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The former Bomber location in Oak Grove is for sale

 John Margolies Roadside America photograph archive (1972-2008), Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. Source.

Actually, what’s for sale is most of the land that the former restaurant (closed during COVID in 2020) and gas station (closed years ago) and once featured the B-17 Lacey Lady, a WWII-vintage B-17G four-engine Bomber looming over the property.

If you don’t know the story, in 1947, Art Lacey purchased a B-17 bomber for $13,000 and flew it from Oklahoma to Oregon. He then disassembled it, transported it covertly, and placed it atop his 48-pump gas station in Oak Grove. Lacey also opened the Bomber Restaurant and motel. The gas station was closed in 1991.

According to Loopnet, the property is going for $6 million.


Good news for fans of the airplane, it was relocated and is being restored. Once that happens it’s not clear where it will (excuse the pun) land. Probably not at its original location. If I had any guesses, this chunk of the property will be turned into shovel-ready land.

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Historic Portland Breweries 1852-1934

Shout out to Bill Night’s excellent It’s Pub Night and the map he compiled that shows breweries that opened in Portland between 1852 and 1934.

If you’re a beer nerd (ding!), building nerd (ding!), or local history nerd (duh), click on the image below or here and go poke around. It’s a fun time travel.

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Modern mystery in Oak Grove

A reader shared images of a phenomenal home located off of SE Oatfield and Roethe Road in Oak Grove (near Milwaukie, Ore.)

Here’s what they said:

This is a picture taken probably in the late 40’s by our Mom of her Mothers property which was on Oatfield road near Roethe. I remember this building on the Eastern border of her property.  I don’t think it was there after the 1960s but it looks like a very modern home with a Frank Lloyd Wright style to it.  They would have had an amazing view.  Not sure who owned that horse.  The house must have been off Roethe Rd east of Oatfield.  Perhaps someday I’ll drive out there and see if I can figure out where it might have been.

Any ideas from readers out there?

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Hop into your time machine and watch this video from 1917!

Portland, 1917! Great stuff!

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East Portland: Evolution of a small city

West’s Block building on SE Grand: Now home to AHC’s headquarters. Bult in 1883 and possibly the oldest standing building on Grand Ave.

What we think of today as Portland covers a broad swath of land on both sides of the Willamette River. In the late 19th century, that same area contained several mostly independent communities, including Albina, St. Johns, Sellwood—and East Portland, a small city on the eastern shore of the river roughly bounded by Division Street to the south, 12th Avenue to the east, and Sullivan’s Gulch to the north. While people had lived in this area for far longer than recorded history, East Portland only existed as an official city for two decades before merging with Portland and Albina in 1891.

The Architectural Heritage Center’s (AHC) current exhibit, East Portland: A Changing Landscape, a Forgotten City, explores the area and its history in imagery and displays (hint: there once was a huge body of water that sliced through SE—imagine crossing a bridge over SE Grand).

Here’s an interview I did with AHC’s Val Ballestrem on the exhibit and how SE Portland has changed since its beginnings. The exhibit runs through April 2020 —go check it out!

What was the motivation behind the exhibit?
We recognized that it was a story that has been given very little attention over the years. In the process of researching, the most recent published history of East Portland (other than photo books) I could find was written in 1930! We had already been considering an East Portland exhibit when we became aware of the After Promontory exhibit. Once we were on board with hosting After Promontory, it made sense for us to do the East Portland exhibit at the same time.

Was the eastside primarily industry mixed with housing and apartments? Did any of the people that lived east “commute” to downtown or stay eastside?
From the 1870s onward, there were always industries near to the river, but because of the landscape, much of the land west of present-day MLK Jr. Blvd. remained undeveloped until into the first two decades of the 20th century. There were some houses and hotels in that area, but most were on bits of land that stayed high and dry during Willamette River flooding. The earliest concentrations of housing in East Portland were east of MLK and north of Oak Street. Housing in that area shows up in some of the earliest photos of the area. To the south, the housing was a little more sparse, in part due to the large presence of the Hawthorne (or Asylum) Slough that cut a large swath through the area south of Stark St. as well as a sizable amount of land set aside for what was then called the Oregon Hospital for the Insane. There was also quite a bit of land at the south end of East Portland that was used as farmland.

 By the 1880s, it was clear that the east side was viewed as a residential suburb of Portland even though it was still its own city. There was a lot of flat lands as you moved farther away from the river, making home building easier. It took until 1887, however, for the first bridge to appear (Morrison St.), which immediately led to the rise of streetcar suburbs on the eastside. I’m sure there were lots of people using the various ferries that crossed the river prior to the arrival of the bridges. It should also be noted that one of the details that came out of consolidation in 1891, was that all of the bridges became free to use. East-siders had been clamoring for this – probably most of whom needed to get to work or otherwise conduct business on the west side.


