One house, two house, red house blue house, both will be gone soon. The two houses on Cook near Vancouver are slated to be demolished, forever erasing 110 years of history in the neighborhood.
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.
When I sent the moldings in my home off to the stripper, I noted the name on the back appeared to be German. I also suspected the owner worked for the railroad because the front door is a custom size, probably to accommodate a window in the shape of a Union Pacific shield, which dates from the 1880s, and my home was built in 1908. A recent Oregonian article, (“NE Portland church tells story…” 1/12/2013) confirmed these suspicions. Although the article warned of the potential tragic loss of churches founded by German immigrants, it noted that these settlers were from the Volga region of Russia.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Roy E. Roos, author of many neighborhood history articles over the last 9 years, is putting together a book on the history of Albina. The old town of Albina was inside today’s Eliot, Boise & King neighborhoods. There has only been a limited amount of history documented about the early days of Albina and there have only been a few old photographs found at the Oregon Historic Society. He previously authored the book “The History & Development of Portland’s Irvington Neighborhood” in 1997 and is targeting publishing his latest book in 2007.
Today’s Wonder Ballroom was built by The Ancient Order of Hibernians, a group committed to immigration reform, civil rights for those of Irish descent and the preservation of the old Irish culture. Designed by the architecture firm of Jacobberger & Smith, the hall was completed on schedule and the first meeting was held in the new building on September 10, 1914.