Oregon Design and Architecture Oregon History Portland History

The late, great Broadway




Broadway in Portland is kind of a boring stretch these days. On the other hand, it also has more trees than it did in 1955 when the above postcard was snapped [my clue was the 1955 “It’s Always Fair Weather” being screened on the theater on the right].

Of course, The Jackson Tour reigns supreme on this stretch of Broadway.

On the extreme left you can barely make out the bottom floor of the Heathman – the light blue exterior, Coca-Cola sign and Rexall Drugs sign.

As far as The Fox and Orpheum pictured – long gone – they were both torn down [obviously].

The Orpheum, according to Cinema Treasures, was

known as the Orpheum Theatre from 1929 until it closed in the mid- 1970’s. Its last operators were Mann Theatres who gave a seating capacity of 1,360. It was demolished for a clothing store to be built on the site.

Check out the 1965 photo and discussion on Cinema Treasures on the fate of  The Fox, and an amazing Flickr site that features Portland theaters.

5 replies on “The late, great Broadway”

That red and white ’55 Olds parked in front of the Heathman might be another clue to the year. That might be a ’55 Ford parked across the street from it — also two-tone, but I can’t quite make out the colors.

Not everything about the urban planning reforms of the 1970s was perfect, and Portland’s SW Broadway is a great case study in what can, and did, go wrong.

Yes, we have more trees these days, and that is a good thing. However, planners went completely overboard when it comes to sign regulations in the Central City. When an old building went away, so did the rights to have a big, flashy neon sign. Even when an old building was refurbished, sign regulations made it next to impossible to preserve the old marquees that made this street unique.

The Fox was a hell of a theater, and it could have easily been restored. However, it is very hard to make the economics work to preserve what is essentially a two story building in the portion of downtown with the highest commercial density allowed. I remember seeing Poltergeist here back in 1982. Even in its faded glory, it was still a sight to see.

One more thing. The art deco ticket booth lives on. It was donated to the Oregon Historical Society, and was on display when I was there a few years ago.

Indeed, John Helmer has just been remodeled, and the sign visible in this shot has been replaced with a new one. I will miss the old “signature” sign.

A quirk of the city codes in the 1960s required that signs hanging over sidewalks be illuminated. (This might still be so.)

Hey, what happened to the Iron Horse Restaurant?

Cruising Broadway. . . . .You could get a ticket for cruising, you would definately get a ticket if you had a KGON radio bumper sticker on your car AND be caught cruising Broadway. And that was 1975. Those trouble making teenagers that listened to that head banging rock n roll on that subversive radio station KGON. . .FM no less, they all had to be dealt with quickly and severly.

How did I ever reach 50?

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