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Can you talk about the pond that once existed? When was it finally filled in?
There was a spring-fed slough that cut through East Portland from about present-day Madison St. and 11th (adjacent to the asylum), north toward Belmont, and then north and east toward the river. Early maps and photos show this slough that by the end of the 1880s had been cut off from the river and was considered as a pond. The Goat Blocks development was built on some of the land where there was once a slough/pond. Also, the building that includes Next Adventure at SE Grand and Stark was built on the filled-in pond.

 Basically East Portland was bisected by this slough. There was a 15 – 20 foot ridge that ran along MLK roughly between Stark and Hawthorne, this is why much of the land west of MLK and south of Stark remained undeveloped until it was filled in. The early roads in that area were built on pilings as were many buildings.

If you’re trying to explain the boundaries of East Portland to someone today, what would that be?
The city boundaries of East Portland were roughly the river, Division St., 12th and approximately what is now Lloyd Blvd (or I-84). The Central Eastside today encompasses this entire area, but extends to Powell at the south.

 Was there a particular industry that reigned?
Food-related businesses (especially processing businesses) show up pretty early in East Portland, including canneries and meatpackers. There were grain mills on the east side from the 1850s onward. Gideon Tibbetts’ flour mill was the first, but was to the south of East Portland, near Clinton and 11th. In later years (after 1900) wholesale grocers started to become more prominent. Since lumber was necessary for growing cities, lumber mills showed up pretty early as well, but really dominated the southern end of what was East Portland into the 20th century.


How did the arrival of the railroad impact east Portland?
The simple answer is that the construction of the railroad, beginning at the end of the 1860s, led East Portlanders like James B. Stephens, to envision a city that could perhaps rival their west side neighbor. Over a couple of decades, the railroad helped transform what was initially a farming village into a small, industrial-minded city.


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Rejuvenating Estacada’s main street, one building at a time

The long-gone Hotel Estacada.
The long-gone Hotel Estacada.

Snuggled along the Clackamas River, you might know Estacada as the town where you stop in for supplies before heading out to the river or maybe as the home of the now defunct Safari Club that once showcased stuffed animals while diners enjoyed a meal or a cocktail.

Estacada is more than that, with a deep history going back over a century. It started out as a camp for dam builders, then a weekend destination for Portlanders who stayed at the (long gone) Hotel Estacada, shuttled there via trolley line (also long gone) from downtown Portland. The key word here though is: dam. In fact, there are four dams on the river near Estacada built by workers who have lived in Estacada at one time or the other (while earning the nickname “the dammedest town in Oregon,” according to an old diner’s matchbook).

Sure, it’s had its moments—some positive, others negative.

There’s been several decades where Estacada suffered from a negative perception challenge that it was a rough and tumble place on the outskirts of Clackamas County,” says Matt Lorenzen, Estacada’s Economic Development Manager. 

Downtown Estacada
Downtown Estacada

However, thanks to a strong economy and population growth in the greater Portland region, engaged city staff, a forward-thinking City Council, and tools like tax increment financing (urban renewal), downtown Estacada is experiencing somewhat of a renaissance. Several downtown buildings have been recently rehabilitated and occupied by new businesses, including a dance studio, an outdoor outfitter, and a frozen yogurt shop, with help from local urban renewal grants. 

Most recently a Revitalization grant made available through the Oregon Main Street program—a division of the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO)—will make possible the retrofit of the popular Broadway Building, built in 1938. 

“If you do a back-of-the-envelope pro forma on putting a quarter million dollars into this building, it makes no sense whatsoever,” says Lorenzen. “But with these public funds you can do some cool things to breathe new life into a building, and in our case, into a highly visible corner in a downtown that’s trying to come back to life.” 

Renderings for the Broadway Building renovation. Source.

The Broadway Building sits in a key location at the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Broadway. In Estacada, Broadway is considered the “main” street, even though there’s an actual Main Street. It’s the first intersection visitors come to when exiting or entering downtown from Highway 224, and with the public art on the walls, it’s a highly visible building. 

Using historical photography, it was discovered that the building had a somewhat dubious addition to it in the 60s or 70s that Lorenzen describes as “very utilitarian,” and “at any rate its [architecture is] incompatible with downtown and with the corner that we’re revitalizing.”

The goal, he says, is multifaceted in that it will restore the facade of the building, taking a historically incongruent facade on Fourth Avenue and bringing it into alignment with the downtown and with the building that it’s attached to.

