10 thoughts on “SW Water Avenue, 1929

  1. Considering it’s pre-depression it looks pretty run down. The details on the duplex are fantastic.

  2. Aside from the appearance of black and white photography, I have also often wondered why so many neighborhood photographs of the early 20th c. do appear so run down.

    I’ve wondered if building materials, such as paint, roofing, or exposed untreated wood couldn’t withstand 20-40 yrs of use?

    Maybe poor economics of the late 19th c. sealed the fate on these types of houses, or shifting demographics of the city rendered these once thriving neighborhoods vacant?

    I’m sure that the dawning of the Depression certainly didn’t help these either.

  3. while old-growth wood and leaded paint are extremely good at surviving even portland’s climate, they need maintenance to do so. these homes are likely 50 – 60 years old at the time of photo, and they look poorly kept up due to economic factors. while the neighborhood was obviously once more prosperous, it looks like it was always working or middle class (note the big house was a duplex as built) – areas often hardest hit when an economy falters. heck, maybe the economy got going gangbusters, and anyone who was able to moved to a ‘better’ neighborhood as fast as it was built, leaving the classes below them able to move up the housing chain (the theory behind all the ‘luxury’ flats being built currently, applying a 20th century paradigm to a 21st century economy!).

    for whatever reason – and I’m betting proximity to river and stinky industries, back when willamette was a sewer – this area became less-desirable, and the residents neither had incentive to keep up appearances, nor likely finances to do so. also wonder about ethnic makeup of neighborhood; banks redlining ethnic areas results in an inability to get remodeling loans, reinforcing the neighborhood’s downward spiral.

    also, portland’s cloudy skies just makes things look grim; if it were bright and sunny in this photo, we might even be calling it a ‘picturesque’ old neighborhood!

    last, a lot of portland – even the nicest areas – was thrown up as fast and as cheaply as possible, leading to poorly-built and ill-weatherproofed structures. still happens: house next door to me is 2 years old, and leaked like a sieve first rain.

  4. This was the edge of the 1950s 1960s urban renewal area. It was Jewish and Italian and was declared “blighted” so they could build all the horrible non-user friendly “neighborhood” that is there today. Very sad.

  5. Up until 30-40 years ago Portland was one of the most “WASP” cities in the US. It still is the most white city of any size in the US.

  6. for the compulsive, the address of the ornate duplex is 684/686 water, as per map 164, 1909 sanborn vol. 2. soap, lumber, bottling and scrap yards behind it towards river. the house is somewhere in the middle of this shot, i think:

  7. This was before we started on the subsidized housing road to hell….. We hav cheap housing them

  8. The lack of appearance of prosperity is also due to transportation issues: Even though it’s 1929 and by then a lot of households had a car, you see none parked on the street in this photograph. Combine that with this area also being very difficult to serve with trolleys because of the grades, the West Hills, and the river – there were only north-south options on Corbett – this really wasn’t a neighborhood.that car-less working class folks would want to live in.

  9. While I don’t remember these houses, my grandparents lived in one like it in the 1940’s. They provided maintenance for a jewish synagogue who owned the house. While it was located on S W 1st ave, it overlooked Water.

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