NW 27th & Wilson, 1980

The area west of NW 27th 26th Avenue on Wilson Street looks only slightly less industrial today with the addition of some street side trees. Montgomery Ward is now Montgomery Park and much of the old American Can complex on the right has been converted to a parking garage. Long-disused railroad tracks still run down the street, a chain-link fence still borders the sidewalk and it looks like the same old classic railroad crossing sign is still in the same spot.

(University of Oregon Libraries)

21 thoughts on “NW 27th & Wilson, 1980

  1. Not to be nitpicky but I think it’s NW 26th and Wilson. Unless there was a change in the numbering system of the streets. However, you can see that little has change over the past 30 years. I kind of miss the gritty industrial feel that Portland had…brewery blocks, the pearl, and now the se industrial area is now changing.

  2. Todd – You’re right, of course. It’s that whole early morning/lack of coffee thing again. Thank to you and all the other fact-checkers out there keeping me honest.

  3. Ha! Until a couple months ago, I was working in Montgomery Park, and parking in that, um, “garage”

  4. Working @ ” Monkey Wards ” as a retail stockboy many, many years ago got to know this building well !!! Directly ahead at end of the street was a branch of the U.S. Post Office ; tons and tons of postal packages came down from the top 5 floors for ” Catalog Sales ” via a chute system and this area under the ramp was for mail truck loading . The first 2 floors were ” Retail Store “; 3rd floor was huge company cafeteria; ” Return Sales Room “, offices and a walk-up Catalog order desk/window . All catalog orders West of Mississippi were shipped from this huge steel framed facility .

  5. I remember shopping in M. Wards as a kid. It was a great old building!

    Incidentally, I’m wondering if the classic BMW 2002 belonged to whomever took this picture. The fact the passenger door is open leads me to believe that he/she parked and got their camera out from that side of the car.

  6. They’ve taken up a lot of the railroad track in the area, especially on Nicolai St. But the side streets are the same bumpy, track-infested, suspension-busters they always were. 🙂

  7. There used to be a train that actually ran under part of the bldg if I remember correctly. I have a postcard of that, I think, that I will send to Dan.

  8. Roxanne is right, The tracks used to go right through the center of the building. Entire freighttrain, Steam locomotive and all could drive through to unload its cargo.

  9. Learned to drive a car over here. I grew up on 27th & Raleigh and graduated from Chapman School. There were some scary industrial smells coming from Esco back in the 80’s! Wasn’t Boise Cascade somewhere over there also..?? I spent many days looking out windows of Chapman at these buildings in the picture.

    What a great neighborhood NW Portland was / still is.

  10. I recall several visits to “Monkey Ward’s” in the war years when my mother would take my brother and I in hand and hike us up to NE 76th and Glisan to catch the streetcar. We were able to ride that car to within 2-3 blocks of Wards with out getting off. Once inside we would shop for school clothes and shoes and then go to the catalog desk and mom would place an order for our selections. There was a difference in price and they would deliver in about a week or two for free meaning she didn’t need to lug all that stuff and us back home. We would then stop at my aunt’s apt. at 21st and NW Glisan for a visit before continuing on home. The thing I best remember about that catalog desk was the smell and humidity from all those people and all that wet flannel. Mom said it was faster to use the Montevilla streetcar than to transfer to the Halsey bus despite the fact we had to cross Halsey to get to Glisan.

    Other wise I want to just note in passing that we see here depicted in these several blocks, the scene of a tremendous loss and our very own local rust belt. These few buildings once housed at least 2000 good family wage paying jobs, not to mention all the jobs that flowed from them. I’ll just leave it at that. Sigh

  11. I remember shopping there and then going across the street to the old Forestry Center. It was never a polished store, but somehow it had charm. I bought lots of stuff there, from my first pocket knife as a eight year old to a roto tiller as a home owner and a shotgun as a hunter.

    As a side note, my wife’s uncle was an executive base out of Oakland, CA for Montgomery Wards Catalog Division in the 1970’s. He and his fellow executives had a culture of arrogance and ambivalence that was similar to the corporate culture that brought so many businesses downward. They didn’t have to go down, but their stubbornness resulted bad business decisions that put the final nails in their coffin. Wards was owned by Marcor, which was a holding company that owned Wards and Container Corporation of America. They sold out to Mobile Oil, who knew nothing about retail which sealed their fate. Wards executives were an incestuous group playing musical chairs with executives from JC Penney’s, Sears and Woolworth. I remember the uncle talking about how much K Mart was killing their business. Anyway, there were no new ideas and lots of dead weight. The end was inevitable.

  12. I can remember the Wards catalog being a source of much childhood play. You could look through it, of course, but we also cut out models for paper dolls and just “stuff” to paste into cards and scrapbooks. I never could figure out why they stopped their mail order. Ditto Sears. They would be right in step now with all the online & catalog buying people do now.
    I remember the Forestry Building, had an adopted grandfather who lived on Thurman, we used to visit him and then go play for hours at the Forestry Building. I was really sad when it burned down.

  13. Funny, my gal pal’s first job in 1967 was working for Monkey Wards in that big old huge building! Big bold plaid skirts and cashmere sweaters. Cable knit sweaters and wool blend pants!

  14. Here’s some photos I found online of MW, from the construction to interior shots. I remember shopping here as a kid with my mom and grandmother – playing in the racks of clothes and panicking because I couldn’t find my mom when I came out! LOL

    Click to access 85001184.pdf

  15. Great photo’s. Just like I remembered it in the 60’s. The female high schooler’s clothes were on the 5th floor as I recall. I do remember though, Monkey’s was already becoming a 2nd rate store in the 60’s. Especially in the shadow of Sears. By 1980 , most all the stores had closed except their catalog was still available. I think they sre still on-line today with limited capabilities.

  16. Not all the job loss in this area is Ward’s related. The American Can Co. was a harbinger. By 1959 the facility had become redundant because of any number of factors due to the changing ways we thought about food, it’s preservation, indeed, the very growing of crops in this area for canning was in decline. The canning of food was losing ground to freezing for one thing. Frozen food was really starting to make inroads by ’59. The loss of local farm land to suburban sprawl in Multnomah and Washington Counties was also being felt as well. But the biggest factor in the decision was by no doubt the desire to get away from a strong local union environment.

    So one afternoon at shift change all employees on both shifts were summoned/herded to the lunch room where they found themselves surrounded by a large force of Pinkertons and told by the plant manager they were themselves canned. Irony. The plant manager was so terrified by what he imagined would be the reaction of those workers that he demanded a well armed bodyguard 24/7 including at his Lake Oswego home. Imagine. It seems quaint now but in 1959 people actually thought that telling 400 people their jobs were instantly forfeit might provoke a negative reaction.

    Nothing lasts forever and like time, kidney stones and the burrito you had for lunch these things too shall pass.

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