Historic Martin Mayo House Slated for Demolition

Historical black and white photo of Martin Mayo house in 1929
Historic Martin Mayo house in 1929

The Eliot neighborhood may soon be losing an historic resource, a cute house with a unique curved front porch connected to a man who dedicated much of his life to the community over one hundred years ago.  The house now at 206 NE Sacramento Street is a little bit tucked away behind shrubbery on a double-sized lot and proposed to be replaced by bland modern higher density housing.  The current owner, Danielle Isenhart of Emerio Design based in Beaverton, filed a demolition permit earlier this spring and was approved on May 4th.  The one condition posed by the city was a demolition delay of 120 days to provide a possible alternative to the destruction of a historic resource.

The history of this house is unusual as it was moved two times previously in the earlier part of the 20th Century.  It would be a great benefit to the Eliot neighborhood and more remarkable if this small house could be moved a third time and the moving costs would not be too high due to its size and economically feasible if the distance is within the present neighborhood. This cultural resource is unique and it would be tragic if lost just due to more housing.  Most of the original details remain intact on the front façade of this house.

The house was originally built in the latter part of 1896 by Martin N. Mayo, an immigrant from Austria who became successful in the community as the result of hard work and well known throughout Portland.  His house for his family originally faced Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd on the northwesterly corner of NE Sacramento.  In early 1912 as Portland was enjoying unprecedented prosperity, Mr. Mayo had the small house moved towards the west and turned it to face Sacramento and commissioned construction of a sizable 3-story brick building on the corner of MLK & Sacramento by Christian Hansen, a Swedish-born builder and designer.  At completion in November 1912, the cost was claimed to be $40,000 and the building was known for many decades as the Mayo Apartments.

As destiny would have it again in 1929, the City of Portland and the State Highway Commission did a study to determine the cost and impact of widening MLK Blvd (then Union Avenue North) as it was becoming too busy and very congested.  All buildings along and near the route that would be affected by the widening of 10 feet on each side were photographed and the cost was determined.  When the work was started in 1930, the Mayo House was moved down Sacramento Street to a vacant lot in the middle of the block.  Then the Mayo Building was jacked up and moved back 10 feet and put on a new foundation, where it sits today.

Martin Nicholas Mayo was born in Austria on 7 December 1862 and immigrated to the United States with his family as a young lad in 1868.  He came to Portland in 1874 and started out working different jobs in restaurants in the Old Town vicinity.  The work was hard but it was not long before he became known for his excellent cooking and he soon worked up the ranks in the business.  By 1890, he was the manager of the J. D. McKinnon Restaurant on West Burnside. A few years later, he purchased the business and changed the name to the Mayo Restaurant.  The establishment was also called the “Old Brunswick”, in reference to Martin’s homeland in Austria.  The business continued to thrive and was known throughout the Pacific Northwest for the excellent food. The business was sold in 1911, at what was likely a very good price. But Mr. Mayo was far from retiring.

Martin Mayo lived in downtown Portland until 1896 when he built his home here. Title records indicate that Martin Mayo was also known as Martin Mujo but his name was officially designated as Mayo in 1904.  Around 1890, he married Lucretia Mary, also an immigrant from Austria who came to the States in 1886.  In May 1899, their only son George P. Mayo was born in their house.

Martin Mayo became known for his involvement in community service.  During World War I, he became a food administrator for Oregon and he got involved in other activities to assist the less fortunate after the war.  New families were arriving from war-stricken European countries.  He and his son George moved to a house at 2931 NE Shaver in the Alameda neighborhood after his wife died in 1919.  After 1930, they moved into apartment #208 in the Mayo Building as son George took over managing the property. In a few years, they switched to apartment #309, where Martin Mayo would remain the rest of his life.  After years of continued good health, Martin Mayo passed away in his apartment on 23 September 1942.  He was well known and liked by a large circle of friends in the community. A full obituary appeared in the newspaper.  He was buried at Mt. Calvary Cemetery.