested in catching the rapist than keeping women safe.

The interactions with Portland Police changed Mike Ryersons life corse. Mike Ryerson eventually settled with the city.

In addition to working at Montgomery Ward, Mike worked for the community paper, keeping it afloat with income from the “Expose Yourself to Art” poster.  The Neighbor motto: “Know Your Neighborhood, Know Your Neighbor” publication was coined for Mike Ryerson by Bud Clark in 1977.  The same year Mike settled his lawsuit against the City of Portland for intimidation mostly associated with Officer Larry Kanzler’s “vile, threatening, obscene, and abusive language”.   The police officer had been reprimanded by then-police-sergeant, Tom Potter.   The officer was one of six that showed up at Ryerson’s house in the wee hours of the morning, and searched Mike Ryerson’s truck.  Before leaving they told Ryerson to stop being a do-gooder.   The police also started appearing outside at bars and social events that Mike attended.

Bud Clark and Tom Potter went on to be mayors of Portland

In 1979 Larry Kanzel was one of three officers to start a Horse Patrol in Portland.  He later retired in 2008 after serving as the Police Chief of Milwaukie, 

Mike Ryerson died January 6th 2015. He was active in the local activist group Don’t Shoot PDX because of his experience in the 1970s.

Slabtown Tours Fun Fact #38 No way was the largest ice rink in US really in Slabtown?

Slabtown Tours Fun Fact #38 No way was the largest ice rink in US really in Slabtown?
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 Is that bat light really historic or is it from the Spirit Store?

Fun Fact #37 Is that bat light really historic or is it from the Spirit Store?
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 Did they really move houses with horses and oxen?

Fun Fact #36 Did they really move houses with horses and oxen?

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 railroad berm (referred to more often as a dike or dam) would be repurposed for an effort that was encourage as a necessity for victory.