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)

35 thoughts on “Building Demolition, c1930 – Help Us Out!

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

  2. 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. 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 .

  4. 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…

  5. 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. 😦

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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

  10. 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

  11. 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

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

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

  15. 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!

  16. 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.

  17. This discussion may be too old to comment on, but FYI, the Last Will and Testament of Captain John C Ainsworth, on December 4, 1890, left the “Zeta Psi Block” to his oldest son George J Ainsworth. Captain John C Ainsworth was an owner of the Oregon Steam Navigation Company (a monopoly), later the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company, and several banks in Portland and California. Captain Ainsworth was a Freemason (a Mason). It looks like some of his contemporaries who founded Zeta Psi Fraternity elsewhere also had background as Masons. His son George J Ainsworth was in the first graduating class at U.C. Berkeley in 1873 — as one of the first 12 students there. Zeta Psi was the first fraternity on the West Coast at Berkeley as of June 10, 1870, therefore it seems possible that George J Ainsworth had a role in establishing the fraternity on the West Coast. My ancestors were Irish immigrants who worked in Captain Ainsworth’s home, which is why I’ve taken an interest in this topic.

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