A Brief History of MLK, Jr. Blvd

On May 28, 1873, under the direction of Edwin Russell, the townsite plat of Albina was laid out and filed with Multnomah County by George H. Williams. Many of the street names have stayed the same such as Page, Russell and Williams. However, many street names have been changed, some even multiple times. Our current NE Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard is one such street.

The original name of the boulevard was Marguretta Avenue named after Albina founder Edwin Russell’s wife. In 1888 Portland & Vancouver Railway built tracks for a steam-powered line along Marguretta Avenue. The rail line stimulated business and residential and some commercial development. The name Marguretta didn’t last long. In June 1891 an election was held for all residents of Portland, Albina, and East Portland to consolidate the three cities. With this new city formation, the street name was changed to Union Avenue. The street was widened in the 1930s and streetcar tracks were laid.

Union Avenue held its name until 1989 when the Albina Community Plan was developed to revitalize distressed neighborhoods in and around the Albina community. After inquiries about why Portland didn’t have a street named after Martin Luther King, Jr, especially since the minister had visited the Vancouver Baptist Church back in 1961, Union Avenue eventually was renamed Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard after a long and tumultuous process.

Historical data are from Roy Roos’ Book, The History of Albina, ISBN#0-9662224-2-3 and also from the Skanner article, “Renaming the Boulevard,: a Retrospective” which can be found at https://www.theskanner.com/news/history/6518-renaming-the-boulevard-a-retrospective2010-01-14

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