Unidentified House, c1930 – Help Us Out!

Here’s a brain teaser to test your investigative skills. This house could be (or could have been) just about anywhere in the city. The address might be three digits starting with a 1 but it’s very hard to tell from this angle/distance/resolution. It appears to be a rooming house rather than a single-family home and it’s anybody’s guess as to whether it’s still around. Look familiar? Any help?

1930 May 15_A2001-083(City of Portland Archives)

34 thoughts on “Unidentified House, c1930 – Help Us Out!

  1. I’m guessing the stairs are the only way in and out of that lace. This is exactly why codes have been implemented when building or adding on. This place without that hideous top floor reminds me a lot of our family’s Ainsworth St. home. It is something of a four square design with an adorable dormer at each side (4). With a hip roof, you get that look.

  2. A search for ‘house’ and only electronic records at the City of Portland site doesn’t bring this up…I’ve found that if you enter more than a couple of search terms there the site keels over. Often if you load a pic it just returns a bunch of scrambled characters so you have to hit refresh. Some entries just give a “Duplicate Headers” error and can’t be viewed at all.

    This pic of an Unidentified SE house taken in 1929 also shows a 3 digit address but we don’t know where that one is either; that’s about as good a lead as I can offer. Notes mention that this “House was probably removed for extension of Sandy to SE Belmont.”

    As usual I look at this and say “looks familiar!” Somewhere in Irvington? Looks spacious, is the next lot vacant? Or they have a very big yard.

  3. It is probably one destroyed by the building of lower Sandy Boulevard, like several others we have seen here.

    Either that or it’s in Camas!

  4. @KLR Actually, we DO know the location of the previously unidentified house in your link. It was on the east side of 8th St. between Oak and Stark (approx 418-422 in current numbering) where Sandy Blvd. cuts through today.

    In the original thread, commenter YankeeMate suggested this based on the numbers and Sanborn maps and then for other reasons based on connecting it to this photo we were able to pretty much confirm that as correct. See my comment towards the end of the lengthy discussion in the thread for details, but essentially all those number-card photos were taken as part of the Sandy Blvd. extension.

    As far as that series of photos goes, without one of those number cards visible in this photo above there is nothing to really make me think it is related to those others. Also, those other photos were known from the archives to be 1929 and to be in southeast, whereas it appears there is no such information on this one.

  5. It feels to me like the SE Belmont/Hawthorne neighborhood. Look at the riser/tread of the stairs to the upper floor in comparison to the front porch. Those upper stairs aren’t much more than a glorified ladder and would feel terrible on a dark night. This one wouldn’t pass inspection today, and if it survived its probably far different looking. Another reason for building and fire codes!

  6. Is that a chimney terminating just outside the open 3rd floor window??

    And what’s with the big black rectangle in the upper left?

  7. Thanks Brian, I’d forgotten about that, or didn’t catch it at the time. Spent a few minutes just now Google Maps zooming around the Sandy extension neighborhood, or “Couplet Town” as I spontaneously nicknamed it halfway through. 😉 Kept expecting this house to pop up but as no one is recognizing it right off the bat likely it’s gone, or in another part of town entirely. Frustrating that that part of town is chock-a-block with flat topped commercial buildings, too, making it all the more harder to recognize this place. But will keep trying. Like I said something about it rings a bell.

  8. Does anyone know the purpose of that pipe going from the third floor to the first floor on the left side of the photo?

  9. Is the tree in the upper right corner an American Elm? If so, that would make Ladd’s Addition a strong candidate.

  10. That’s a weird chimney, especially with the chimney proper on the roof. I’d use the word “stovepipe” here myself, maybe ventilation for a smoker of some sort. The black rectangle’s an out-of-focus artifact in front of the camera; I think the tree’s a Bigleaf maple.

    Looked all over the SE side on Google Maps for this house with no sucess, but I did learn a few viewing tricks: set the 45 degree view to west, that way the shadows are sharper. If you want the street view position the orange street view man cursor right on the object you want to look at – the street view will be aligned towards it, instead of looking off to the side.

