SE Portland House, 1929 – Help Us Out!

The City of Portland Archives sent this photo, trying to identify the location (or former location) of this lovely old Italianate house somewhere in Southeast Portland. It looks like a number 33 propped up on the front steps; if this is the address under the old numbering system, that helps a bit to narrow down the site. But if the house is gone, it’s location may be lost forever.

(City of Portland Archives)

38 thoughts on “SE Portland House, 1929 – Help Us Out!

  1. If 33 is an address, it must be a few blocks off of Stark. (Was Burnside or Stark the baseline back then?) Before 1933 Interstate was the north south meridian and nowhere in SE is even close to the projected line.

  2. Wait. Is it my imagination or does the sidewalk appear to be at an angle to the houses? Y’know, as if all the houses are facing due west (shadows?) but the street runs a bit NW/SE?

  3. What about the trees? A lot of very old, mature trees in parts of SE. Are these Birch? They could, of course, be long gone… but maybe not.

  4. If you’ve ever spent time looking at other street scenes from the City Archives, there is often a fellow standing in the scene holding a sign with a two digit number on it. Not sure of the purpose, but I don’t think it had much to do with the address. In this case the number 33 may be a red herring.

  5. PP is right, there is a man standing behind the trees to the left of the 33. Maybe some sort of system for the photographer to match up the photo with data gathered on site?

  6. I’d guess that the #33 is the number in reference to whatever they were photographing. For example, when you raze an entire neighborhood for urban renewal or for a court case. Both are situations that a city archive would participate in. You could look at the Sanborn Maps but the house footprint is just too common. There were lots of homes in Portland that would fit this shape and style built in the 1880’s. If the house still survives one could assume that the porch is removed or altered but the basic shape should still remain. The 3 homes you can see in the background are also not unique enough to identify but perhaps if you stood where this photo was taken today you’d recognize the combination of the 3 homes. I’ll keep a lookout!

  7. Brian

    What do mean Interstate Ave. was the north south meridan? Are you saying Interstate was the border between north and NE Portland? Williams avenue is now. Burnside is the north south address line.

  8. Tom: That house sure looks very similar, but I don’t think it’s the same one. The hill slopes the wrong way, and the neighboring houses are different and too far away. Some of the architectural details are different, too.

    I feel like this could be somewhere in the Buckman neighborhood, but that’s just a hunch.

  9. I keep thinking its in the Buckman neighborhood too. I first thought it was a house at SE 13th and Pine, but that house is a smaller version of that. it looks so familiar to me, but like someone said, there were many houses like that in Portland at one time. I love the Italianate style.

  10. Could be inner east side N, NE, SE, South Portland, maybe Goose Hollow, or NW. It is distinctive in that it appears to be a duplex. It looks like there’s more than one entry door on the porch – one door is hidden behind the porch column. The house is unusual in that most of the Italianates we see around town (and there aren’t many any more) have only a single set of bay windows at one end of the house and a porch at the other end. This house has two sets of bay windows with a porch in the middle, like the Morris Marks II house, but it is not that house.

  11. There is a large Italianate on NE 29th near NE Everett in the Kerns neighborhood that has the double bays and front porch plus upper balcony much like the home in the picture. Unfortunately this house has undergone some bad overhauls over the years so it is hardly recognizable for what it really is. Also the neighboring houses don’t appear to be matches to the neighboring houses in the picture so it seems like it doesn’t quite workout as our mystery house. Its too bad there aren’t many of these Italianate style homes left.

  12. @Mike:

    Long before you or I was born (when this picture was taken), Interstate (Denver) was the dividing line between north and northeast. Stark was the dividing line between northeast and southeast. Yes, I know what they are now but things have changed a bit around here. Did you also know that blocks counted by 20’s instead of 100’s? So the fireplace shop at 3300 NE Broadway used to be 1000 Broadway (as can or could be seen over the door). On Hawthorne St. you can still find some addresses around 35th Ave. in the hex tile entries that are in the 1000’s. At 20 numbers to the block, this means 50 blocks to the west was the divider. That’s right about current 1500 N which is Interstate/Denver.

    That’s what I mean.😉

  13. Brian

    I don’t think you are right. In 1933 there was the great readdressing. I don’t think that Interstate avenue was ever the dividing line between North and Northeast Portland because the 5 quadrants diddn’t come into being consistently till 33. Stark as far as I know has never been the dividing line between Se and NE Portland. Stark is the line between N and S Townships for legal descriptions of property.Old sidewalke markings show marks like E 21st N for stuff north of Burnside and E 21st S for stuff south of Burnside. Can you provide any links or references to show those two things? Anyone else know for sure? Could be I’m wrong but I don’t think so.

  14. “However, even after the renaming, a decentralized number system remained, and until 1931 Portland addresses were fractured and inconsistent, reflecting a series of smaller grids that no one actually used anymore. The number on a building had little if anything to do with where it stood within the now-larger city as a whole.

