14 thoughts on “White House, circa 1908

  1. The cook with the long tie and crossed arms is the grandfather of Seinfeld’s “Soup Nazi”

  2. I believe this restaurant was in Salem, Oregon. The e-files says the location is unknown, and I’ve just gone through the public library databases that provide citations to historical Oregon newspapers. Salem is the site of the only Oregon restaurant with that name in that era, and there are a lot of interesting human-interest stories about it.

    In addition, I found an article online at:


    with an interior photo from the same era as our VP one today, with what LOOKS like the same/similar people. Would some of the rest of you check it and see?

    That article says (in part):
    “The White House Restaurant (c.1896-1932) was an early Salem institution, located for most of its life on State Street, where Cooke Stationary is today. In addition to 24-hour meal service, the White House Restaurant offered a special ladies dining room.

    Working conditions at restaurants are often tough, but in the late 1890s they were extreme. When Charles A. Bear went to work at the White House Restaurant he had 13 hour shifts that ran midnight to 1 p.m. the next day. He was making $25 a month and had to commute on foot two miles each way to get to work and back. A family biographer also noted that “part of his work was taking a tray of food now and then to the red light district two blocks away. He said he always wore his white work apron to identify that he was there from the restaurant and not a patron.” Bear found the work too taxing and quit after 13 weeks on the job.”

  3. The guy in the moustache is steaming and just popped off to the boss who is now considering the cost of keeping him around. The boss’s daughter on the right knows what is coming. Everyone else is just happy it’s finally being addressed. Ha!

  4. Well whoever runs this site is in a meeting every Tuesday till 11 am so a whole bunch of comments will get posted then but anyhow O database has the restaurant at 291 1st Street.

  5. Mike is right! When I entered “291 1st” in the Oregonian database, I found a few entries, most of them mentioning the restaurant but not its name. The exception I found was in the paper on March 8, 1914, “The White House Rest. offers you an excellent chicken or goose dinner for 35 [cents] all day Sunday. 291 1st st. between Jeff. and Columbia.”

    The other “hits” I got were mostly classified ads, many of them in the 1920’s like this: “RESTAURANT, doing a good business, rent $45, must be sold this week; leaving town: some terms. Owner, 291 1st st.” (5/25/1920, p. 21)

    and later, this: “RESTAURANT–Completely equipped, good location. Sell account sickness, 291 1st st.” (5/11/1932 p. 11)

  6. The boy in the photograph is my grandfather Werner Richen. His dad, John Richen, is to his right, arms folded confidently behind his back. John cofounded a family restaurant, The Union Oyster House, which was on SW Washington between 2nd and 3rd until 1941. The restaurant originally opened in August 1909 on Second. My grandfather took his dad’s place in 1915 when John died suddenly. My grandfather’s younger brothers had Griffin’s Cafeteria on SW Broadway for years.

  7. I wonder if this is a reference to the so-called White House restaurant that existed on SW Macadam around the turn of the 20th century. This article says the building burned down in 1904. Perhaps the date on the photograph is incorrect. I doubt a Salem restaurant would be in a city of Portland photograph archive, and conversely, I think this restaurant was quite important for a time. So much so that some or all of SW Macadam was called White House Road.


  8. The Waas– what a WONDERFUL post! Thank you very much! And Jon Wood, I did acknowledge my error in thinking it was Salem, in my second post responding to Mike’s comments. Good additional information, all around!

  9. The Waas— Your grandfather Werner O. Richen on his 1918 draft registration card shows that he was 20 years old, and employed in the restaurant business with a business address of 128 2nd , which after the 1930’s street renumbering would have been 522 SW 2nd.

  10. The Wass— From the Oregon Journal on August 20, 1909 under notices.

    Union Oyster House– This place will be open on Thursday, Aug. 24 as a first class restaurant and oyster house, 128 2d st. John Richen and F. Rothacher, proprietors.

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