New residents to Northeast Portland may not know that Williams Avenue in the 1960’s was very different than the Williams Avenue of today. In 2015 we posted an article from the Regional Arts and Culture Council. This is an update to that article.
On May 18th, in the basement of the Vancouver Avenue Baptist Church, city representatives met with neighborhood homeowners, community leaders, city planners, and local historians to discuss the precarious future of the neighborhood’s homes. Finding the city’s properties with historic significance and protecting them from development is the goal of a new grant-funded partnership between the city’s Historic Preservation Program and the Architectural Heritage Center.
In the early 1940s, Floyd Standifer could be found playing his trumpet to the hills. He would listen as the sound came echoing back. This was the way, in the farmlands outside of Gresham, he worked on perfecting his tone. However, he also learned a lot from Williams Avenue in Portland.
Right in the heart of Eliot, positioned a block away from the Emanuel hospital between Williams and Vancouver Avenues, lies one of Albina’s most treasured historic spaces: Dawson Park. Today, it’s a shaded, grassy expanse complete with playground, basketball courts, and public fountain. All throughout July, catch free public concerts at Dawson Park every week–but before rolling out the picnic blanket and bringing the family down, learn a little about why Dawson Park’s story is tied so closely to the history of Northeast Portland.
Overshadowed though it may be today by the Cook Street Lofts apartment complex currently under construction across the street, the Vancouver Avenue Baptist Church (3138 N Vancouver Avenue) is an institution of the Eliot neighborhood and of African American history in Portland . The Church appears similar to most others across Portland, with a brick facade, stained glass windows, and a mid-sized wooden steeple. However, it is one of the few remaining structures from Vancouver Avenue in the 1950s, and a link to the era when the area was known as “Black Broadway”: the hub of African American life and culture in Portland.
Eliot School c1951
The Eliot School, named after Thomas Lamb Eliot, was built in 1909 on NE Knott at the corner with Rodney. In the late 1940’s or early 50’s the school’s teachers and students were relocated. Portland Parks took over the building in the early 1950’s and it became the Knott Street Community Center.
Back in 2006 Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare moved the Garlington Center into Eliot Neighborhood at 3034 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Soon they hope to transform the property with a new mixed use building that will include existing services as well as affordable housing.
The Eliot Neighborhood Plan is going to be updated after 22 years. Last time it was completed, Eliot was scheduled to get a water taxi stop. What does the future hold for our piece of shoreline on the Willamette River now?
It’s wonderful to learn about the history of our Eliot neighborhood. Here are ways you can find out more about Eliot, its founders, its architecture and some of its elders.
The Albina Building 1927
This building on the corner of Larrabee (Interstate) and Albina was originally built as a hotel in the late 1890’s or early 1900’s. The building looks like it was a triangle, however it was actually shaped like a “V”. At the top of the building, over the corner entrance, are the words “The Albina”. It appears there is additional text above in the shadows, but it is unreadable – or perhaps it is ornamentation. In 1929, The Albina was home to the “Ideal Cafeteria” and the “Baxter Apartments”.
Union (MLK) and Knott 1929
These twin houses on the corner of Union and Knott were built in 1900. By 1929 Union had already become a busy street and the houses had started the transition from residential to commercial. “Dr Muck Dentist” occupied the second floor of the house on the corner. Over the course of his dental career Dr Earl C Muck had his office in different nearby locations on Union.
There are two 125-year-old houses in Eliot that are going to be demolished if the neighborhood doesn’t rally to save them. The best option would be to purchase them from the developer who owns them, Guy Bryant of GPB Construction, or failing that, to convince him not to tear them down to build his ultramodern 40-foot-tall rowhouses that, needless to say, don’t fit in to the neighborhood. The houses were built at the time the City of Albina was its own city.
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.
By Jason Franklin
The churches of Eliot are a rich historic and cultural asset to the neighborhood. There are at least ten churches in the neighborhood today and most were built in the early 1900’s with Immaculate Heart dating to 1889.