    Speaking of Ladd’s Addition the Googlemobile was incapable of ducking into its alleys, so you don’t get good views of the houses therein. Maybe this shack is hiding in there somewhere.

  11. Thanks tad and KLR. That pipe now makes sense. That is, it makes sense if it was part of the house before the third floor was added.

  12. I think that “stovepipe” is a plumbing vent for the bathroom or kitchen. It was probably added after the house was built.

  13. My guess is the pipe it is for gas stove or gas heater that was added after construction or after they divided the house in to apartments.

    It may not vet well, for the upstairs apartment with the window open.

    The house also seems to have outside plumbing from additions inside. This was still common in the 70’s when I was house hunting.

  14. My guess for that pipe going from the third floor to the first floor on the left side of the photo is that it was a hot water heater chimney installed before the 3rd floor addition. Should have been extended higher than the addition.

  15. The whole third story and sets of stairways, along with the “sun porch” to the left of the main porch, look like they were added later. The downspout on the front elevation looks like it would be for a roof without this third story built on, and I’m not seeing it extended through the third story to a new roof.

    I am pretty sure I have never seen such a house in Ladds Addition.

    But I thought for a moment this could have been a view from the rear alleys of a Ladds house. Most garages in Ladds face the alley, and a few have had these jerry-rigged stairways to an upper unit. But I don’t know of a place that has a main entrance porch like this on the alley.

  16. Imagine if you will: trying to get a couch, appliance or heavy mattress up those ridiculous stairs (especially the top set). The guy who did this work obviously had skills so why didn’t he build a more proper switchback stairway with a landing..I’m pretty sure the technology was available.
    I hope that this firetrap is gone. Unsightly, ill-conceived and poorly executed in its finished state.

  17. I believe it was the private entrance to the upper floor apartment. I agree that it looks like a fire escape (somewhat). Why would he go to the trouble and expense to put in a fire escape when he obviously didn’t have to? Hell, you don’t even have to put a fire on a 3 story house in 2013. This add-on was an idea he had to generate extra income-not at all unusual to rent a room out in these days. Frankly, I’m surprised it looks as good as it does (the siding matches) but none of the new windows match the rest of the place and that elusive pipe (which I maintain is a vent pipe) is another example of the fact that these guys had no plans..just some skills and a little money for the materials.

  18. Fire codes generally began in the late 19th century and there were definitely fire codes with egress requirements for boarding houses and apartments by the 1930’s. You can’t compare it to a 3-story single family residence because if the addition was made for the purpose of creating rentable rooms / apartments they would have had to comply with fire codes for those type multi-unit buildings. I think it only makes sense as a fire escape / alternate escape route.

  19. Looking at the extreme lower right of this photo, I get the idea that the building sits at about the same level as the street.

    However, I find no clue as to the depth of the building. That is, the basic footprint of the building could be anywhere from nearly square to long rectangle. An example of long rectangle is the apartment building at 2256 NW Overton St. (I’ll attempt a link: http://goo.gl/maps/fF1Ij)

    For what it’s worth, the building at the far left appears to have the same siding. Is it just illusion or is this building closer to the street?

    The garage looks remarkably tiny.

  20. I don’t see any doors on the 3d fl. The 3 windows to the left, one window being open. 2 double hung at the top of stair, & 3 windows to the rt, all 3 being open. (apparently summer time)
    If its purpose was a slap-n-dash private 3d fl. entry to a door that does not seem to be there, why build it to include access to all the windows ?

    Aside from a rooming house scenario, Could well have been just a family paranoid of fire.
    A rooming house might have several mailboxes on the porch also…
    It would be fun to solve this one, But the clues are few.

  21. I’m not convinced that there’s no door there..but look at the siding on the top floor. The closer I examine it, it appears to be cedar shake siding with the same reveal as the clapboard siding on the rest of the house. Note the vertical lines separating the shakes; they don’t appear on the lower floors (that I can detect).

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