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.
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 October 2012, developer Andre Kashuba purchased the Historic Rayworth House property located at 3605 N Albina in the nearby Boise neighborhood. He immediately filed plans with the city to demolish the existing 1890 single-family house and construct two attached larger homes on the lot. Around November, the city granted approval with a new proposed lot line splitting the property down the middle. In recent years, it has been a primary goal to encourage increased population density in close-in neighborhoods. Even though the Rayworth House is in the middle of a block of single-family homes between N Fremont and N Beech, most of the area is zoned for two families per lot, which explains the short of approval time by the city.
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.
During the early years of rapid development in the town of Albina, which most of is now inside the Eliot neighborhood, many well-known businessmen were involved with the process. When Albina was incorporated in 1887, it saw phenomenal growth through 1892. Much money was spent and made on real estate investments and industrial expansions tied into the railroad industry. Businesses during these years thrived on healthy profits in part due to an abundant supply of immigrant workers willing to work at working-class wages. The real estate market was exceptionally healthy due to soaring lot prices. After Albina merged with Portland in 1891, the value of property skyrocketed. Most Albina businessmen and property speculators though lived in today’s NW and SW Portland, which was generally where most of the “well-to-do” lived. Robert E. Menefee and his brothers were an exception to this rule as they resided in Albina during most of their lives. Some of the homes they lived in are still standing in the neighborhood today.
The residents of Eliot are fortunate today to enjoy ethnic and cultural diversity. What is more unique about our neighborhood is that it was always diverse since the beginning, during the last quarter of the 19th Century. A healthy mix of immigrants from Europe settled here and built homes. In the northerly portion of the original town site of Albina, which is bounded by today’s NE Morris Street west of MLK & NE Ivy Street east of MLK, a higher concentration of settlers from Scandinavian countries purchased property and built homes for themselves and related family members. Most of these men held a variety of occupations that were often unskilled, but they were well-taught and highly skilled in carpentry. Luckily, clusters of these small but decorative houses stand today and some have been sensitively restored.
A Building Full of Colorful History & Stories
Our neighborhood is so fortunate to have buildings that have survived for nearly a century or more. Every building has seen much use from many people over the years and has many stories to tell as well. The White Eagle Saloon & Café at 836 N Russell Street is a great example of a simple building known for its colorful past. The White Eagle, as it is now known as, has not only serviced many different people from different walks of life, but also is full of stories of events passed through several generations. In 95 years of existence, the building has served the same function as a saloon, tavern, or pub. Perhaps the walls are trying to talk as mysteries still shroud this building and reports of haunting by ghosts continue.
The Eliot neighborhood may soon be losing a historic home at 216 NE Tillamook. A demolition permit was filed by the company who purchased it two years ago but the city required a 120-day demolition delay on the house due to the fact that it is inside a historic zone and the age of the house. The delay is designed to provide some opportunity for someone to move the house to another location and restore it. Fortunately for the house, the owning firm who planned a condominium development on the site had financial problems and the property entered foreclosure recently.
For nearly 7 years, Eliot residents have wondered what the future is for the building that housed the Cleo-Lilliann Club for many years. At the corner of N Williams & Monroe, it was a fixture for social gatherings in the neighborhood until closing in 2001. Since that time, it has sat vacant and been a target for taggers as no real estate deals apparently have been worked out between owners and potential buyers.
Eliot lost a historic building in October 2007, but to the relief of some residents as it had been an eyesore in recent years. The two story wood framed structure was at 2240-2248 NE MLK on the corner of NE Sacramento. Over the last 50 years, it suffered insensitive alterations and neglect. In its last years, structural problems became more apparent as the elements took a toll on the exterior. It was the last of several turreted Victorian structures that formerly lined a busy Union Avenue (MLK today) during the 1890s. Under the present ownership, a future new mixed use building is planned for the site since it is a prime location for retail development.
In our neighborhood full of wonderful old homes, we often wonder who the actual builder was that put his design and energy into these buildings. Many of the skilled men who actually built our homes also lived inside Eliot. Some of them were masters at the design as well as the carpentry. John F. Wilson was one of these men who left their building legacy behind for us. But unlike most builders of the day, he remained inside our neighborhood for six more decades even though he switched residence in several houses.