SW Clay, 1955

Take a few steps to the right from yesterday’s buildings and turn left at the corner of SW 3rd and Clay, and you would see these structures. The white one was at 316 SW Clay; they were probably all apartments or rooming houses. And they, too, were demolished in the late 1960s to make way for the Forecourt (Ira Keller) Fountain.

(University of Oregon Libraries)

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19 Responses to “SW Clay, 1955”

  1. Barbara Parker Says:

    I appreciate so much the images that you post.. I hate that so many of these buildings are gone..:(

  2. chuck Says:

    Me, too, Dan. The posts of the last 3 days re:the Civic Auditorium neighborhood have been really interesting.

  3. John Says:

    Does anyone remember where Mrs Neusihin’s kosher dill pickles were made? I seem to think it was somewhere in the area where the Keller Fountain is located.

  4. Mark Says:

    I agree with Barbara Parker that it’s sad that these real houses and neighborhoods were replaced by a soulless gulag of apartment towers and unfriendly wind sweep plazas. You can blame Ira Keller. How fitting that the city decided to name a big A-hole in the ground after him…

  5. Dan Davis Says:

    Mrs. Neusihin made pickles in the basement of the house at 420 College St. Incredibly, the house is still there.

  6. chuck Says:

    Mrs. Neushin’s pickles! I haven’t thought about them for years. I remember the house she made them in.

  7. SamTheClam Says:

    OK, I think we are maybe taking this nostalgia a little too far. The Keller is not the Schnitz, but to say that these old homes and apartment buildings are something special and worth preserving are maybe stretching it a bit.

    While it is interesting looking at what was there previously, these structures are really no different from what you will find in any old section of town. I kind of like the Lovejoy and Forecourt fountain(s) and as someone who used to work in the “black box” building, I also like the plazas that connect the area. I find them a nice peaceful escape from the downtown area.

  8. Roxanne Says:

    I have to agree with Sam the Clam. Old does not automatically equate with beautiful or valuable. Nostalgia is OK, but those were junky old bldgs. They did not, as far as I can see, have any artistic nor architectural value. Some nostalgia perhaps, by the people who used to frequent them or live in them, but certainly not on a par with, say, tearing down the Pittock Mansion. I think the Forecourt Fountain is quite beautiful and some day people will be nostalgic about it. Think about it. Slums are old, but no one thinks we should preserve them in all their fading, falling apart “glory”.

  9. Tom Says:

    “Old does not automatically equate with beautiful or valuable.”
    Nor New to better.

  10. poncho Says:

    “I find them a nice peaceful escape from the downtown area.”
    Thats whats suburbs are for. Lets keep our cities as cities.

    “Old does not automatically equate with beautiful or valuable. Nostalgia is OK, but those were junky old bldgs. They did not, as far as I can see, have any artistic nor architectural value.”
    Sure they were run down but these buildings just needed a renovation and restoration to bring them up to standards. The buildings themselves were old and needed some updates but there was nothing wrong with the buildings themselves. Please today live in buildings of this vintage just fine, they’ve just fixed them up. No artistic or architectural value?!?!? Yeah nevermind all those architectural trims and mouldings and solid original materials. These “junky old bldgs” have more architectural value than the concrete bunker buildings, plazas and fountains that litter this land today that is so devoid of people you would think there was a mass evacuation.

  11. poncho Says:

    *People* today live in buildings of this vintage just fine, they’ve just fixed them up.

  12. Roxanne Says:

    Whoa there! I am not pro-replacement or tear down. I LOVE old buildings. I regret the replacement of beautiful old barns and wonderful old farmhouses and incredibly ornate cast iron commercial bldgs and Victorian gingerbread “palaces” as much as anyone. I just don’t love ALL old buildings. Some are not, in fact, worth preserving. I am all for the application of some discrimination in what needs to be saved. In the 1960’s, everyone went overboard to put in new and modern to the detriment of what was old and beautiful and should have been preserved. Lets not go overboard in the other direction and preserve stuff simply because it is old, regardless of the actual cultural, artistic and historic value or non-value I did not see any architectural details on those old houses that raised them above and beyond simple run down old bldgs. Some of those old places were simply just boring old boxes and cheap ticky tacks when they were new and age did not improve them. I didn’t see anything that distinguished these houses from literally thousands of others of the time and think the Fountain is prettier.

  13. cedr Says:

    Well put, Roxanne. And while modernism isn’t to everyone’s taste, I think the Keller forecourt fountain & park are beautiful too, definitely with a vintage Portland charm of their own. Wouldn’t it also be sad to see them torn up and replaced cheap clapboard rowhouses? I’m surprised at the vehemence of the anti-park comments. Weird.

  14. james Says:

    Let me start by saying change is scary and I hate it. However, change, as tough as it is, is necessary . Without change, our town would be the forest . I am nostalgic for the places that I used to frequent, walk by and just appreciate. The fact of the matter is, our city is beautiful. It’s seen some ugliness and some excellence. The people of this city, have and continue to change our surroundings. That’s inspiring to me and I hope it continues. With that said, I hope and wish the powers that be listen. Listen to this blog and voices from all around this city. The message is simple, rebuild, recycle and renew. Our beautiful buildings that make this city are important and useful. Well built houses can be moved. Shop owners can remain.

