Oregon Roadside

Angles on Burnside

Oregon DJC reported last week (you’ll need a subscription to read the article) on the accelerated path that the Burnside Bridgehead project has recently taken.

One of the projects, Block 76W, on a small footprint of land in front of an existing plan, is being developed by Key Development and designed by Skylab Architecture:

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We love the design. It uses an odd corner space creatively in a modern way, with a vibe towards the distance past but not too retro. It reminds us of something we’ve seen. Hmmmmm. Oh yeah, that’s right, it’s this (from the Centennial Exposition in 1959):

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Deliberate nod to the ultra-modern architecture on display at the Centennial Exposition? Maybe. Probably not. Regardless, still cool. And it goes way beyond the condo bunker-look that’s been mowing down Portland’s neighborhoods.

 

What’s next for Milwaukie, Ore.? Look to the past, perhaps.

Milwaukie, Oregon, is an interesting place. No, really. It has a rich, historical past that’s often overlooked. The Lot Whitcomb, launched in December, 1850, was the first steam-powered craft built on the Willamette River. The Bing cherry was created in Milwaukie. Gary Gilmore, the first American to be executed in ten years after the death penalty was re-instated, attended Milwaukie High. So did his brother, Mikal Gilmore, author of Shot in the Heart and a well-known Rolling Stone magazine writer.

It’s mere minutes from Portland. A bus ride up McLoughlin can get riders to downtown in about 25 minutes; if you’re on a bike, you’re in Portland city limits in 10 minutes. Despite its proximity to Portland, Milwaukie also can feel like it’s miles and miles away. Many aging boomers who live in Milwaukie (and the sleeping giant known as Oak Grove, snuggled next to Milwaukie in unincorporated Clackamas county) like it that way. They want to be left alone. They like their privacy and they like the suburban qualities of their neighborhoods and large lots (count the RVs in the driveways).

But change is coming to Milwaukie in the form of light rail. Drive along McLoughlin and around Main Street and one can see the tracks being laid and the stations being built. Those who oppose light rail call it the “crime train” and believe that it will attract criminals and bankrupt the city. (They also want to stop “Portland Creep” but don’t mind commuting to Portland–where their jobs usually reside.) Those who favor light rail think it will bring new blood, new business and a boost to the economy.

Just a few years ago, Milwaukie had a solid jumpstart back what seemed like the beginning of some sort of renaissance. The popular Cha Cha Cha restaurant came to downtown in 2007, and a new restaurant, Hartwell’s, opened in the newly built mixed use project on Main, offering local craft beers, upscale food – both vegetarian and non-vegetarian – and a cool foodie vibe that Milwaukie lacked (and still does). There was talk of more mixed-used projects along McLoughlin with condos on the top and retail on the bottom, while older buildings along the river were demolished to make room.

And then 2008 happened and the bottom dropped. Projects were stalled, businesses failed, Hartwell’s shuttered its doors and downtown reverted back to Sleepytown, USA.

Since then, there’s been new life on Main Street in downtown Milwaukie. Slowly, businesses have come in and existing businesses have expanded. Despite setbacks, like the beloved and popular Milwaukie Kitchen and Wine literally leaving town overnight and shuttering its doors, there seems to be an air of optimism. Retail space is opening up on the ground floor of office properties along Main (with rumors swirling of a yogurt shop and a “Mediterranean restaurant” coming to town) and some of the city’s downtown buildings are getting the retrofits they deserve (many that were desecrated back in the 1960s and 1970s). The riverfront park is slowly coming together (the view of the Willamette is stunning), the unsightly Kellogg Dam will be (eventually) removed and a movement to add murals around downtown is gaining steam. Then there’s the kick-ass Sunday farmers market that grows every year, the addition of the popular Breakside Brewery‘s production facility and tasting room, a First Friday that continues to get better and bigger each summer, and the creation of a Neighborhood Greenway.

Add to this, a younger population is moving to Milwaukie’s historical neighborhoods that want amenities like walkable and bikable communities, restaurants, healthy food options, shopping, cheaper housing (than Portland) and a sense of community.

