NE Union Avenue, 1929

A number man standing on the corner of NE Union Avenue [Martin Luther King Boulevard] and NE Russell Street, 1929.


City of Portland Archives, Oregon, A2009-009.1809

City of Portland Archives, Oregon, A2009-009.1809


View this image in Efiles by clicking here.

30 thoughts on “NE Union Avenue, 1929

  1. I’ve been trying to figure out what a number man is — perhaps this, from a website is it?

    “Number men” were the gambling entrepreneurs who would run the “numbers game”, a sort of underground lottery that was very popular, notably during the Harlem Renaissance

  2. @ Liz Cooksey: Here’s a little information on the Number Man:

    RE: Redskin ( ) – This is one of those infamous movies where a white actor in makeup plays a Native American. That said, it apparently got good reviews for a silent film… 6.8 on IMDB.

    Summary: “The surprisingly sympathetic tale of a Navajo man, Wing Foot (Richard Dix), who was taken from his family as a boy and raised in a boarding school. Insulted and referred to as “Redskin” by his college peers, Wing Foot also finds that he no longer fits in with his family, especially his extremely traditional father. Will Wing Foot be able to bridge the gap between the culture of his birth and the culture in which he was raised?”

  3. Chuck S — thank you so much for the link to the fascinating explanation of “number man” — and for the review of “Redskin!”. Liz C.

  4. It looks like Numbers Man is either documenting curb damage or documenting a “before” image for a planned street widening.

  5. Yes, Sue Stringer, I *think* it is — at least, looking at the streetview of the area, it looks like what is currently 2511 NE MLK is the building that formerly hosted The Egyptian Theater in the photo. I tried double-checking in Portland Maps, but it looks like several parcels were joined to form what is currently the New Song Church.

  6. HICKMAN PLAYERS ? What are those ? Sold at the theater for 29 and 39 cents ?

    The corner building looks fairly new. Many design touches and different colors.

  7. Hickman Players were a Shakespeare troupe that performed in Esperanto!! So either they were in town for an evening and matinee performance… or those are cigars and their prices. I like the first possibilty better!

    The corner building is not new; the architecture places it pretty squarely in the Victorian era (Queen Anne, Carpenter Gothic, bit of Second Empire going on…). Even in conservative Portland, that style was old-hat by 1910.

  8. interesting – the new life church erased everything egyptian about the building, except the papyrus leaves at the base of the entrance columns. i wonder if the scarabs and other details are still under all that stucco?

  9. sorry, new SONG church. and the stucco shows a suspiciously cartouche-shaped bit of water damage above the door. hopefully someday a new tenant will reincarnate it!

  10. My name is Steve Graeper and I can have some information regarding the widening of Union Ave (MLK) as it related to “Graepers Egyptian Theater” back in the early 30’s and I also have information as it relates to the conversion to New Song Church. I have a complete history of Graeper’s Egyptian Theater. My grandfather built it in 1926.

  11. @Brad, It appears he is making a left turn and signaling such by sticking his arm straight out. A right turn would be signaled by left arm out the window, hand in the air, arm bent at the elbow. Signaling intentions to turn prior to turn signals. I still see it in use today by some savvy bicyclists.

  12. Many small business clusters existed throughout Portland neighborhoods providing goods, services, lodgings, etc. The shoe repair shop is representative.
    According to IMDb, “Redskin” was Paramount’s last silent picture and first color film. Released in 1929, the film had a sound track on nine pre-corded disks.
    Richard Dix had a interesting acting style that lasted into the 1940’s with his “Whistler” series.
    There is a Portland oddity in the photo. The driver of the truck on NE Russell appears to be signaling a left turn.
    The telephone pole on the corner looks like it has an eagles nest atop, with the cross bars carrying that mass of wires. It also looks like the pole has taken a beating from vehicles rounding the corner.
    Auto enthusiasts should be able to identify the vehicles parked along the street.
    The auto races at the Speed Bowl located on Base Line road and Twelve Mile corner. Art Hines was scheduled to appear after his accident in 1928 that almost cost him is life. The track has been sufficiently oiled so as not to raise a bit of dust. Time trials at 1:30, races at 2:30.
    Sunfreze and Mt. Hood ice cream brands were manufactured by Western Dairy Products in Portland. WPD also manufactured Hazelwood, Weatherly, White Glover and Maid O’Wuana ice cream brands.

  13. @ryoung… Yes New Song went to great lengths to recreate the papyrus leaves on the columns. They also recreated several of the floral wall sconces and other “Egyptian” motif that was in the original building. Our family was quite impressed with the effort that went into the renovation. Originally, the building was slated for demolition, but the fact that it made architectural history in 1926 by being a totally concrete structure (including the ceiling of the auditorium) and was constructed in 90 days, demo was to costly. The church decided to renovate the building and replicate some of the architectural stylings in the new building, which was constructed where the pharmacy/room rental and shoe repair building was on the corner of Russell Street.

  14. The auditorium is almost exactly as it was back in the day. Obviously without the Egyptian paint/colors but the plaster adornments have been restored

  15. That is one big bunch of wires there. I wonder since this photo predates the OPUC and the establishment of electric utility regulation if there were more than one electricity suppliers at this time.If you wanted to change suppliers they would come out and disconnect one company and connect you to a different company.

  16. the men working on lines near my house once said that PGE finally pulled down the last competitor’s wires in late 80s/early 90s (IIRC).
    our street had poles on both sides of the street at one time!

  17. The urns were still at the top of the façade, as I recall, in 1990 when we moved into the neighborhood.
    @Steve G., has your history of the theater been published?

  18. A somewhat abbreviated history of Graeper’s Egyptian Theater was chronicled in Steve Stone’s book, “Theaters of Portland”. As a family, we have numerous pictures and memorabilia from the theater. Not least of which, is an article from “AMERICAN BUILDER” magazine, March 1925, touting the fact that the building of the Egyptian Theater was of historic significance, in the fact that it was all concrete construction (including the roof and ceiling of the 1200-seat auditorium) and was constructed in 90-days.
    The urns, to which you refer, would smoke and belch fire during the evening performances to entertain patrons standing in line to get tickets.

  19. The overhead wires using insulators are electric power. The rest are for telephone which appears to be the majority of them.

  20. What people today don’t know is that there were 3 or 4 or even more electric companies serving Portland up until the 70s in the same area. After the Columbus Day Storm in lower Alameda area which I lived people got their power restored at different times depending on who was your electrical power provider. At the telephone company each exchange which was the first 3 numbers of your phone number required a separate line. Not to mention the separate power wires required for electric trolleys & streetcars and the city traffic & street lights and you have one big mess of overhead wires.

  21. I love all this history. I remember my friend and I going to a matinee at the Egyptian theater when we were kids….probably very early 60’s.

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