Oregon Design and Architecture Oregon History Portland History

An interesting occurrence on NE Alberta

Taking a pic of an older building on Alberta in Portland turned into a history lesson.

2112 NE Alberta


You can’t take pictures of my building!”

I heard that phrase, repeated, as I was, well, shooting a picture of a building on NE Alberta last Saturday with my daughter. This time of the year is perfect for shooting pics of buildings. The leaves are gone, revealing structures, details, hidden gems that are usually camouflaged behind trees. (Tip: If you take a lot of pictures of architecture and people’s homes, it really helps to have a kid with you.)

So, there we were, strolling down a drizzly Alberta, after a quick stop in Salt & Straw.

When I heard the gentleman say his words, coming at me from the lot across the street, I immediately put down my phone and started to stutter something about “history, architecture Instagram something something.” Thankfully, he had a faint smile on his face, then asked “Why would you want to take a picture of that old thing?”

Then he started telling me the history of his building. His folks bought it in the 1960s. He purchased it from them in 1983 and has been there since then. He says it needs a paint job (well, yeah) but he’s also working on the interior. He also mentioned the previous owners, it was various shops on the bottom, with residents on top. The story sounded familiar. I had to Google the address later. And indeed, I found this from Vintage Portland: 

The address used to be 734 Alberta. And, it was originally the site of H.B. Olsen’s watchmaking operation, a restaurant & deli, shoe repair shop and finally, an upholstery shop.

So, now, here we are in 2018. The owner points around the neighborhood and shows me the changes. You can see the familiar pink and plywood sheathing of new taller, angled structures from the distance, surrounding the neighborhood.

He looks at my daughter eating her ice cream.

“Salt & Straw?”


“I smell that place all day long. Plus, the ice cream is too expensive for my tastes.”

6 replies on “An interesting occurrence on NE Alberta”

Yep, this is a long-ago memory since I grew up around the corner a couple of blocks from here,at 5108 N E 23rd. But it’s from long ago since I’m closing in on 78 and my memories are from the late 40’s and early 50’s. I make it a
point to stay out of the neighborhood because of the changes and the crowds that frequent this part of town now.
The house that my folks rented for $38 a month Has been totally remodeled and recently sold for $599,000, so I stay out here in Wilsonville and tell stories to my kids and grandkids, and really enjoy what was my childhood and
sharing those times with them.

Mystery solved thanks.

Although guilty of shamelessly being part of the gentrification influx, I walk past this one almost daily, and frequently wonder how long before it’s turned to a ‘15 unit condo with retail below’.

Looked at this over and over and still a bit lost. Olsen appears to be standing in a building that has already been heavily modified. I would expect a more symetrical look with the front window extensions both left and right of yhe single central doorway. Had it been altered by the time of the snapshot? Obviously cut back when the wooden sidewalks went, it seems to regain a balance that might have been the original builder’s concept. Something that would have held a restaurant or retail storefront. Could another business pre-date Olsen?

My grandfather Richard T. Jones owned the Ark Tavern in the 40’s. Wondering if there are any historical sources on it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s