Walling Building Bites the Dust

Walling Building - 1930s
Walling Building - 1930s

Eliot lost a historic building in October 2007, but to the relief of some residents as it had been an eyesore in recent years. The two story wood framed structure was at 2240-2248 NE MLK on the corner of NE Sacramento. Over the last 50 years, it suffered insensitive alterations and neglect. In its last years, structural problems became more apparent as the elements took a toll on the exterior. It was the last of several turreted Victorian structures that formerly lined a busy Union Avenue (MLK today) during the 1890s. Under the present ownership, a future new mixed use building is planned for the site since it is a prime location for retail development.

The building originally was a handsome Queen Anne styled commercial structure built in 1897 to house a billiards hall and carpet weaving shop. George P. Walling operated the businesses and lived in an apartment upstairs at the corner. The partial turret on the corner was unique providing a better vantage view. Walling remained until 1906 when he moved and the building was sold to new investors who had leased the commercial space to a restaurant and two other businesses.

During the late 1920s, “The Alley Cat” Restaurant was a hip spot in the corner unit. The 1929 photo shows the beauty this building once had with the original cornices and bay windows upstairs of fish scale shingles. At this time, Union Avenue became severely congested due to a double streetcar track and increased automobile traffic. It was the main artery from Portland to Vancouver since the first Interstate Bridge was finished in 1917.

In 1930, the street was widened 10 feet on each side affecting every building up and down the street. This structure was jacked up and moved back instead of having the front façade cut back. The street widening investment paid off well as it became busier during the 1930s and congested again before the close of the decade. In 1940, an improved N Interstate Avenue was opened as the main thoroughfare to the north diverting most of the traffic and retail business soon declined on Union Avenue over the next several decades.

Around 1931, Davisson’s Bicycle & Key Shop opened in the building remaining until 1940. Soon, Jim Yow Restaurant opened but did not last here. In the late ‘40s, Jackson’s Jewelry store opened on the corner. By 1960, there was LaBells’ Café on the south end, Day & Nite TV Sales & Service in the middle, and Allied Appliance Service Company on the corner, which expanded into the middle space by the 1970s. In the 1980s, the building was vacant most of the time. Sometime during the 1940s or ‘50s, the building’s exterior had stucco applied all over diminishing the former architectural appeal. Eventually water worked its way underneath causing failure. Restoration would have been a great benefit to the neighborhood but costly in its recent state of disrepair.

This is another excerpt of the book The History of Albina, being published in late 2007 by the author. He still seeks any old photographs and historic stories and also conducts historic research on homes in the Eliot & Boise neighborhoods at very reasonable rates. He can be contacted at 503-282-9436 or reroos@juno.com.