In a season already fraught with bad news – Arkansas executions, skyrocketing arms sales, more black teenagers shot by police – a page-8 headline in the last issue of Eliot News stopped me cold: “Major Expansion Project Planned for Legacy Emanuel Medical Center Campus.” For me, those 10 words echoed the hospital “expansion” that dismantled the last of Eliot’s African-American community, 44 years ago.
In Eliot there’s little left to see of the neighborhood’s complicated past. Once the vibrant, if sometimes dilapidated, center of Portland’s Black community, today almost all the landmarks are gone. The drugstore that anchored the busy intersection of Williams and Russell was beheaded and razed, its beautiful dome transplanted to Dawson Park. The Prince Hall Masonic lodge is now a tapas bar; the Cotton Club, flourishing in the sixties, sits abandoned behind a chain link fence; and the Black Panther medical clinic, which provided free health care to the community throughout the seventies, is long closed.
Two white ladies, both remembered as “angels” in Portland’s Black community were, improbably, both named Collins—though unrelated.
Compiled by Martha Gies with help from historic preservation activist Cathy Galbraith, Executive Director, Bosco Milligan Foundation.
Jane Weber graduated from Grant in 1948, attended University of Oregon, where she earned a Bachelor’s in General Arts & Letters in 1952, then took a one-year post-graduate course in medical records at Duke. Returning to Portland, she worked in the records department at St. Vincent’s until she and Don Bachman, whom she had married in 1958, adopted their first child. They had adopted two girls and a boy by the time they had three daughters of their own.
Emma and Finn Brown came from Biloxi, Mississippi, to the Pacific Northwest by train, and settled in Vancouver, Washington, in 1949, where their only child, Annie Louise, was born at St. Joseph Hospital. Finn first got a job working at a cannery; later, when he was hired on at Rich Manufacturing in Portland, they moved across the river. Emma went into domestic service with a family in Dunthorpe, with whom she worked for more than two decades. Widowed in 1978, Emma Brown, has also outlived many of her clients. Today she is 84 and still working part time.
Every morning, Sundays excepted, a man and his dog stand outside of the pretty Spanish Renaissance Revival building at 216 NE Knott, waiting for the doors to open at 10:00. Originally a library designed by Ellis Lawrence in 1912, it now houses Title Wave, one of the most unique bookshops in Portland, where the videos, DVDs, music CDs and books retired from the Multnomah County Library (MCL) system are sold.