Guild’s Lake Court, c1942

Temporary housing for thousands of wartime shipyard workers stretches into the distance in this circa 1942 photo of the Guild’s Lake Court of Northwest Portland. This view is to the southeast; the Montgomery Ward building can be seen in the distance.

A2001-025.265 Guilds Lake Courts housing units c1942(City of Portland Archives)

34 thoughts on “Guild’s Lake Court, c1942

  1. I went to a lecture about the housing and life at Guild’s Lake, held at the Architectural Heritage Center in Southeast Portland. Very interesting, to say the least. Some in attendance had lived and played there when they were children. All of the lectures and/or walking tours I’ve attended with the Architectural Heritage Center have been top-knotch. Here’s a link to their Web site:

  2. @Lynette, good eye, yes I am sure that is the roof of the Forestry center, I was there just before it burned and it was fantastic, and huge, of course I was only 5 years old and everything seemed big back then, I am very sad that we lost that wonderful land mark. I still remember going to “Monkey Wards” with my mother and grand mother back then, and after Wards we would put our things in the car and go across the street to Rodgers variety store, and then walk down to the Safeway store and get lunch items, an go to my Great grand mothers house by NW 23rd and Thermon. I love this website it brings back such good memories, and gives me glances in to the history of Portland I had only heard about, such as Vanport and other War time subjects. Thanks V.P.

  3. Safeway is the building that A-Boy plumbing was in untill recentaly, and it you study the arcatecture of that building, you wil see others around town, those where built for Safeway. There is still one just north of Love Joy on N.W. 21st Ave Starbucks is in it now.

  4. Fascinating. As often as we went to Monkey Wards when I was a kid I never knew about this temporary neighborhood. If you go to about NW 35th & NW Luzon on Google Earth and run the time slider back to the earliest available date–1952–there seems to be a black and white underlay that shows these houses. @ Dennis: what would be the approximate address of the NW Safeway?

  5. Is that the stack of Chapman School trailing smoke at about 2:00 o’clock? The one now famous for thousands of Vaux’s Swifts coming to roost in the evenings during the migration season?

  6. In 1961 I went to work for Link-Belt Co. at N.W. 30th and Industrial. Across the street from our building (where MacTarnahan’s Brewing Company is now) were a couple of these wartime houses with small businesses in them. They were eventually torn down and the Double Happiness Restaurant built there, it was a real business watering hole! I worked part-time evenings at Wards and it is just as was said regarding Rodgers Dime store, Safeway, Forestry Building. Remember the first thing you ran into when you entered Wards was the Popcorn and candy counter? Great place and great people! I worked at various places in NW Portland Industrial area from 1950 until 2000.

  7. Safeway was just a block or so down from Montgomery ward across the street from the old fire station. I think that was on 27th and Vaughn. Chapman school is on 26th and was not as far up as that smoke stack. It is only about 4 or 5 blocks up from the Wards building. When I was little we did all of out shopping at the Safeway and GO WARDS/montGOmery Wards and also the 5 and dime that was across Vaughn from the Ward building. You can see in the picture to the left of the Wards building the back side of ESCO steel. There are a couple of those houses that have been converted into small businesses still hidden among the larger warehouses. Mostly they dont look like much now, of course.

  8. I would say the toilet was installed in the back of the house.
    Notice the vent pipe coming thru the roof back somewhat from the chimney. This would be the combined vent from the toilet, tub sink & Kitchen sink would be back to backed with the bathroom sink.

    I owned one of these style wartime (but a different neighborhood)houses back in the 60s, every house on the street was a cookie cutter duplicate excepting one was built 180 deg mirror image of the next..

    Btw, Notice in this photo the fourth chimney from the frontmost, Totally clean & un-sooted.

  9. Tad, I expect they were gravity feed oil stoves. Until they achieved correct temperature those things burned rich and sooty. Were very common in low cost housing into 1950s. My war time house was converted to gas But still had remains of this type heating.

    I don’t see any good shots of backyards of these houses. Were there above ground fuel tanks would very much verify the oil stove scenario, But those stoves were often set-up with an indoor “day tank” of several gallon capacity that need filling every few days or so.
    That might have been even more likely to install in a house intended to be temporary.

  10. i lived in one of these units with my parents from 1945-1948. We were at 3800 NW Guam Street. My memories are vague, since I had just passed my sixth birthday when we moved out. I do remember my mother cooking on a coal burning stove. After the Vanport flood we went to the remains of Vanport to buy cheap salvaged coal. On one occasion my mother found a dead snake in the coal, which ended that cost-cutting measure. The walls were thin, so we could hear the neighbors. The walk to Guilds Lake School was also dangerous — one route along the rail tracks, the other crossed part of the Columbia slough. My best friend in kindergarten drowned there, which was one of the reasons we moved away. My father was a quarterman in the shipyards, but I think at Willamette rather than Kaiser — I would be interested in knowing about the history of shipyards in Portland if anyone knows a good source.

