SE Belmont & 39th, 1915

The Mt. Tabor streetcar line once ran down the middle of SE Belmont Street, shown here in 1915 looking west at 39th Avenue. The first two houses on the left have been demolished, the other five still remain.

(City of Portland Archives)

11 thoughts on “SE Belmont & 39th, 1915

  1. I’m here often, live just a bit south and regularly transfer from the 75 to the 15 bus to get downtown.

    What interests me is the angle / curve of the intersection. Any reason for that, considering that the streets in the rest of the area are pretty much a straight grid? As a matter of fact, I can’t think of another intersection like this along 39th from NE Glisan all the way down to Woodstock, and I live on Chavez just a bit south of Powell. Even Powell crosses 39th at a straight angle.

    At the intersection where that building on the right sits is now a Bosnian Restaurant (Two Brothers?). When was 39th widened? Was that building a victim of it?

    Pretty sure that white house / building on the left in the background (beyond the 5 still-remaining houses) is also gone. As well as the couple beyond it? It’s now some kind of light industry building across the street from the bus stop and the new mixed-use development next to the Belmont Academy.

  2. Re: the angle/curve, these “street jogs” (and also “curb jogs“) often resulted from the way the land was surveyed and developed. In a few cases the original survey was wrong and was later corrected, causing the road to be re-routed. If I recall correctly, I think this is why SE Division takes a northerly jog at SE 41st Avenue as you head east. In many other cases, since Portland in its early days expanded in a piecemeal fashion without an official master plan, one developer would design a new subdivision one way and another developer working on an adjacent parcel would design his a different way, resulting in the roads and sidewalks not lining up perfectly.

    So Belmont jogging south at 39th is likely one of these “plat jogs.”

  3. Ever since seeing this post, I’ve been seeing those houses all over SE. I had no idea they were such a prominent design. Any idea if they were a mail order design or build by a developer?

  4. Kevin,

    Since there are so many similar houses on the same block, maybe in this case, they were built by a developer using mail order kits?

  5. My grandfather bought a house right around the corner on 39th and Yamhill in 1916. We lived there until the 1970s. In the 1950’s, my grandmother would take me downtown on the bus that still runs through that site. Your picture brings it all back. Thanks.

  6. Those houses are “American Foursquares”, an extremely common style found throughout Portland and the rest of the US, particularly in the midwest. Some could have been built from kits, more likely a builder/carpenter built them all at once from the same set of plans (plan books were common). Most were built between about 1905 and 1915, so these were quite new when the photo was made. The Architectural Heritage Center ( has done programs on foursquares in the past, check their website for future offerings.

  7. Yeah, it’s funny to hear local realtors refer to these foursquares as “Old Portlands” or “Portland Foursquares.” Only the ones built from plans using locally harvested lumber (as opposed to the full house kits packaged and shipped from the Sears factory) could make even a partial claim to being unique to Portland.

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