SW 4th Ave. and Madison St., 1940

In this view of SW 4th Avenue you can see the Multnomah County Court House and McElroy’s Spanish Ballroom, located on the corner of SW Main Street. Can you see any other establishments in this image?


SW 4th and Madison, 1940: A2009-009.560

SW 4th and Madison, 1940: A2009-009.560


View this image in Efiles by clicking here.

22 thoughts on “SW 4th Ave. and Madison St., 1940

  1. @Dave, according to a web page from Portland Parks & Recreation:
    Chapman Square, originally designed for the exclusive use of women and children, features all female gingko trees. Lownsdale Square was to be the “gentlemen’s gathering place.” Today the Plaza Blocks are still a busy gathering place, although men and women can now safely coexist in either of them.

    So Chapman Square and Lownsdale Square were on adjacent blocks and segregated by gender. The page doesn’t state the reason for the segregation. I can only guess it was due to the social mores of the time.

    Here’s the link to the Portland Parks web page on Chapman Square:

  2. For those who can’t read the text of the sign, here it is:


    Under the provisions of section 43 of ordinance no. 32929 THIS PARK BLOCK is specifically reserved for the use of women, children and their escorts only. It is contrary to said ordinance for any man not personally accompanied by either a woman or child to use this park block. Any man violating the ordinance is subject to a fine of $50 and also imprisonment in the city jail.

    C.P. Keyser

  3. I remember when the parks were for women or men only. I think that as a kid I was afraid of being arrested if I set foot on Chapman Square.

  4. FYI: According to a couple of Google translators, $50 is 1940 money is either $832.31 or $8473.46 is 2014 dollars.

    A pretty hefty fine for suspected “mashers.”

  5. W.H.Lesh appeared before the park board in 1904 requesting they be made “women only” because there were so many men that women wee practically debarred from them. It was formalized in 1924. Mayor Carson cracked down on undesirables the year this picture was taken in 1940.

  6. McElroy’s Ballroom is written up extensively in the book “Jumptown… the golden yrs. of Port. jazz” starting on page 151. Ellington liked it so much he celebrated 2 birthdays there.

  7. I do remember those two “separate” parks…Chapman & Lownsdale! As a kid, I always thought it was kinda funny, but, none-the-less…I suppose, as Dan W. said…it was most likely a result of the “social mores” of the time…all those “silly” kinda things like etiquette, manners, propriety…holding a door, walking on the outside, removing one’s hat, holding a chair, holding a coat, waiting until everyone is seated at the table before beginning the meal, saying “Please”, or “Thank you”, or “You’re welcome”…you know…all that “silly” old stuff! To this very day, I STILL walk on the outside…it’s just one of those things…just one of those crazy ol’ things! 🙂 (My apologies to Mr. Porter!)

    Of course, now I’m curious…when did that “ruling” or “ordinance” become obsolete?

  8. I like your comments, Jim Kahn. I still do most of the things you mention. A lot of those ‘silly’ things I miss. Here in SF there is no such thing as a young person offering his/her seat on public transit to an older person. We offered our seats not just to older people but also to females. I have occasionally asked a young person to give up their seat to an old person standing next to them. They always do.

  9. I think the gender segregation in the parks was for many of the same reasons that countries like India have established women-only transport: to protect women – and children – from abuse by men.

  10. I found out it was 1990 when the city council abolished the gender restriction in Chapman Square and Lownsdale Parks.

  11. Some insight from the Composite Map (Vice Commission Map 1913 overlay on a Google map of downtown) in this posting from December 2011 https://vintageportland.wordpress.com/2011/12/21/vice-commission-map-1913:

    Refer to the Legend image in the posting to interpret the Composite Map.

    In the Composite Map, Chapman Square is labeled. Lownsdale is not labeled, but is represented by the green colored block north of Chapman.

    In the block just north of Lownsdale, note the density of establishments deemed “wholly given up to immorality” (as indicated by a red symbol).

    The restriction imposed on Lownsdale may have been due not only to high concentrations of men in the square itself, but may have also had the intent of keeping women and children from getting close enough to see (and hear!) the “immoral” behaviors patrons entered these establishments to pursue.

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