Milwaukie’s Portland Open-Air Sanatorium (1905)

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Located where Park Blvd. hits River Road, the location is likely where the Willamette View retirement community now sits right on the border of Milwaukie and Oak Grove.

I’ve seen the name mentioned, seen it on maps and have always wondered what this sanatorium was, when it was built and what happened to it. By chance while searching for beer history,  I stumbled on the lengthy-titled book (take a deep breath): “The Campaign Against Tuberculosis In The United States (Including A Directory Of Institutions Dealing With Tuberculosis In The United States And Canada Compiled Under The Direction Of The National Association For The Study And Prevention Of Tuberculosis).”

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The sanatorium provided “individual cottages with steam heated dressing rooms, hot and cold running water and shower and tub baths.”  Source. 

Scanning it I discovered that, yes, the Portland Open-air Sanatorium was real and existed and took “incipient and advanced cases” with a capacity of 40, and rates from $10 to $30 a week.

The Sanatorium was located at “Milwaukee” (the book’s spelling) Heights, on the Oregon Water Power and Railroad Company’s line, six miles south of Portland, on a bluff three hundred feet high overlooking the Willamette. It was the first sanatorium for the treatment of tuberculosis to be established in Oregon.

The book continues:

The sanatorium is situated in a fir grove, sheltered from the winds, the climate being so mild and equable that the patients live comfortably in tents during the entire year.  Its equipment consists largely of tents, which can be used the entire year. (People were much tougher in 1905.)

It offered “the exclusive treatment of tuberculosis by the careful application of the most modern physical, dietetic, hygienic and specific procedures. Patients were provided with X-ray and laboratory facilities, but also “individual cottages (I guess the tents were replaced) with steam heated dressing rooms, hot and cold running water and shower and tub baths.” 

It didn’t last long when the state realized it needed a much larger facility, mandating public medical care to tuberculosis patients in 1910, after which patients from the Milwaukie Heights hospital were relocated to the new Oregon State Tuberculosis Hospital in Salem (in the former Oregon State Deaf-Mute School building, constructed in 1894).

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Ralph Friedman disses Milwaukie, Ore.

Update 6/14/18: The Skulason home is for sale at $1.6 million. Marketing materials state clearly, as required: The house could be demolished. Could be. Hopefully not. Watching this one.

If you’ve never read Ralph Friedman’s books, get to it. His first self-published (before it was called DIY) book, Oregon For the Curious, cost $1.95 in 1965 and sold thousands of copies. If roadside places he covered back then were lost or almost lost, you can be sure that the hand-drawn maps he used and places he covered have long been paved over. His books are a joy, a tad esoteric, but primers for all kinds of cool and goofy Oregon history—and they’re pretty much at every used bookstore across Oregon.

His style wasn’t flowery; it was practical and informative. For instance, here’s his take on downtown Milwaukie from another, more current, book he wrote:

Visitors to Milwaukie sometimes ask for a walking tour brochure but there isn’t any; not that much of interest to see. Still, town has a few encouraging footnotes.

Ouch.

Yet, it’s kind of, well, true. At least back then when the book was penned. Until now, Milwaukie had a scorched earth policy with its historic buildings. The darling Oaks Pioneer Church in downtown Milwaukie? Moved, by barge, to Sellwood, where it’s loved and used for all kinds of events. (That one still hurts.)

However, in its defense, much of Main Street is still intact with shops and restaurants. And digging deeper, I’d have to start to disagree with Friedman on the lack of interest comment. If you dig a little deeper you’ll find all kinds of cool things, like a hidden lake park, an old grist mill, and the former site of Crystal Lake Park—a former dance hall, zoo and amusement park—demolished in the 50s for an apartment complex called, you guessed it, Crystal Lake. Milwaukie is a mix of “former locations” and some still standing. But, buried and hidden between 1950s tract homes, you can still find a gem.

Like the Bardi Skulason home. Skulason’s home has been described as a fine country home, where he “devoted his leisure to the growing of fruit and flowers.” It’s also a pretty nice looking piece of architecture, described accurately as Colonial Revival, built in 1913. 

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Snuggled behind Providence Milwaukie Hospital, the homes sits, safe from developers and probably curious seekers like you and me. It does represent, however, some of the history that still exists in Milwaukie and its next-door neighbors, Oak Grove, hanging on as testaments that history is everywhere, and like Friedman and his books, you just need to be more curious and dig a little deeper.

Walking around Portland’s Central Eastside Industrial District

I’ve been spending more and more time in the Central Eastside district. Each Wednesday I hop on at the end/beginning of the Orange Line and take the 20 minute ride in for a weekly gig I have with a content marketing agency. During lunch, I wander around and discover something new each time. Boxing gym? Check. Old restaurant storefront that looks like it comes from a noir flick? Check. Brick. Ohhhh, yeah.

