1890 Home Slated for Destruction

The Edwin Rayworth House - Built in 1890
The Edwin Rayworth House – Built in 1890

The Edwin Rayworth House

Another historic home in the Boise neighborhood nearby Eliot at 3605 N Albina is slated for demolition. A developer from Lake Oswego intends to replace this classic vintage home with a bland modern 2-family structure with a property split down the middle of the lot. This Queen Anne styled home is not a fancy Victorian era mansion but a decorative cottage, typical for a middle-classed resident in 1890. At the time this house was built, the Eliot, Boise, and King neighborhoods were within the limits of the City of Albina, consolidated by the City of Portland one year later.

Our early community was ethnically and culturally diverse. Even though most of the houses were small and modest, every home had unique architectural characteristics. During the decades from the 1960s to the ‘80s, most of the houses of this era have been lost from commercial development and urban decay. Today, the surviving Victorian-era charm is threatened by intense development pressure. Our unique architectural landscape is under attack by developers who are replacing historic structures with bigger modern structures that increase population density. The Rayworth House is in an exceptional state of architectural preservation even though it is run-down today. The tragedy here is that a good restoration opportunity has been taken away from the community by a developer from the suburbs who will profit from his project.

Back in 1890, Edwin Rayworth, a painting contractor and wallpaper hanger, built this house here on N Albina Avenue. Originally, Albina Avenue was called Massachusetts Street, but that name was changed in 1891 once inside the jurisdiction of Portland. Edwin Rayworth was born in Canada in 1860, and his parents were immigrants from England. In 1884, they came to the States and settled into lower Albina later in the 1880s where building activity was strong and his trade flourished. Mr. Rayworth was either never-married or a young widower and had no children and lived in the house until about 1933. Also in the 1890s, a young couple also lived in the household with Edwin. They were Edward and Emma Reichard. Both were from Pennsylvania and were only a few years younger than Edwin. Edward Reichard was a coffee salesman for Crown Coffee Company. It is not likely they were related, but they co-inhabited the house with Rayworth, who eventually turned over the title of the property to them and remained in the community through the 1930s. In 1941, the Reichards sold the house to Nick Schneider, who worked as a longshoreman, but he left at the end of World War II. Mabel Hinkson, the next owner, apparently lived elsewhere. By 1949, Thomas and Ora D. Flagg were the new owners and occupants. Thomas Flagg had a listed occupation as a “seaman” and remained here through the late 1980s. Around 1989, Norvell and Kathy Reed became the owners but lived elsewhere. In 2001, Dan Mohrmann purchased the house for his family. He had a vision to restore the house, which was in a state of disrepair, and started a slow restoration process. He worked in the trades and when the recession hit in 2008, the family went through financial hardship. Sadly, they lost the house from foreclosure from US Bank by 2010. In October, the property was acquired by Andrey Kashuba, the owner of Exceptional Homes by Andrey, Inc. based in Lake Oswego.

It is clear our old close-in neighborhoods are under attack from wealthy developers from the suburbs. We face architectural pillage by them because the city is promoting high density and has deaf ears for historic preservation. Portland has been noted for sustainable living, but the destruction of old buildings and replacement with modern structures is not sustainable and results in the waste of resources. The recent recession has created foreclosures on local residents, and developers have targeted these properties getting them at low prices and profiting from their destruction or radical alterations. Like the example 1890 house here, some of them are destroying historic buildings. This loss is great to the block here, and it is nearly the most original of the earliest houses built on the block. The historic buildings in our communities give us our sense of place and cultural memory. Our old neighborhoods help make Portland special and now in danger of becoming “anywhere USA”.

Roy Roos is the author of the book “The History of Albina”, available at Powells Books & Broadway Books

28 thoughts on “1890 Home Slated for Destruction

  1. Too bad the city doesn’t value this type of neighborhood history.

    I would love to move into this house and help guide a community restoration of a neighborhood treasure like this. I wouldn’t know the first place to start.