    I look at this site every morning, itching for the next post. I wonder what my father and grandfathers saw when they walked the very same streets I do everyday. That’s how I see many of the posts on this site. The great houses torn down for apartments I don’t get.

    I love this blog and love reading the comments. I wish more care had been taken when changing our city, but as we all know, change is like death and taxes… certain.

    Keep up the awesome work Dan! I’ll keep trying to see this city as my father and grandfather did.

  15. Jim Says:

    While an individual’s perception of the beauty of a building or home is subjective, I think a lot of the vitriol against this particular re-do was the South Auditorium renewal project’s wholesale scraping of 54 blocks of businesses and homes, as well as the micro-neighborhoods that evolved out of them. This project, along with the I-405 gouging of Goose Hollow and the Memorial Coliseum and Minnesota (I-5) freeway’s displacement of the vibrant inner North Portland area effectively cut off the surviving neighborhoods from downtown and each other (including the new Urban neighborhoods created from the renewal project). At one time these were the epitome of 20 minute neighborhoods, with the urban core being the 20 minute destination.

    With few exceptions, all of these neighborhoods were labeled “run down” and derelict. However, scraping and scrapping, and resulting effects on the survivors of urban renewal also sparked a backlash that may have kept other urban and urbane pockets from facing the bulldozer and wrecking ball. Neighborhoods such as Hawthorne, Mississippi, the Alphabet District, and many of the historic downtown buildings (including a good portion of the Pearl District warehouses and industrial establishments) owe their survival to this backlash and the outcry. Keep shouting.

    I like to apply a three-tiered approach to individual historic properties.

    1. Apply the mind’s eye to imagine a property in its prime and follow up with research to determine the original appeance. The middle house in the above photo has the appearance of having Italianate features. Were they more extensive prior to its neglect? Did the bays extend up to the second floor?

    2. Is it saveable? Dan had an earlier photo of a Pearl District buidling in its prime that was demolished during urban renewal. I had seen other photos of the same building just prior to it’s demolition. It was leaning and sagging. Salvaging would have meant an entire demolition and reconstruction a la the Friemann buidling on Second and Oak.

    3. Determine the historic value. A building doesn’t have to be pretty or distinctive in its appearance to be considered for preservation. A word I have seen over and over again in historical reasons for neighborhood and property demolition is “shacks and shanties.” While I know shanty towns have popped up all over Portland throughout its history, sometimes the term appears rather…”loosely” applied to wood-frame homes and businesses that may have just needed a bit of cosmetic work and proper upkeep (or different, slightly more distant, neighbors).

    While I realize it’s an idea that probably never would have happened, I wish that one or more of the old Chinese “shacks” that existed at the edges and in Tanner Gulch had survived. Although the photos I have seen rarely show much detail of the homes, the vegetable gardens usually appear neat, tidy and well-maintained. It would be interesting to have historically accurate record of the interior of the home of one of their meticulous owners to see how individuals lived and survived in that era of extreme discrimination and exclusion. Perhaps such a record could be recreated at the OHS like the coastal native American plank house, the explorer’s tent, or the Conestoga. My point being, sometimes the most humble appearing residence can have later historical significance.

    Anyway, that’s my lay person’s take on preservation, but a professional probably has a more extensive list of criteria.

    Now get out there and rescue the old avocado and harvest gold appliances of the seventies, and preserve the remaining mauving of America that came out of the eighties. ;-)

  16. Roxanne Says:

    This post generated a great debate, most of it calm and well thought out and a good critique. This is why I love this site. The calm, well thought out comments and the history lessons involved. Yes, change is hard to take. I have lived in many neighborhoods in Portland, and most of them I liked the way they were originally when I lived there. However, that is not necessarily because they were better then. It was the fact that I was better then that makes them so valuable to me. I had a good childhood being raised by my grandparents and so I look back on that era very fondly. Any place I lived that I was happy ranks high on my “nostalgia” list and I regret changed to those areas even if the changes actually improved the area in some way. In a way, the changes that “erase” parts of my childhood are the ones I dislike the most. No matter if the change is an improvement, I still regret the disappearance of part of my history. This is one of the things that probably fuels the most vehement of the anti-change rhetoric.

  17. chuck Says:

    I know exactly what you’re saying, Roxanne. Sometimes I think that Portland is on a campaign to erase any record of my life there – starting with my birth when St. Vincent’s was torn down. Many of the buildings I’ve lived in in Portland are gone, too.

  18. Zona Avila Says:

    I am a 64 year old woman who lived as a child in the Lenox hotel on 3rd Avenue,My mother worked at the Third Avenue cafe.
    That was mid fifties,it was considered skid-row then.The neighborhood was very ethnic and many kind hearted,hard working immigrants worked there.
    However,the neighborhood was chock full of drunks,broken down people,prostitutes,etc.I went through much abuse and horror there until I was finally removed and placed in foster care.
    I could tell you stories about that neighborhood that would make your hair stand on end!
    There were many sad stories from that area,so it’s far better to let it go,only those who actually lived through that time know how it really was.
    Sometimes nostalgia is not reality.
    I say tear it down!

  19. Don Johnson Says:

    I worked for Mrs. Neusihin in the 60s. First canning them during the summer of ’66 in the wearhouse under the Hawthorn bridge, then delivering them the following year from the house (garage) in the photo to various businesses around the city. The photo brings back many memories. They were the best tasting pickles in the world at that time.

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