Author: John Chilson

Speaking of Portland: A new guide from Herb Lester

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Just some quick self promotion here. I helped collaborate with Herb Lester Associates out of London on their brand, spanking new guide/map to Portland.

They do exceptional work – and each map from the different cities they’ve covered are designed in a – not really retro- but truly modern style- with a dash from the past.

I hope some history nerd 30 years from now finds a copy and imagines what Portland was like in 2013.

On the imminent closing of the Black Cat in Sellwood

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Back in the day: SE 13th in Sellwood.

On their Facebook page, the owners of the Black Cat Tavern in Sellwood announced that they are shutting down their bar on June 30. The property owners are most certainly going to demolish the bar and – I’m taking a wild guess here – are going to build mixed-use condos.

That might be a good thing for the neighborhood. More density, more shops on the ground floor, and for neighbors, the backyard section of the bar will no longer annoy them.

But, really, it’s not a good thing. In fact, it’s very bad.

It’s a typical neighborhood bar, bordering on dive, but not quite. They sell the usual bar fodder and offer shuffleboard, a popular attraction for patrons. But it’s more than a bar. It’s a part of a Portland that’s quickly disappearing. Portland’s blue collar heritage is definitely becoming a thing of the past – and so are bars where locals, younger families, and grizzled old Portlanders can rub shoulders and get a cold one.

When an establishment like the Black Cat gets clobbered, it’s gone, and so is the fabric of the neighborhood with it. Places like the Black Cat don’t get the ink that, say, a historically significant building would if it was threatened by the wrecking ball. But, they’re just as important to our communities and what makes Portland’s neighborhoods special and livable.

But what’s one neighborhood bar, right? To the immediate neighbors, they’ll notice, they’ll mourn and life goes on (and so does the new condo). But yet another bar or small restaurant or small mom/pop shop down the street or in another neighborhood gets bulldozed, and things start to add up. Until one day, Portland looks around and wonders what happened to its past, character and its place.

Art wall on SW 6th

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I work in Belluschi’s wonderful Equitable, er, Commonwealth on SW Sixth in downtown Portland. Across the street and with a direct view sits 400 SW Sixth. Originally constructed and designed by Stanton, Boles, Maguire and Church, at five stories, the building saw a major renovation in 1980 and was expanded to 11 stories. It’s an interesting section of the street, and the two aluminum-walled buildings create an interesting space (and some amazing light and shadows) between Washington and Stark on Sixth.  

Like James Stewart in Rear Window I had a front-row seat from my office and watched 400 SW Sixth having its lobby renovated most of the fall and winter. A few weeks ago, the large boards were removed to reveal the new lobby, complete (one assumes) with retrofitted (and stylish) lighting in the interior.

However, what struck me the most was the blank, lit display screen facing the street. Was it going to be a billboard? Ad for Mountain Dew (Do the Dew!)? Coke?

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Nope, last week it was unveiled and it looks like it’s going to be some sort of art installation- an art wall? Whatever it is, it’s cool. It adds to the streetscape, gives the building a bit more life and gives me something to look at during dreary drizzly days. According to the paperwork filed for the project:

The proposal includes an internally lit art wall to be located in the center bay between the two entries. The art wall will create a focal point and add interest to the streetscape and will be lit from behind. The lighting is proposed to be integrated into the design and the light source will not be visible.

One of the installers mentioned to me that it was going to cycle out with the seasons- different colored leaves for different seasons? Even better.

And, here’s a video of the lobby where a hologram repeats the seasons. The leaves grown, sway in the wind, fall off and re-grow:

Photo of the week: Flora, Oregon

India Littler from anemone antiques and cloudberry studio sent us this remarkable photograph (she discovered it and kindly scanned it for us) of a street scene from Flora, Ore. (Click on the photo for the large view.)

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Honestly? We’d never heard of Flora. A quick search revealed that:

Flora is an unincorporated community in Wallowa County, Oregon, United States. It is located about 35 miles north of Enterprise, just off Oregon Route 3, and is considered a ghost town.

Check out this blog post of the town nowadays (well, in 2008). The town also has a  yearly event in June that celebrates old time skills (weaving, spinning, wood cookstove use and more). Sounds cool.

Lost: Moore’s Flour Mill in Oak Grove

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Continuing our look at the Clackamas County Cultural Resource Inventory, we travel down the Trolley Trail to 4001 SE Roethe Road. On the site, there once stood a flour mill. The machinery, built in 1879 was imported from Muncie, Indiana. It was a full functioning mill until the mid-1980s, when it burned down.

The name Moore’s Flour Mill, might ring a bell, however. The owner of the mill in the mid-80s, was Bob Moore. After the fire, the company relocated to International in Milwaukie.

As Paul Harvey might say, “you might know it better these days as Bob’s Red Mill.”

Here’s a cool recollection from an Oregon Fresh post on Bob:

“I told Charlee, ‘you know, it’s crazy, but I think that’s an old mill.’ I could see the grinders and mixers; it had been closed for years,” says Bob. He later learned that a rail line used to carry grains to the mill, and when it was pulled out in 1957, there was no longer an easy way to deliver grains there, so it closed. Bob and Charlee made a decision to purchase the mill, and Bob’s Red Mill was born. They started with 11 employees, making 100 different products, including 10-grain cereal and cornmeal.

The mill represents our agricultural past and at time was the last remaining working mill in the Oak Grove and Milwaukie area – until the new Bob’s was built.

Here’s where the mill was approximately located:

Lost: Church in Oak Grove, Ore.

Note: This is a cross-post from my other blog, Oak Grove! (The O.G.). 

Last month there was a discussion on the Oak Grove Facebook page about the empty lot on River Road and Courtney next to the handsome house that sits next to the corner. A commenter mentioned there was – at one point  in time – a church on the corner that had the same style of the well-kept home that sits on the (almost) corner.

Some sleuthing revealed that – indeed – there was a church where the grassy lot now sits. Pouring through the Clackamas County Cultural Resource Inventory book I found a photo (albeit a shitty, Xeroxed one) of the church that had once stood on the spot.

Long-gone church on River Road and Courtney Avenue.

Long-gone church on River Road and Courtney Avenue.

(The book, by the way, is an amazing resource for local historians and building nerds. In 1983, the county sent out letters to residents asking them a few questions about their property (year built, style of home, etc.). The purpose of the inventory was to provide the State Historic Preservation Office with information for possible inclusion in the statewide inventory. Sadly, many of the buildings in the book are no longer standing- like the corner church.)

But back to the photo – it’s not a great photo, but you can clearly see the tip of the existing building in the middle as well as the unique “steeple” above that. Described as “Western Falsefront-Bungalow,” the building was constructed in approximately 1901- 1910 and was still standing in 1983.

What else has Oak Grove – architecturally – lost in the last 30 years? Plenty, if flipping through the inventory is any indication. We’ll occasionally post some of our lost treasures – with the hope that they inspire us to save what we currently have.