Lost: The Castle Jazz Club in Gladstone

Beginning in the 1940s, The Castle Jazz Band was a big deal in the Portland jazz Dixieland scene, named after the Castle jazz club in Gladstone. Here’s a description of the building from Robert Dietsche’s excellent Jumptown: The Golden Years of Portland Jazz:

In the thirties it was a roadhouse tavern made out of hand-cut stone by an imported French stonecutter, complete with turrets, arched windows, medieval doors, and a tower, which was removed later.

Here’s a shot of the structure taken back in 2005 before it met its demise:

I’ve driven by occasionally and have watched the metamorphosis of the patch of land. According to the planner for Clackamas county that I spoke with a couple years ago, housing was planned for the land. Not a surprise.

As a former editor of a local builder magazine, I’ve seen homebuilders struggle the past couple of years – especially now with the economy. When I worked on the magazine back in 2003 their biggest problem was lack of land to build on. Now? Staying alive.

According to the signage, there are 10 lots available. Only two homes have been built. And damn, what a depressing sight.

Here are the two homes, surrounded by a castle-like brick wall to give the “community” some sort of exclusively:

Here’s the other end:

One of the homes, built in that typical, boring “Northwest Style” stands vacant. Is that a hint of castle motif?

The kicker though is the signage. I just noticed that the faux gated community is called….wait for it…Castle Park. James Kunstler was quoted as saying once that developers like to call the developments they build after whatever tree or land they destroyed. True.


Here’s a closer look at the castle-influenced signage:

Snarkiness aside, I wasn’t terribly upset when the Castle was demolished. It was an eyesore, probably a hangout for lowlifes [I’m sure the neighbors loved THAT] and ya know, people need housing. And I feel for homebuilders – a lot of good people are losing their shirts. But I guess I shouldn’t be so shocked at how non-original and unimaginative the developers were with the land. At least the teenagers smoking pot and drinking booze will now have a nice warm house- and a wall to disguise any shenanigans- to break into and keep warm. It could be called a blueprint of The Atlantic piece last March on suburbs as the new slums. At least the Castle had some history behind it, some weird semblance of culture. Castle Park? Instant slum.

Here’s the Googlemaps view. Photo taken after the castle was demolished but before fence and housing were built:

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7 comments

  1. If I am not mistaken, the Castle Jazz Band was fronted by a banjo player named Monte Ballou. I met Monte in the late ’70s. He used to live around 28th and Belmont somewhere, and he still played once in a while out at the Rock Creek Tavern that later burned. He was a character, and a serious piece of Portland music history.

  2. They probably threw away the rocks from the castle, the brought in new rocks for the face of the houses. Sigh.

    I agree that people need housing, but not everyone needs a McMansion. What we need is affordable housing.

    (Now who’s being snarky?)

  3. I remember hearing rumors that The Castle used to be a Speakeasy during Prohibition. At the Roake’s Hot Dog place on 99E in Gladstone I remember that a few years agao I saw a framed newspaper clipping hanging inside that spoke of the owner of Roake’s purchasing The Castle. Thought it was going to be brought back to life, but it never opened again.

    1. I remember the Hostess at the front entrance in the Castle, and her name was something like Sharon ready .My friend David Bellamy of Sellwood, and another friend of mine , Samantha, Courtney of Gilchrist, Ore. both agree about how the Castle was a good place to Dine . David knew the Family who owned the Castle . My Grandparents, The Morrell’s, lived on Britton Ave. near the Castle, and they also were friends of the owners .I forgot when it was closed, but I would like to hear from anyone who remembers the Castle, John Rinkes, cbeetle2@gmail.com

  4. I’ve been working on a series on The Castle. Here is what I have so far:

    http://jmcopywrite.wordpress.com/

    I have been doing a lot of research on Portland Jazz which is ironic because I actually detest jazz–unless I’m watching it live. I can hang out in a jazz club all day but pull it up on iTunes or a CD and I’m horribly bored.

    Thanks!

  5. My mother was a waitress there for 23 years in the 60’s – 80’s. It was a great place, and a real shame to see it go/gone.

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