I wrote about the area back in 2010 for Neighborhood Notes (now offline) and had this to say:

With newer businesses moving in, a strong sense of community among merchants, the addition of the Portland Streetcar, and after years of stops and starts, the area is definitely evolving and moving ahead full throttle but thankfully keeping its original, industrial history and soul intact.

I guess you could write the same thing today. At the time of the post, residential housing was forbidden to be built (I’m talking mostly the area around Water Avenue and a few blocks east). I wonder of that’s still the case.

Meeting someone for coffee recently,  I walked down SE 3rd from the 500s down to the single digits at f&b and was blown away by the change. I’d only seen the Yard from a distance but up close? It’s huge. Like towering.

In 2010, I don’t think I would’ve guessed that block would be transformed so much.

Anyhow, the Central Eastside is probably my favorite place in Portland. It *still* has the grit, the produce heritage, the lack of sidewalks (stay out of the way of the delivery trucks — this is their territory). There’s now more places to eat and drink, and work. I’ll be writing more about this part of Portland that’s has undergone some huge changes and is going to see even more during the next few years.

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That art deco glass at the top of the entrance? Hang in there.
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Brick! Former life: John Deere manufacturing.
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What goes on in places like this? No windows.
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Simplicity reigns.
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God bless you, City Liquidators.
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Built in 1909. For lease!
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Remove that car and replace it with a 40s car, stat.
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These are the kinds of architectural details that make the neighborhood so unique.

Illuminating ‘ghost signs’ with glorious light

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904 Commercial Street, Astoria, Ore., built 1924. Photo: Craig Winslow

Last February we attended the premiere Portland Winter Light Festival at OMSI. The outdoor celebration promised to illuminate “Portland’s waterfront through contemporary light-based art installations, engaging performance, and fun activities for all ages.”  We thought it’d be a mellow affair. Ya know, stroll around and look at some light installations.

Not quite. It was packed. Like sardine packed. So, if you go this year, get there right when the sun goes down! The installations are scattered around town but mostly at OMSI so be sure to take the Orange Line if you’re coming from the south.

Anyhow, one installation this year has us intrigued: Light Capsules by Craig Winslow.

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Wire Works, London, UK. Photo: Craig Winslow

As part of the Adobe Creative Residency, Winslow is bringing his international exhibit to Portland to present a series of ghost sign projections to reanimate Portland’s historic ghost signage. And, not just throwing a spotlight on a ghost sign. His projections are on each letter and lovingly restore long, lost signage (and history).  Here’s a list of the buildings in Portland he’s lighting up and here’s a video that illustrates how awesome the signs look:

That other gritty 1989 movie shot in Portland

I remember seeing a poster or an ad that featured Burt Reynolds lounging in his bachelor pad at the Portland Plaza building from a movie still a few years back and then forgot about it.

Wait, Burt Reynolds shot a film in Portland? Indeed he did. It’s called “Breaking In.” I’m ashamed I’ve never heard of it. (Or ammmmm I?)

This 1989 American crime comedy film was directed by Bill Forsyth, written by John Sayles (!?!!), and stars Burt Reynolds, Casey Siemaszko, and Lorraine Toussaint. The film is about professional small-time criminals.

Their big heist in the film? Oaks Amusement Park. Yep. Big-time money to be had at the park. In fact, there’s a scene where Reynolds and Siemaszko are scoping the place out and watching security guards load BAGS of money from the day’s profits. (Who knew?) This also means there’s lots of great shots of the park.

Anyhow, the film is OK. Not great, moderately watchable. Of course, I loved it for all of the Portland scenes and I’ve screen capped a couple (mostly from Oaks Park – which is one of my personal favorite places in Portland).

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Watch the film here:

Building renewal meets local food economy

Source: Ecotrust
Source: Ecotrust

If Portland’s Central Eastside is hot now, in the late 50s it was on fire. Literally.

Using newspapers and matches, a lone arsonist torched more than 20 warehouses and various properties throughout the area.

Thankfully, the firebug, Darrell Roesbery, a tire repairman, confessed to his landlady, telling her “I didn’t steal anything or kill anyone,” ensuring the buildings were empty first.

During his spree, Roesbery successfully burned down 816 SE Taylor, built in 1918 as a machine shop for an iron works company. Two weeks later Roesbery attempted to burn down the adjacent iron works foundry building at 820 SE Taylor. Thankfully the foundry fire was doused quickly and the building lives today as The Redd Foundry at 831 SE Salmon Street.

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I’m standing in the middle of the now-empty building with Ecotrust’s Sam Beebe. He’s showing me the Oregonian article about the arsonist that’s displayed on a wall, along with other articles and a map of the neighborhood.

Marked out in red on the map is the building that will soon see another architectural metamorphosis as The Redd on Salmon Street, a new project by Ecotrust.

The Redd, including the old foundry and a recently emptied marble and tile warehouse, will take up two city blocks and function as an urban ecosystem for the regional food economy. With the community’s help, it will help grow young businesses and connect them to Oregon’s bounty.

