15 thoughts on “Guilds Lake, circa 1944

  1. I’m just thinking about the cost of lumber during COVID looking at this image factoring that layer in makes this more than adequate. I am trying to figure out where in the development this shot was taken. Racism played a role in the quality of housing at this development. The electric units (singles and duplexes not shown) were the highest quality- these pictured look mid-grade the lowest quality when materials ran out were just painted tar paper exterior all units used 2″x3″ to save on wood.

  2. If you look under “Related” below today’s picture and click on ‘Guild’s Lake Courts Division, 1944’ (posted on VP on Match 18th, 2016) you’ll get a better idea of the layout of this wartime development. There is also a link to an aerial photo.

    I would find it hard to believe that there were units that had no electricity.

    The glass milk bottles awaiting pick up on the front porches is something of a bygone era, I experience in the past as a child (for a little while, anyway).

    The lack of rain gutters would have been difficult to deal with in our climate; another sign of the impermanent nature of these structures.

    Mowing on downward slopes like these is hell.

  3. Tanya Gossard, tell us a little about how “racism” played a role in the quality of this development?

  4. With the shortage of decent, safe affordable housing today, it is sad to think that at some point these units were just bulldozed and dumped in a landfill.

  5. The development was segregated. Blacks were in inferior dwellings. The locations of those dwellings isolated children from safe access to the Guilds Lake kx8 grade school. HAP hid the fact that 1,000s of Blacks lived in NW Portland.

  6. Tanya how did HAP hide the fact that 1.000’s of blacks lived there? That doesn’t seem possible. I know you are an expert on Guilds Lake but that doesn’t seem possible.

  7. 1. HAP had white models posing for images in the Black section of the project when built 2. when there were 100s truants in the Black section of the development they referred to the community as the Goan section never as a Black community 3. There was no way to drive in our out of Gona until the Kittridge Viaduct was constructed that would be isolation by design intent 4. MacColl’s The Growth of the City states “In Vanport, over 6,000 blacks resided in segregated inelegance. Nearly 5,000 at Guild’s Lake lived under similar conditions.” This is all pre-trailers pre-1948 flood. That 25% of the Black population of the entire state living in a small part of Guild’s Lake the 8th largest housing project built in the United States at that time. All race data by HAP for Guild’s Lake was kept by unit not per capita the Gona section was overcrowded. The files from police murder of Ervin Jones oral histories indicate that it was not unusual that there was a dozen individuals living in two-bedroom units in shifts. HAP also stopped allowing public to attend meetings after the Blacks advocates asked questions advocating to move into housing vacated after the conclusion of World War II.

  8. Tanya Lyn March — PhD Urban Studies–Portland State University authored a 452 page report in 2010 titled “Guild’s Lake Court An Impermanent Housing Project”
    This is a excerpt from this report.
    The first housing units at Guild’s Lake Courts were occupied in October 1942 and the remaining vast expanse of housing built on the site of the Lewis and Clark Fair of 1905 was occupied soon after. These first units were electrified, detached single family units designed by prominent local architect Morris Whitehouse and were distinctive and innovative modern homes. But by 1943 the development had expanded to the area once occupied by marshy Kittredge Lake and the new row houses were indistinguishable from those cropping up in defense housing communities across the western United States
    The last architecturally indistinguishable division of Guild’s Lake Courts was reserved for black tenants, and was the least electrified. The electrification was very appealing to families who were being enticed to move across the country–particularly white rural families migrating from farms in northern states, where in the 1930s only thirteen percent of farms were electrified. By 1945 only 33 percent of farms were electrified despite the efforts of the New Deal. In Portland 99 percent of households were electrified, with 53 percent having refrigeration and nearly the entire population using electricity to light their homes. Interestingly African Americans were not recruited by the same techniques that had been used to recruit white workers. By the time construction started on units dedicated to African American residents, it was clear that all the electricity that could be spared to operate mechanical refrigerators, hot plates, and electric heaters was going to be absorbed by the round the clock operations of the was industries, so homes offered in the black section of Guild’s Lake Courts lacked these amenities and were rudimentary in contrast to Portland’s existing housing stock.

  9. Yeah right…
    Plenty of racism there. But at least no gang grafitti and needles laying around.

  10. So many themes raised on this posting. Following is my recollection of research I’ve seen but don’t have readily available.

    The HAP was in essence under control of the Portland Realty Board. HAP was only established after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The realty board was opposed to any sort of public housing and made sure the housing was substandard so that there would be no surplus after the war. In fact Portland was so opposed to war housing that the Kaiser Corporation went to the feds, bought up 648 acres outside Portland, and built Vanport without HAP consent or even knowledge.

    The Guilds’ Lake land was leased from private landowners. The contracts provided for removal of the public housing at the earliest possible opportunity. These private parties demanded return of their bare land for development.

    The “electrified units” at Guilds’ Lake refers to all-electric units. There were no units without any electricity. Vanport had no refrigerators, only iceboxes. Vanport had one boiler for heating each 56 apartment units. Heat was sporadic. Some of the furnace ducts were wood and caught fire. Residents who used their “Everhot” mini-stoves for heat were likely to start fires.

    There was recycling of war housing materials and in some cases entire buildings after the war.

    Of course there was discrimination. It was the 1940s. Guilds’ Lake and Vanport were the only developments allowing any blacks. At least in Vanport, all units were like all other units. They were ALL inferior. (With the possible exception of a few four unit buildings at the entrance.)

    Oral history is a fascinating and invaluable account of the person’s recollections. However those recollections are only from one person’s perspective and dim with the passage of time. Dozens of blacks living in one unit is highly suspect.

  11. Tany Gossard, thank you for clarifying your work and for sharing your information about this place. Portland has a terribly dark history of racism.

  12. i like these old wood framed buildings they were better built than homes of to days world every thing was real wood !!

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