Front Avenue, circa 1852

This image of Front Avenue comes from the book Portland – Its History and Builders Vol.1 by Joseph Gaston. The men in the image include W.S. Ogden, John Breek, Henry Corbett, Thomas Dryer, W.H. Barnhart, Adolph Miller, and Charles Bacon. Circa 1852.


City of Portland Archives, Oregon, A2004-002.7736

City of Portland Archives, Oregon, A2004-002.7736


View this image in Efiles by clicking here.

14 thoughts on “Front Avenue, circa 1852

  1. I’ve asked this question many times before about this picture and can’t seem to get an answer! If this is Front Ave., wouldn’t you be looking North? If so, where are the trees located? I thought Front Ave. ran parallel to the river? How can the river & ship be at the end of the street? This looks like it’s maybe facing east, looking across the river?…

  2. This is looking south, because of the slope of the hills. I’ve always found it remarkable that there is a ship moored in the street, in this picture but it shows that that the river’s banks were more irregular back then, and also closer to Front Street. The riverbanks have been filled and extended a lot since 1852.

  3. Yes, Carter Kennedy is right, this is looking south at Marquam Hill from about Ash Street (according to one caption I’ve see for this photo).

    If you want to get a good idea of how close the river was to Front in the early days, check out this City of Portland webpage and download the pdf (top link) labeled “‘Plan of Portland’ Pettygrove and Stark proprietors”. It shows the river running right along Front past blocks 3-5 (from Morrison to Salmon).

  4. poor mr. breek – the phtography studio spent all that time hand-lettering the sign in the photo and spelled his name wrong.
    unless the caption is incorrect! also possible, in those days of uncertain schooling, that BOTH variants were used…

  5. the ship appearing to be moored in the street seems to indicate the store was in block 1 or 2 of the original lownsdale map… any one know the alleged cross street?

  6. @wl — as I mentioned above — it is alleged to be from Ash street.

    On this page, at the bottom, there’s a photo from the same year at Front and Stark which is clearly several blocks farther south than the photo above, which would seem to corroborate today’s photo as being at or near Ash.

  7. Pat D. – The river was not the straight bank that we see today. There was a small quay near Salmon St., so to see a ship that close to the street would not have been uncommon at that time.

    Additionally, because of the compression of distance and the fact that the trees have not been felled, the hill on the south end of Front appears closer than it is. The old field cameras of the day had the ability to create greater depth of field on long shots because you could manipulate the backs and focal planes.

  8. Joseph Buchtel
    Bought land for Champoeg park.
    Personal friend of Abraham Lincoln.
    Fire chief.
    County sheriff.
    Led fight to save Mcloughlin house.
    Pitcher and manager of championship Oregon baseball team in the 1870,s.
    Was a sprinter who supposedly ran 150 yd.s in 15 seconds.
    His assistant threw out most of his negatives when he was out of town or there would be a lot more old photos of the area.
    Took the photos of Dr Mcloughlin that we see today.
    It goes on and on.

  9. This very photo is described in detail in the Sept. 13, 1888, issue of the Oregonian “This City 36 Years Ago. An Old Daguerreotype Taken of Portland Away Back in Pioneer Days”

  10. Considering the apparent fact that nobody was sure how to spell his last name, John Breek/Breok/Breck must have had atrocious penmanship.

  11. No worse than today’s “penmanship”. Try to transcribe sign-in sheets for public meetings today.

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