In fact, a recent poll by the city revealed that:

…the community would like to see more shops in downtown to meet daily needs, such as a grocery store. Eighty-eight percent of survey respondents agree or strongly agree that downtown Milwaukie should be a destination for meeting daily needs; 27% of the survey respondents noted that a grocery store was one of the things they would like to see in Milwaukie that is not there today.

It’ll be interesting to see what transpires over the next decade, or even five years. Will Milwaukie continue its reputation as a sleepy Portland suburb? Will it attract new families and new business?

Ironically, 50 years ago downtown Milwaukie and Oak Grove had many of these amenities that current residents want in 2014. Pharmacy? Check. Clothing store? Check. Department store? Check. A restaurant shaped like a tee-pee? Ummmm, got it. Appliance store? Ding ding ding. All of these were small and independently owned. Following are some snaps taken from a local yearbook from 1964 that helps illustrate the changes in the area, what once existed and what could make a comeback. Click on each for a bigger version:

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Long-gone New Tom Tom.

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Teeney’s – all types of apparel.

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Besides the sign, still there (now a teen center).

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Be sure to check out the Gay Blade plaque/fountain in front of Enchante.

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A different era, for sure.

The Witherspoon Building is getting a makeover

IMG_2145Built in 1890 as a saloon, dance hall, and brothel, the Witherspoon Building, located at 424 SW 4th, is in the final stretch of its 123 year renovation , or, “redemption.”

In January 2014, the Witherspoon Building will be home to Parliament as well as a creative collective, a sidewalk-facing creative flex space and a below-ground workshop. They are actively seeking designers, writers, programmers, technologists, small start-ups, and other modern makers to help them build something great.

How do I know this? A really cool marketing campaign.

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During one of my lunch-time walks, I noticed the building getting some retrofit work done to it and walked up to it to take a couple of pics and noticed the cool signage adorning the side. It had the name of the building and a URL to visit for more information.

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On the website, there’s a bit of history, a live-cam (!!) of construction work and a photo journal.

Every building in town getting this type of retrofit work needs a story behind it – what a great way to bring history alive while re-using existing infrastructure.

A Milwaukie brewer, and a call for Portland brewmasters to make a pre-Prohibition beer

Streib's home, June 2011.

Streib’s home, June 2011.

Down in Milwaukie, Ore., snuggled near the Ledding Library sits the former home of Philip Streib. As you come around the bend, the Mediterranean-style home across the street from the WPA-era Portland Waldorf  school is one of Milwaukie’s cooler residences. (Downtown Milwaukie, despite previous generation’s attempts to mow down older buildings, still has a nice, older stock of homes.)

Streib had an interesting life. He immigrated to the area from Germany in the 1880s, founded the First State Bank in downtown Milwaukie and lived on land purchased from the Llewellyn family. There, he grew grapes and apples and lived out his life.

Streib's home, late 70s.

Streib’s home, late 70s.

As a beer/history geek what’s most interesting is that the successful banker was also brewmaster at Gambrinus Brewery in Portland for a decade and even worked for a bit at the Henry Weinhard Brewery.

Gambrinus Brewery churned out beer for thirsty Portlanders in the late 1880s and early teens in Portland until Prohibition. Walla Walla-based Northwest Brewing Company, Inc., attempted to re-open Gambrinus in the 30s after Prohibition but those plans fizzled out. The current Gambrinus Company isn’t related as far as we know.

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So, like many of the pre-Prohibition beers, Gambrinus’ recipes, we’re assuming, are either gone or sitting in a dusty vault somewhere. Years ago, Imbibe magazine did a piece on pre-Prohibition lagers making the scene (Full Sail’s Session gets a nod) and then there’s Fort George’s 1811 lager. But, have any local brewers tried to replicate any of our local pre-Prohibition beer recipes? Brewing a Gambrinus beer would be an excellent way to connect to the past beer scene to the present one. In Washington, DC, there’s an excellent example of this (thanks to the hat-tip, Ken Hawkins!).

So, whaddya say, local brewers? Pipe dream? Too expensive? Ingredients unavailable? Too played out (“Dream of the 1890s”)? Or, is this a opportunity to time travel to Portland, circa 1880 and drink some of the past?

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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.

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: