Blanchet House

Blanchet House is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year! The photos below show lines for meals served at the Blanchet House. The first meal served to 200 men were beans, bread, butter, and coffee. Located near Union Station in Old Town Portland, Blanchet House served an unemployed and underemployed mostly male population of transient workers and immigrants. There is an exhibit of Blanchet House history at the Oregon Historical Society until June 5.

Blanchet House at NW Glisan Street and NW 4th Avenue, circa 1952.
Men in line at NW Flanders Street and NW 4th Avenue around the corner from Blanchet House, circa 1952.

11 thoughts on “Blanchet House

  1. Beans, bread, butter, and coffee, then a free bus ride out and back to pick berries and other fruit and vegetables for 6-8 hours at 35 cents per hour.

  2. My grandma had a boyfriend who used to get meals there when he first “road the rails” into Portland. Those meals and granny’s friendship helped him get back on his feet. I used to see guys lined up there for meals when I went down to Union Station where my dad worked. That was a rough neighborhood. Now it’s The Pearl.

  3. Oregon Journal February 17, 1952 (excerpts)

    The Blanchet House of Hospitality, named for the first Catholic archbishop of Portland, was organized by the Blanchet club, a group of University of Portland graduates. The real spark has been the club’s chaplain, the Rev. Francis Kennard of St Mary’s church.
    The club leased a building at 4th and Glisan for a nominal but undisclosed sum and has turned what was once a restaurant into a free meal haven for down and outer’s.

    “We serve breakfast between 6 and 8 o’clock and dinner between 5 and 7” It’s not fancy, beans, stew, potatoes, bread, coffee—but any food satisfies a hungry man.

    Oregonian November 28, 1952

    The Blanchet House served 500 that waited in a line that was two blocks long on Thanksgiving at 50 per seating. Volunteers served a menu of Creamed, Turkey, Ham and Chicken, Squash, Potatoes, Cranberry Sauce, Cake and Melon.

  4. Those guys look a lot better than the unemployed transients of today. That said, women of that era wore heels and gloves and hats when they went shopping. I’m in jeans and a sweatshirt.

  5. And Susan, don’t forget a string of pearls around the neck (the mothers on Father Knows Best, Leave It To Beaver).

  6. One of the early Alcoholics Anonymous meetings was located on Glisan Street just east of Broadway it was called the Industrial meeting, My Late sponsor sobered up there in March of 1949, he told me about the new guys in the 1950s surviving on those free meals, until they got back on their feet.

  7. Dennis…I referenced the “Industrial meeting” by searching in the old Oregonian. Found the old address and the fact that it was also called the “skid row” meeting. Myself I have 33 years.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s