  11. Some very interesting housing pictures of the area and a reference to coal for heating and cooking at the link. The 4plex picture is about half way down the page.
    “Single-story floor-plex was a common site. These units had electric lights but these was coal for heating and cooking.”

    “The fumes from the stove gave no telltale odor, no visible smoke. Neighbors down the court reported they had been partly overcome at one time by what they now believe to be similar circumstances. All the housing units at Guild’s Lake burn coal in kitchen cooking and heating stoves.” Oregonian, 3/21/1947, Page 15

  12. There was also a Safeway store on 21st & Lovejoy (NE Corner) and a Rodgers 5 & 10 on 21st and Glisan. We lived just blocks from Wards on 21st & Vaughn and when the Forestry building went up – we could feel the heat from it on 22nd and Vaughn and could watch the fire from my bedroom windows… BEFORE they filled in Guild’s Lake, my grandfather had a houseboat there, and worked on/built several houses along Roosevelt/Pettygrove & 18th – 27th area.

  13. I’m curious about why there are cars in each of these photos sitting there with their doors open.. Also, seeing the people going about their daily lives in these photos is interesting. I often wonder who’s relatives they are, if they’re still alive, and how neat it is that we are seeing a glimpse of their lives so many years later.

  14. um, of course now I realize I’m thinking of the other photo, where there are actually people in the shot. unlike this one..

  15. Lynette I am glad you enjoyed the AHC lecture. I give lectures a few times a year on Guild’s Lake and host a reunion in the Fall of former residents. I have some new images I plan to include in my walking tours. Thanks Brian for posting a link to my website.

  16. I lived in Guild’s Lake at 3800 NW Guam Street from August 1945 until December 1948. I attended kindergarten and the first half of first grade there. Do you know if the schools were segregated at that time — I don’t recall any black students in my classes? Nor do i recall any black families in the neighborhood. I gather there were efforts at neighborhood segregation within the project. Were requirements, such as low income, to get housing at Guild”s Lake? I only recently moved back to Portland after forty years or so in other places, so may have missed some of the information that came out in the press over the years.

  17. Dear Leonard,
    I would love to interview you for the Guild’s Lake oral history project. The lower grades were in the community centers segregated because the housing was segregated. Until 1946 300-400 African Americans school age students were not enrolled in school because there was no way to get to school until the city built the Kittridge overpass.
    I have pictures of African American students in class picture of the Guilds Lake School on Yeon. in 1945 there were 1,200 students. I also have the school papers. There is a new book out on African Americans in Portland-an effort of the Black Pioneers and it has an image of Ed Washington when he was at the school in 1949-Many Blacks flooded out of Vanport were housed in trailers at Guild’s Lake Courts. Note that St Patrick’s which enrollment went from under 100 to 400 students during the war years and was all white.
    Lincoln was the local high school but many students dropped out and some switched to Benson.
    There are videos of parts of the Guild’s Lake Reunions on YouTube.

  18. Hi Lyn,
    Be glad to talk to you, but doubt if I can add much. I was only six when we left Guild’s Lake. Just a few memories. Would be interested in hearing your presentations.
    My e-mail is Leonard.Lynn@Case.Edu


  19. I lived at Guilds Lake after the Vanport flood…we live at 3845 Guam Ct. along by St. Helen rd. Right under where there was a small avalance. spent a lot of time at the Rec. Hall were Peggy Gilddings was, and a man named Neil. I have a news artile that was done about us local girls at the rec hall, they had a model in to help us, also a picture of my class as they buses us to Buckman grade school, and only about 5 white the rest black kids. Lots of memories if you are interested…I was in the 8th grade. Good memories of Vanport as well as Guilds Lake.

  20. Jimmy Bell of Guilds Lake. Oregonian, June 9, 1948.
    “Five-year-old child drowns in ditch”
    “Jimmy Bell 5, son of Mr. and Mrs. George Bell of 3751 NW Guam Street in the Guilds Lake district, drowned Tuesday when he fell into a drainage ditch while returning from kindergarten, police report. The lad was walking near an open drainage ditch five feet deep about 300 feet south of the school building near Yeon avenue, when he fell in, police report. One of his kindergarten companions ran back to call for help, but the lad could not be revived.”
    I wonder if anyone else knew the Bell family and what became of them. Jimmy was my closest friend in kindergarten. I normally walked home with him, but on that day walked a girl home. My father (and maybe a dozen or so other men) ran to see if they could help. The drainage ditch was scary and pretty clearly dangerous for five year olds. The other route home crossed railroad tracks and seemed even more dangerous.

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