Historic Homes & Buildings: The John Antonio House
The Second Oldest House in Eliot
There is one small old house tucked away inside our architecturally diverse neighborhood that could escape being noticed during a walk. It is not a fancy Victorian-era house loaded with gingerbread but a simple cottage with a shallow bay window in front. The Antonio Cottage can be found in the middle of the block on the south aide of NE Tillamook between Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and NE 7th Avenue at number 528. The house sits on one of the earliest blocks developed when the “Townsite of Albina” was laid out in 1873. Research has revealed that this is the second oldest structure known in our neighborhood.
In 1880, John Antonio built this cottage of a Vernacular or rural style, common during the Victorian period. It is likely he constructed the house himself as early city directories list him with an occupation of “laborer.” Not a lot is presently known about John Antonio as some records and directories spell his name Antione, including the 1880 Census. He was born in Portugal in 1854 and may have arrived in Mexico before immigrating to the United States in the 1870s, likely with other family members. His wife Mary was born in Mexico in 1856 or ’57. In 1880, the young couple had no children in the household but that could have changed in later. The 1881 edition of the city directory for Albina lists him residing at this location. During these early years, Albina was a separate town and the streets may not have been cut out yet on this higher part of Albina. The few houses present did not have numbers and the streets and cross streets were estimated. The directory company in those days did a thorough job of getting names and information on residents of every dwelling, even by means of talking to neighbors. It is certain that Antonio had ownership of this lot and only this lot as the deed of sale was filed with the county records. It was found that the 1880 Census listed John Antonio next on the enumeration list after Joseph Schade, a well-known early Albina resident. Schade was an immigrant from Germany and built the oldest surviving house (1879) known today in our neighborhood at 443 NE Tillamook. Presently these houses are not close to each other on NE Tillamook and may have been the only two houses finished on this part of the street in 1880. Originally, this section of Tillamook Street was called Tusculum before the 1891 street name change. The fate of the Antonios is not known, but more research could reveal answers. Later in the 1880s, they sold the property to James Rodgers. Mr. Rodgers worked as a truckman for the railroad terminal in lower Albina. A truckman did loading and unloading of freight, a common working-class occupation in 19th Century America. The Rodgers family remained here through the turn of the 20th Century.
In recent decades, this house was used as an income property by the same local owner until he recently passed away. Through the process, it got run-down but still occupied by long-term tenants, who put some effort themselves into maintenance, likely due to very reasonable rent. When matters of the owner’s estate got settled last year, it was sold to a new owner. In the process of renovating and updating, it is hoped that the original features on the exterior façade are retained, especially in front. Most of the original wide clapboard remains intact, which is likely old-growth western red-cedar or possibly redwood. The original windows also remain, likely from the same materials, except for one or two aluminum slider replacements from about the 1970s. The extra effort to restore would be totally worth it since it is the second oldest house in our historic neighborhood.
Roy Roos is the author of a book called “The History of Albina”, available at Powells Books & Rejuvenation House Parts.