Building Demolition, c1930 – Help Us Out!

The City of Portland Archives provided this photo enlisting your help in finding the identity and location of this building. The photo comes from the Portland Fire Bureau and is dated circa 1930. It’s a fine example of Portland’s early inventory of cast-iron architecture that obviously didn’t survive. This is a tough one as there is very little to go on and this does not appear to be one of the better known cast-iron buildings. I have my own theory, let’s see what you come up with. Enjoy and good luck!

Found: Zeta Psi Building, NW Front Ave. & Davis St.

(City of Portland Archives)

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33 Responses to “Building Demolition, c1930 – Help Us Out!”

  1. Kellie Says:

    wish one could see more of the Mt Hood signage on the back right building…it’s Mt Hood – S????

  2. Kerry-Lynne Says:

    Was this located on Burnside, near old town? I know I have seen that Mt Hood building before but the location is escaping me at the moment.

  3. Ralph Kramden Says:

    Mt. Hood Stages

  4. Bud Says:

    Two possible locations in N. W. Portland used a Mt. Hood name during the late teens & 1920′s ; my first guess is the iron front was on either Front or 1st between Couch & Davis Streets … maybe being removed for ” new ” Harbor Drive road to Broadway Bridge ?? The Mt. Hood Shirt & Outfitting was @ 233 Couch St. under the old street numbering system or the Mt. Hood Soap Co. was located @ 4th & Glisan Sts. ……… I tend to think it was the shirt manufacturers building that would have been on1st or 2nd .

  5. Mike Slama Says:

    I was thinking Mt Hood Soap and Soda company is behind this building. If so, a clue may be here:
    Blow up the photo and the address 108 shows on the building. However, the building in the photo today seems to be one block over, as opposed to right behind our demolished building. The other possible clue I see are the tracks on the street. This is killing me! I wish I had more time to dig…

  6. Jim Says:

    I think it was the Zeta Psi building (formerly Oregon Railway and Navigation Company on the corner of Naito and Davis.

    Click the link and scroll down.

  7. Dennis Says:

    There are no chimneys or water tower on the Zeta building.

  8. Mike Slama Says:

    Dennis, very likely those were added later. I think Jim has it! Study the detail closely in the photo- I’m sure that’s it.

  9. portlandpreservation Says:

    In Hawkins’ Grand Era of Cast Iron book, there is an image of the O R & N (Zeta Psi) bldg. from an 1883 West Shore magazine. It definitely looks like the building in question.

  10. Chris Wilson Says:

    I thought maybe it would be in “The Grand Era of Cast-Iron Architecture in Portland” and that I’d be able to identify it. It is not in that book. :(

  11. portlandpreservation Says:

    Chris, look at pg. 83 in Hawkins’ book. It’s in the litho also showing the McCracken Block.

  12. larisazimmerman Says:

    portlandpreservation – what page are you looking at? I don’t see the picture you describe in my copy of Hawkins’ book.

  13. Bill Says:

    Jim’s link seems to show a lot of writing on the building. Can anyone read it?

  14. larisazimmerman Says:

    Thanks! I see it now.

  15. Ken Hawkins Says:

    The 1928 aerial showing Front Ave/Burnside bridge shows no three story buildings in this configuration at Front and Davis.

  16. portlandpreservation Says:

    The sign as I see it in Hawkins’ book says “Through Tickets to all points Ocean, River, and Railroad San Francisco [then something unreadable] East”

  17. portlandpreservation Says:

    I think the aerial was taken at the same time as the ground photo. Two streets over from the Burnside Bridge is a building with a notch missing and it has a tower on it. That would place it at Davis and Front.

  18. portlandpreservation Says:

    Meant to say that I was responding to Ken’s link.

  19. Ken Hawkins Says:

    Not sure what I was thinking earlier, since as portlandpreservation notes, the building visible in the aerial at the SW corner of Front and Davis has the same corner removed and the water tower is in the right position. The number of window bays on the third floor are the same also. The number of window bays also matches on the ground floor to the drawing Jim found.

    This would have been a great photo for the last pages of Bill Hawkins’ book!

  20. Ken Hawkins Says:

    The building also can be seen intact, at a distance, in the 1926 aerial on p 172, and partially demolished in the early 1930s aerial on p 171, of Hawkins book.

  21. Ken Hawkins Says:

    Also known as the Capt. Geo. Ainsworth building; gutted by a fire in Nov. 1896, demolished in 1928, and immortalized in a mural on the side of the Import Plaza building, commissioned by Bill Naito, in 1979.

    A drawing from the 1896 article on the fire at the Oregon Cracker Company:

  22. Ian Fraley Says:

    It appears that this building may have remained in this state of partial demolition for several years, assuming the date on this photo, and the 1928 date on the aerial photo are correct. Also the fact that there is a fence built around the collapsed part of the structure leads me to believe that it wasn’t immediately torn down, but remained in this sad condition for an extended period of time. I wonder

  23. Ian Fraley Says:

    Or after rereading Ken Hawkins last comment, would the damaged section of the building be the result of the 1896 fire, and did this building remain in this damaged condition for 30 years? Seems unlikely, but maybe we will never know

  24. Ian Fraley Says:

    But alas, after referencing my own copy of Bill Hawkins’ “The Grand Era of Cast Iron Architecture in Portland” I now see the photo of the intact building in 1926. My original query still stands

  25. portlandpreservation Says:

    Oregonian February 17, 1929 “Building Collapse Menaces Four Men — Vacant Structure at Front and Davis in Ruins — Ice and Snow Blamed”
    Now we know when and why the building was in the state it was in when the photos were taken.

  26. portlandpreservation Says:

    Oregonian November 12, 1930 “Old Buildings Offer Much Available Work” Includes a photo of the partially collapsed building.

  27. portlandpreservation Says:

    In 1931 it seems that the building owner sued the company that had outfitted the building with a sprinkler system. No word on the outcome, yet.

  28. Brian Says:

    At first, it would appear that the Feb. 1929 date for collapse would conflict with the Ken Hawkins link to the earlier VP post showing the 1928 aerial photo (and to this also claimed 1928 aerial from VP which also shows the same building, though not as clearly).

    However, after checking, it seems the seawall was not completed until 1929, and in fact the photo in the link by Ken Hawkins is in the Portland archives with a 1929 date. There are also photos from 1928 showing construction of the wall which is nowhere near the complete state shown in the two aerials. So, that along with the Feb. 1929 date for the collapse, means those 1928 dates are definitely incorrect.

  29. Brian Says:

    Here’s another previous VP aerial from 1935 showing that the building is gone but the fence appears to remain.

  30. Kathleen Says:

    Is that graffiti near the top right corner of the black rectangle? The squiggles suggest something like “zip gut” or “hep cat.”

  31. Valerie Says:

    Thank you for all the info people! All I can say is that it was a beautiful building and I am glad that it is remembered!

  32. Ryan Thompson Says:

    See the exposed interior wall? There are two different sliding metal doors. I wonder if that means anything?

  33. Jay Rothberg Says:

    I am a past president of Zeta Psi Fraternity, Inc. I had heard many years ago about the Zeta Psi Building in Portland, Oregon and wanted to know if it was related in anyway to our fraternity. Can anyone help? Can you tell me who built the building or named it? I am curious if they were a member of our fraternity. If there is a relationship to the fraternity, I think it would make a nice article for our magazine. Any help or direction of where to go with this would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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