Ecotrust conducted a study on regional food production and infrastructure and discovered missing components: aggregation, warehousing (including freezing and cooling spaces), value-adding (like pickling, smoking) and distribution. This lack of services, determined the report, is hindering the local food economy.

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The Redd, hopes Ecotrust, will help amend this and assist Oregon’s small to mid-scale producers, fishers farmers and ranchers, not by acting as a farmers market, but as a place for producers to bring their raw materials, have them processed or stored, and then distributed.

Beebe offers an example: an onion grower brings in their onions, mashes them up as a dip and uses a packaging service at The Redd. The dip would then be distributed throughout the city via a delivery service. (B-Line, a bicycle-powered freight delivery company recently signed on.)

“Producers don’t want to drive around in their Ford F-150s delivering to restaurants. They can come in, drop off their product, and someone will support it on some scale,” said Beebe, including “labeling, legal and finance support and marketing.”

Connection to the past
As we walk through the huge, hulking space, Beebe points out sections that will see new life. The anchor of the space, an impressive 900-ton mechanical press, will remain and be cleaned up. In its heyday, it was the largest working stamp in the west and could bend, fold, and cut metal a ¼-inch thick.

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The big black wheel is the flywheel. The motor on top gets it spinning. It then engages the bigger gears, the bands engage, the clutch comes in, then it operates.

It was so loud that the warning sign nearby wasn’t to warn users about getting limbs severed, but to warn that its sounds could make them deaf.

“It apparently used to shake the block. And everybody would hear it when this thing was cranking,” said Beebe.

A mezzanine will be added in the old foundry – which will house food-oriented office services such as marketing and legal support. On the ground floor, sections will be built out to provide space for freezers, manufacturers (there’s talk of a noodle maker) and even a retail space.

The location of The Redd is spot on. We walk around the block and nearby are small-scale businesses, manufacturers and artisans. Across the street is Jim Dixon’s Real Good Food. The location is Ground Zero for a food revolution.

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As the Central Eastside rapidly changes, it’s refreshing to see existing buildings re-purposed for something as noble as local food production. If Ecotrust’s flagship location is any indication, The Redd will make the space thrive, incorporate good design and ultimately have a huge influence on the area.

As Jane Jacobs once said, “Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings. New ideas must use old buildings.”

The Redd illustrates that old buildings still have life and a purpose.

 

 

 

The Jennings Hotel: new life through Kickstarter?

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There’s a new Kickstarter campaign to renovate The Jennings, a wilted 100-year-old hotel in Joseph, Ore. And the individual behind the campaign, Greg Hennes, has some cool ideas to make the old hotel a destination spot for visitors.

The hotel has been a landmark in Joseph for more than 100 years. It’s sat vacant or underutilized for more than 30 of those years, a victim to some unfortunate 70s remodeling decisions.

Hennes, who runs Clutch Camera, a photo rental shop and studio here in Portland, purchased the old hotel and plans to use Kickstarter funds to transform the hotel, with the help from designers and craftspeople.

So far he has Lisa Garcia, interior designer and founder of Soñadora Handmade, Matt Pierce of Wood & Faulk, and Brendon Farrell, architect and designer of Keeps Limited Edition, in the wings to begin work.

The Kickstarter campaign will help renovate the building but also give these designers a budget to buy materials. None of the designers are being paid. “Many are friends or colleagues of mine and they’ll have complete creative control. I have my own aesthetic and each of these artists will bring their own aesthetic and make it more diverse,” says Hennes.

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Hennes isn’t wasting any time getting started – he’s already working on one of the rooms (when finished there will be eight rooms) and hopes each room, with each artist’s touch, will be different than his. If the Kickstarter campaign gets funded, artists will begin work at the hotel this summer. The first room will be ready in early July.

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Local tradespeople will be employed, mostly for specialized labor (i.e., plumbing, electrical) and Hennes will bring in local craftspeople, while artists will featured through an artist’s residency program.

And then there’s the retrofitting of the hotel.

Ceilings in each room at one point were dropped from 12 feet down to 8-and-a-half with a whole new structure with 2x6s and sheetrock. “I’ll have to go through and disassemble all of that and rebuild a new ceiling,” says Hennes.

Most of the windows are aluminum, single-paned and need replaced, as do the existing vinyl floor coverings and textured sheetrock. Exterior work will include brickwork and painting, both huge and very expensive projects “but worth it because it will give it a complete and utterly different feel.”

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Plans also call for balcony (“the only balcony in Joseph!”) access to be retrofitted into a collective kitchen/dining room that will adjoin the lobby.

So far the campaign is doing well – even descendants of the people who built the hotel have contributed – but with only mere days away, it still hasn’t met its goal.

If funded, the hotel will be a nice addition to Joseph and appears to be something the locals would welcome.

“People off the street who I’ve never met have said, ‘you’re the guy doing the hotel. Happy to see something happening with that place.’”

For more information and to contribute go here.