    City Commissioner Asbury Barbur (the man for whom Barbur Boulevard was named) pressed for a reform of the numeration system. He was supported by interests such as the local post office’s, but business interests in the city were generally opposed to the renumbering. Think of all the business cards, custom stationary and signage that would have to be reprinted! It was similar to the controversy surrounding Rosa Parks Way or Caesar Chavez Boulevard, but magnified to encompass the entire city.

    It took years of debate until the city passed an ordinance dividing up Portland into five zones and then numbering buildings into neat rows of 100s. Several of the numbered streets were shifted around to reflect the newer, more consistent system which is why to this day you can still see seemingly erroneous street markers pressed into the concrete. The nice, clean consistent city grid that all planners, developers and visitors to the city benefit from didn’t spring up by accident – they had to be made that way.” From the DJC

  15. @Mike: You could start with Dan’s most recent post on the renumbering: https://vintageportland.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/street-renumbering-directory-1933/. I am also in possession of a 1915 map of Portland with block numbering that supports my argument. Unfortunately I don’t have an electronic copy. Stark was the original dividing line as it ran on the baseline. It was later changed to Burnside as that street was not messed up by the angled downtown grid as Stark was subject to. You are correct about the sidewalk markings except there was no south noted. It was either E 21st Ave or E 21st Ave N (north of Stark. The neighborhoods on Mt Tabor are a great place to look for these (as well as some since changed street names, e.g. 65th Ave as Brooke St.) My earlier posted proof of Interstate stands

    This photo was taken in 1929 before the (second) great renumbering. The first happened in 1891 or 1893 or thereabouts. But I think as others have said, the number is irrelevant.

  16. Looks sort of like the Brainerd house at 5332 SE Morrison tho’ the details of the gingerbread and clapboard, etc. are slightly different.

  17. I down loaded that file from the Portland archives it does show that streets were named south and not just north for example EAST 11TH ST. SOUTH NOW SOUTHEAST 11TH AVENUE

  18. Not to drag this out because it isn’t that important but when you look at say SE 11th which used to be E 11th south according to the file. If Stark was the old line between SE and NE then an old address of say 6 E 11th south should now be something like 506 SE 11th avenue right? But that is not what happened. 6 became 116 SE 11th supporting my claim that stark was never the border between SE and NE Look on page 109 for yourself.

  19. @Mike – Looks like I was wrong. I checked my 1915 Pittmon map and Ankeny was the N/S dividing line. Renumbering from 6 to 116 supports Ankeny. Six would have been the second house south of Ankeny. 100 is now the Ankeny block (Burnside being 0) so 116 would continue to be the second house south of Ankeny.

    Also, please read Portland Names and Neighborhoods by Eugene Snyder, esp. the section on the Great Renaming of 1891, p53. He states that South was not used. You will also not find the directional ‘south’ used in the renumbering part of the City of Portland’s file (cf p216). E.g., East 15th St now SE 15th Ave. Take a look at the street names stamped in curbs (if you can find any that Portland sidewalk crews didn’t rip out years ago for ADA compliant curb ramps.)

    Anybody else enjoying the tennis match?🙂 Care to weigh in?

  20. I have the book. It’s a good one, If you look on page 109 of the City Archives document you will see that East 11th avenue south was changed to SE 11th. So they did use the south designation. The south designation is all throughout that document.🙂

  21. Went back and checked the document looks the vast majority of streets south of Ankeny did not have south at the end of their names but some like SE 12th did.

  22. Y’all, I’m enjoying the tennis match, mightily. Since I first moved to Portland in June, 2006, I find the determination of those who respect and seek out vintage aspects of this glorious city and their relationship to today’s Portland are an interesting bunch of folks. Thanks!

  23. Folks, you’re all wrong. The north/south zero point on the east side was Ankeny before 1933. The only role that Stark plays in numbering is in legal descriptions of lots. The east/west zero point was not remarkably consistent, presumably starting at where each particular street hit the Willamette.

    I also had a feeling about the 13th and Pine house, but agree it is too small. All these buildings are way too large to be current survivors in Buckman, looks more Alphabet District to me.

  24. Francis R. Chown House (see link on Wikipedia page)
    I thought I would discover a tie in since the featured house appears to have two front doors.

    It is a different house but under Further reading (McLean/Atly) there is a link to the National Register of Historic Places Registration Form for the F. R. Chown House. It gives wonderful history of the F.R.C. house(Italianate), the architect and the Chown family.

  25. @BuckMan. What’s your source for the meridian? My 1915 Pittmon map clearly shows Patton (Interstate) as the divider between N and NE as well as showing all the block numbers based off of it. It WAS very consistent, you are describing San Francisco.

  26. The Francis R. Chown house is 2030 SW Main St. The address was noted as 2030-2032. I was hoping this house was moved here and altered-but not so. I hope this SE Portland mystery house was moved and not demolished.

  27. Hello Joan, Just found this blog, Thank you for your kind works about the Chown house, I miss [sold] it a lot when I Left P-town. Moving hses was common thing- not this house. Window sashes were made of Port Orford cedar, original Peer glass mirror over the coal fireplace. address renumbering also were a political thing, to what end? it would be interesting to know.

  28. It’s odd no one noticed that the numbers man is standing behind a tree! 33 isn’t a house number, it’s a numbers man number!

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