20 thoughts on “SW Front Avenue, 1931

  1. By the time this photo was taken, many of the downtown wharves had been removed. Within 10 years, these cast iron buildings would be targeted for demolition. By 1942, they were gone. They would be replaced with Harbor drive, parking lots and bridge ramps. Eventually, Waterfront Park would replace Harbor Drive, but what a huge historical loss. Just imagine, if these magnificent cast iron fronted buildings could have been saved as a historical district with an old 1930’s trolley clanging down the center of the cobblestone street. That would have real vison for preservation, but hindsight is 20/10.

  2. Great photo. Interesting that there isn’t one visible human anywhere. Looks like a still from a sci-fi movie.

  3. Noticed the partially furled and fully unfurled banners in the top right and corner of the post. Pacific Fruit and Produce wholesellers. They are with still in business today! Located on the eastside next to the Union Pacific RR offices

  4. What an interesting photo! I can sorta understand why there aren’t any people visible, with all those autos, trucks, and delivery vans it might be a dangerous place to be on foot. On the right side of the photo, looks like a produce market with signs for potatoes, poultry, meat, etc. I love these old buildings and wish they had been around when I was growing up.

  5. On the left Carsten Packing Co. was located at 105 Front Ave. (before 30’s renumbering) and on the right May Hardware was located at 88-90 Front Ave.(before renumbering) This photo would of Front Ave between Washington & Stark street.

  6. I like how the round sign on the left – One Hour Parking – and then right across the middle says 20 Minute Limit. Was that city or privately regulated?

  7. Please remember this is a City run blog and consider Social Media Terms of Use when posting. I know tensions are raised right now, but I hope Vintage Portland will remain a positive place for the community to connect and discuss our love of Portland’s past and present. Thank you for your continued support. We hope to continue to provide content everyone can enjoy.

  8. Keith Iding: This is a 1 hour parking zone, but above the 20 minute limit it looks like it says 7 am to 9 am during this time period.

  9. Harbor Wall had just replaced the defunct wharves and finally protected the area from flooding, but preservation was not on many minds after ten years of economic depression and a world war.

    To beat a dead horse, if only the river had been cleaner…

  10. Edge Lord I agree hindsight is 20-20, I know you know this but for those who don’t, Architecture and technological building in general was experiencing a period of great innovation in the 1920’s-1950’s. These buildings were viewed as relics of the “gilded era” grandpa’s time. After 1945 they represented the old world and the US was now in the space age with jet aircraft, cruise missiles, rockets and of course atomic bombs all publicly displayed during 1939-1945. The world was looking for “new” and the architecture of LeCorbusier and Mies Van der Rohe developed the building philosophy for the new technologies and changed the way buildings looked with the elimination of the classical order and sculpture attached to building facades..

  11. What rail line ran up Front street under wire? I would have guessed Oregon Electric, but I think that ran up 4th. Was there a separate OE line that came up Front?

  12. igor: It was an OE/United Railways freight line that connected with their trackage in NW Portland via Front Ave., NW Flanders, and NW 12th. The OE passenger mainline ran from NW 10th and Hoyt down 10th and SW Salmon to Front, where it met the freight tracks pictured above before turning south along what is now I-5. The Southern Pacific Red Electrics ran down 4th from Union Station.

  13. The automobiles completed take over of transportation in Portland around 1928 required that people have places to park their autos while in town; hence the multitude of parking lots and highrise car parks that were later to appear downtown; that and also gas stations, car dealerships.

    This is a great photo. Navigating a motor vehicle around in this clustered environment would not have been much fun.

  14. This looks a lot like some of Minor White’s photos. Those are usually free of people and very static. Was he alive when this was taken? This scene is so quiet, it looks like it was taken on a Sunday morning.

    It looks like someone was around. There is a blur of movement, at the front of the fourth vehicle on the right, the truck that is facing left.

  15. Minor White wouldn’t arrive in Portland for another six years after this 1931 photo, but he photographed this block and the next one to the north, including closeups of several structures. Notably the building doing business here and during his time in Portland as Carstens Packing Co. It was the first brick commercial building erected in the city, by William S. Ladd, in 1853. Kitty-cornered to the north, where May Hardware was located, was another White subject the Cosmopolitan Block, named for a famous hotel of that name on the site for many years. Back on the sw corner of Stark and Front one can see the building occupied between 1854-1861 by I.B. and A.H. Francis, pioneer black merchants of Portland. It was demolished in 1942.
    For another view of this block taken from the same spot, same direction, but in 1861 (several of the same buildings are visible), see the photo in the Oregon Encyclopedia entry on the Francis brothers:
    https://oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/francis-abner-h/

  16. Vlad, I completely agree that in the post-war boom there was little interest in anything old or what we would now call retro. I know how my parents felt: after the stress and dislocation of the Great Depression and WWII, they looked forward to normalcy, a new age of abundance and prosperity. “Out with the old, in with the new.” I think lots of people felt that way, and those values were reflected in architecture, fashion, tastes, and society in general. Unfortunately, lots of interesting old buildings, houses, etc., were destroyed in the process, reflecting the thinking of that time.

  17. There is a guy on top of a truck covering a load with a tarp. He is just below and left of the May Hardware sign.

  18. Thanks, Mark, I missed him. I looked hard for someone walking or driving. I didn’t look on top of a truck.

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