Oregon Design and Architecture

Lost: The Castle Jazz Club in Gladstone

The Castle in Gladstone, Ore. had some great days and nights. And now it’s gone.

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:

14 replies on “Lost: The Castle Jazz Club in Gladstone”

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.

Monte also played at the Horse Brass on Belmont..He and his band and others that joined him brought the place to life when they played.

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?)

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.

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,

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

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.


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.

John and Pam Dimenico. After John died, Pam owned and operated with another partner, but I’m not sure who that was.

I worked at The Castle from 1985 to 1988. I was a busboy and worked part time. At the time I left, to go to college, Palma Domenico (pretty sure that was the correct/formal spelling) was the owner. The restaurant was generally in decline from about 1987 on, with dwindling customers and much of the old regulars retiring. I still loved working there and in many ways it felt like one big family, as corny as that sounds. I still have an old menu and placemat, I could try to upload it if anyone is interested.

I would very much like to see the placemat and menu if that is possible. I grew up very near the Castle and used to dine there in the 1970’s. I have pictures of the Castle before it was torn down,but any other Castle related bits and pieces would be a treat to see. My email is thanks so much!.

Sad to hear it’s gone. I worked there as a kid…. In the 70’s. I was a dishwasher/Kitchen helper and besides the crazy hours and pay… the people (owners and co-workers) were nice to me and I honestly loved working there. “Tyco treated me like a daughter!!” 😉 Some days I worked 12 to 14 hours, it was hard but I still liked being there and some nights I stayed just to help others get out sooner – Every Sunday and Thursday we got to choose between, Spaghetti, Steak, and Lobster or another dish… I almost always chose the Steak and Lobster but I liked the Spaghetti too. lol

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