SUM DESIGN STUDIO + architecture, the team behind the design, came on board and agreed the Broadway Building was the more cost-sensitive in terms of not having to do a deep demolition and treated it as more of an addition project. 

“We looked at it from a storefront aspect,” says SUM’s Matt Loosemore.  “We’re doing an awning replacement, we’re taking off all of a failed stucco system, exposing the substructure, and then re-stuccoing the facade.” The goal, he says is to scale back the existing two facades by breaking up the canopy line, keeping them at a consistent height, and adding more glass into the center space. “That way, we’re actually gaining an additional retail space.” 

However, because grant dollars are through SHPO, they’re required to follow Oregon’s Secretary of Interior’s standards for revitalization or rehabilitation, compelling the team to respect the historic aesthetic of the building.

The building will have a bit more modern touch, using a steel canopy, with all new window systems. “You’ll be able to see the old character of the building, but at the same time, appreciate some of the newer amenities,” says Loosemore. 

The Broadway Building is just one project out of many helping to contribute to downtown Estacada’s revitalization. 

“There’s a bit of a demographic shift taking place and an economy shifting towards tourism and outdoor recreation,” says Lorenzen. “That shift doesn’t mean just razing old buildings and building new ones, but rather preserving and enhancing and doing it in a way that’s respectful to the past.” 

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An under-appreciated mid-century spot in Milwaukie

Downtown Milwaukie is experiencing major changes to its downtown core. From the south Downtown area (there’s an actual crane up in Milwaukie) with two huge mixed-use projects up within a couple of years, to a new library, to more mixed-use dotted along McLoughlin, downtown will look different in 2-3 years. It hasn’t seen this much growth and construction probably since after WW2.

That said, Milwaukie has an impressive stock of mid-century ranch homes sprinkled throughout the neighborhoods that have remained unscathed in their original condition.

Many commercial mid-century buildings also dot the landscape from super-mod churches to office buildings to bowling alleys.

millwaukie cleaners

One mid-century building still standing is the (now former) Milwaukie Cleaners building. Almost invisible, since it sits on a desolate part of Main street (most people usually drive by it to hop on 99) it was built in 1959 and designed by Joseph H. Rudd & Associates, a Portland architecture firm. The streamlined design and folded plate roof were commonly found on dry cleaners of the time. The space is a bit striking and unusual, most notably that roof.

According to Leesa Gratreak, MS, Architectural Historian, at HDR, Joseph H. Rudd & Associates was started by Joseph H. Rudd in 1950 after completing his degree in architecture at the University of Oregon. Rudd, originally born in Idaho in 1922, was active in local philanthropy and housing boards in Portland, as well as an active member of the city planning committee in Vancouver, Wash. Rudd continued to design with the firm until his retirement in 1990 and he passed away in 2003.

Examples of additional work include Yaw’s Top Notch Restaurant in Portland; quarters for the Sisters of St. Dominic on the Marycrest High School campus in Portland; a U.S. National Bank Building on Division Street in Portland; as well as numerous residential buildings throughout the Portland metro area.

“The building is an excellent example of mid-century plate glass design and exhibits a folded plate roof and decorative concrete block patterning,” says Gratreak. “The roof is considered a common feature associated with dry cleaners as it allowed a wide overhang for items to be safely transferred into the vehicle.”

Once Milwaukie Cleaners closed shop, the future of the building remained unknown. Just recently, tell-tale signs of a new business showed up—brown paper on the windows—with word on the street that new tenants will be involved in the budding CBD industry.

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New Spaces, Old Places: Blake McFall Building

New Spaces, Old Places is an occasional look at adaptive reuse projects around Oregon and beyond.

Also known as the Emmett Building in Portland’s Central Eastside, the five-story building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Designed by McNaughton & Raymond of Portland and built in 1915, it was added to the register in 1990.

Blake McFall Building under construction, 1915.
Under construction, 1915.

Here’s what the Oregonian had to say about it in its July 1915 issue:

The second floor, reached by a fireproof viaduct from Burnside street will contain the offices, salesmen’s quarters, rest rooms and space for sample display and the balance of the building will be given up to general paper storage.

Total cost: $90,000.

If you’ve been in Portland for any amount of time, you’ll know this building better as the Towne Storage building. Up until a few years back, it was low-rent space for local artists. In 2016, it was retrofitted to include:

seismic strengthening, window sash replacement and refurbishment, brick and stone restoration, a new enhanced exterior entry and main lobby, restoration of the iconic steel water tower, and the addition of a new 8,750 SF Penthouse set-back on the roof with two exterior landscaped decks.

Blake McFall Company Building pre retrofit
Pre-retrofit. Source.

Blake McFall Building after retrofit.
Post retrofit. The water tower was kept intact. Source.