South Portland Aerial, 1935

Lots of terrific detail in this 1935 aerial view of the South Portland neighborhood. Another generation would go by before this area was leveled for the South Auditorium Urban Renewal Project of the early 1960s. Contrast this intact neighborhood with the 1964 view.

(City of Portland Archives)

19 thoughts on “South Portland Aerial, 1935

  1. It’s sad to me to see cities get ripped apart like that, especially in the name of ‘renewal’ or ‘improvement’. SouthWest Portland had a pretty rough time of it through that period.

  2. It seems like history no one wants to mention. Growing up here, seeing the newer and shinier buildings on the south end of downtown, I assumed it was just a more recently developed area, and not a product of demolition of blocks and blocks of existing city.

  3. It seems obvious in hindsight, but until I learned about the urban renewal I never really thought about what was there before.

    Looking back I realize that most of the area south of Market St all the way down to Johns Landing was a big black hole in my mental map of Portland, bisected by Barbur, I-5, Corbett and Macadam. Most of those urban renewal developments may as well not exist for most people who don’t live or work there.

  4. Anybody have an idea of what the factory in the center of the photo was?

    Great find Dan, I always find your blog most enjoyable!

  5. Whoa. This is the only view i have ever seen of the SP’s entire Red Electric yard facility. This electrified line once served the industry south of the Hawthorne Bridge along Macadom and extended through Lake O and Beaverton and far down the valley. Sections of which still exist and are in use. This facility was reached from Union Station via street running South on 4th to Jefferson and East. For more information and a ton of excellent photos of Portland street scenes from this era see Dill & Grande”s excellent book, The Red Electrics, PFM 1994. What a great find this photo is.

  6. It was not really renewal, the reality was more like forced urban sterilization, You can thank Ira Keller, a rich guy who touted his idea of “modern” as better for the city. But I ‘m sure a lot of his rich friends got richer.

  7. Nice aerial. I had a project down in this area back in Architecture school. I found always interesting about Portland’s original grid, downtown was laid out angled towards the river south of Ankeny/Burnside for some 20 blocks or almost exactly one mile. On the north end, you have the very distinct edge of Burnside Street. On the south side though, there is no similar east/west street that splits the grid, it just angles back to the north/south orientation. The development on the south side could have been vastly different if originally there was an equivalent street like Burnside (and bridge) bringing streetcars, autos in south of downtown.

  8. “Other” Jim,

    According to E. Kimbark MacColl’s Portland, Merchants, Money and Power, we can thank Captain John Couch for the reallignment of the street grid at Burnside (Actually Ankeny). Captain Couch was one of the early Portland settlers, whose 640 acre land grant stretched North from Ankeny street. Being a nautical man, he platted his claim with the streets running due north-south. The neighboring city fathers to the South alligned their properties with the river. This history is what provides West Portland with several triangle blocks as well as a few remaining natural “squares.” The Skidmore fountain is located on one of the early wide spots in the road.

  9. I think at times we have to look at what people thought at the time. Here is some history. With its $12 million in federal money, the city moved forward with its plan to reinvent South Portland. The project area was bordered by S.W. Market Street, Harbor Drive, Arthur Street and Fourth Avenue. The neighborhood was experiencing a notably growing crime rate, substandard housing, and crowding. Compared with Portland as a whole, South Portland had three times the juvenile delinquency rate, two and a half times the adult crime rate, and four times the number of welfare cases. The obvious answer to PDC was to acquire, clear, and re-build the entire area. At least 349 parcels were secured, 1,573 residents, including 336 families and 289 businesses were relocated, and 445 buildings were demolished. The plan was to erect offices,
    commercial and retail services, high-rise apartments, a hotel, parks, malls, and transportation routes. Keller foresaw South Auditorium serving commercial and light business uses.

  10. Mike, I would be interested to see a linked citation of your statistics. The South Auditorium district seems to be a combination of best laid plans crossed with the road of good intentions. One might think that there would have been a better solution to slash and relocate. Of course, that begs the question: better for whom? We can take some comfort that current urban planning districts seem to be taking (somewhat) into account the neighborhood cultures, rather than erasing the existing culture and replacing it with a business park.

  11. @Mike When you copy an entire paragraph verbatim as you did above (and even if you paraphrase) it is at best very poor form to not cite your source. However, when you don’t even bother to make it clear that it IS a quote from someone else and not your own writing it is considered something worse.

    Since you didn’t, I’ll do it for you. That passage is from “A Brief History of Urban Renewal in Portland, Oregon” by Craig Wollner, John Provo, and Julie Schablisky. It can be found here (the paragraph above can be found on page 7):

    Click to access Brief%20History%20of%20Urban%20Renewal%20in%20Portland.pdf

    PS Interesting to note that the photo of Portland on page 3 is reversed (i.e. mirror image). Took me a few seconds to figure out what I was looking at. Not sure how that made it past anyone at all familiar with Portland.

  12. Brian
    I did forget to put quotes around the paragraph and provide a link. I also thought it was pretty obvious that the paragraph wasn’t written by myself. Feel free to sue for plagarism.

  13. You forgot to put it in quotes, and forgot to separate it from your introduction to make it clear it wasn’t yours AND you forgot to cite the source too? And then have the never to reply with a smart@ss “so sue me”? Come on.

  14. It is on SW Grant St, the only one of two E-W orientation of the streetcar line around the one hundred block range, the other being SW Gibbs St. which happens to be my last name. Having studied a very early version of architecture & urban planning at PCC in 69-71, we were sent out to look at all the tearing down and rebuilding going all over Portland at the time. Took a lot of pictures, unfortunately they got lost in a move. The destruction made me sick even at that time The houses in the first picture predate 1900-10 by the chimney style and the gingerbread, therefore it to be an older part of town, The building on the corner to the right is obviously a commercial building with living quarters above it, probably a grocery store. I started by looking at a streetcar map of Portland and zeroed in the area. I came up with two possibilities, Grant or Gibbs. The aerial photo was the tie breaker, showed it to be on Grant. Sadly it looks like the area is no longer with us, taken over by PSU buildings.

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