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    1. Jorge:

      I don’t know how knowledgeable regarding zoning and planning you are, but this definitely is mostly a city caused problem.

      Despite the home being on a “typical” Portland 5,000 s.f. lot, it is zoned for what looks to be R2.5a:

      http://www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/index.cfm?c=35101&a=55662

      R = Residential 2.5 = 2,500 s.f. max lot and a=density overlay zone

      Overlay zone:

      http://www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/article/53339

      In summary, it is my understanding even if the home needed to come down, it would spur a mandatory split of the 5,000 s.f. lot into two 2,500 s.f. lots.

      2,500 sf. lots can be done very nicely, and many homes in Portland are on these, however, they can look very ugly if done wrong. Density can look real bad real quick attention to basic architectural details are not met.

      In short, this mostly a city caused problem.

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  2. Can I sign a petition? I’d like to sign a petition! Stop destroying old homes and buildings that can be restored! These buildings are more than just history, they are also cultural resources!!

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    1. There are two local organizations in Portland which may be able to provide some guidance…One is the Architectural Heritage Center in SE; and, the other is the Historic Preservation League of Oregon-our state’s “partner” to the National Trust for Historic Preservation..

      Thanks, Wes, for sharing some of the background info…Interesting to learn of the current underlying zoning…Indeed, R-2.5 spells doom for humble homes sitting on a 5000 square foot lots, even humble historic homes,. With such zoning, indeed looks like your neighborhood may face more such destruction.

      Is there any City Commissioner who sees the preservation of such properties as the BEST opportunity for true sustainability, as well, as, non-institutional affordable housing?

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  3. The city’s response to this issue has been absolutely perfunctory and insulting, but what can we do to save this home and get it on a new lot in the meantime?

    1) What’s the cost?
    2) Where can a lot be found?
    3) Would saving and moving it be financially feasible?

    Neighborhood groups need to get together and fight this. Leave the higher density places for the main arterials in town: Alberta, Mississippi, Hawthorne, Division, etc.

    The very idea this can be allowed to happen (splitting of traditional lot) on a block not typical of density is ridiculous.

    And yet, downtown Portland is less dense than some eastside neighborhood. This type of planning is doomed to fail, and it’s as ugly as all get-out.

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    1. I got linked to this blog from Reddit and was wondering most of that myself. I sent an email to the National Trust for Historic Preservation a few hours ago asking if they could offer any resources. I also asked someone who said he’d moved/renovated house like this and he responded here (http://www.reddit.com/r/Portland/comments/17q2b9/1890s_north_portland_historic_home_planned_to_be/c87yxs7).

      My hope is that at the very least if they won’t sell the lot, and it’s feasible to move/renovate, we can set up a fund or find someone interested in renovation willing to purchase it and move it somewhere permanent.

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  4. I live on Borthwick and love walking by the Edwin Rayworth House. i am SO disappointed to hear it is being demolished! We live in such a special neighborhood, it’s really a tragedy to see it gentrified and homogenized.

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  5. Is there nothing we can do to save this house? really? Why do I feel like Arthur Dent and tying myself to the bulldozer? The loss of our history in the city is so wrong!

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  6. Com on Portland, listen to the people in these neighborhoods! I know you are searching for infill and denser living, but should it really be at the sake of history and the founding of our city?

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  7. This is happening all around me in Sellwood – I now live in a Renaissance bad mega mansion sub division with no backyards. We have to stand up to bad infill!!! And if I hear one more Metro mouth complain about the dearth of green space in the city – alias those backyards….I will scream louder….

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  8. As the person who owns the other 1890 house on the block, I’m deeply saddened by this trend. It would be nice if the city would hear our voices when it comes to preserving our architectural history.

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  9. I am indeed saddened to learn of this planned demolition. Have recently heard that a segment of the development community is specifically targetting what we might refer to as double lots-those currently occuped by one, somewhat humble, single family residence. My thoughts are with you and the neighborhood.

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