Cornerstones African American History Project Continues—Combatting Demolition

Vancouver Baptist Church
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Vancouver Ave Baptist Church in 1961, meeting with the clergy from the church and its neighbors. Photo courtesy Portland Observer.

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.

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Rich Past Shares with Future Generations

Hill Block Building in 1962
Hill Block Building in 1962

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.

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The Germans Left Churches

St Mark’s Baptist Church was a former German church
St Mark’s Baptist Church was a former German church

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.

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Eliot Neighborhood Street Names

We live and work on them. We  walk, bicycle, and drive on them, but how many of us know the history behind the streets of Eliot? Here, with help from the book Portland Names and Neighborhoods: Their Historical Origins, by Eugene E Snyder (Binford and Mort, 1979) are the stories of some of the neighborhood’s more well known streets.

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Eliot Neighborhood Trivia

Questions:

Q1: What still in use structure on MLK had a bit part in a 1993 sleeper hit? What was the building? What was the movie? Bonus: What two word line (arguably one of the best in the movie) was uttered by an extra in that scene?

Q2: What used to be at the site of the Nike outlet store? What happened to it?

Q3: What is the name of the park adjoining Tubman School, and why is it hyphenated?

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Oral History Walking Tour

By Kayla Gill

A page from the tour booklet

Allies of Eliot, a group of eight PSU community development students, has produced a historic walking tour of Eliot based on a series of interviews conducted by the Eliot Oral Histories Project and on community outreach conducted for the walking tour.  The tour is self-guided and consists of an informational booklet with historical photos, and corresponding audio tracks taken from the interviews. Booklets and audio players will be available for checkout from Dishman Community Center, where the tour begins and ends.  A condensed brochure version of the booklet and audio mp3s will be available for free download from the project website this summer.

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“Allies of Eliot” Continue The Oral History Project

By Owen Wise-Pierik

Allies Of Eliot

The history of the Eliot Neighborhood has been something that has brought culture and identity to it’s residents for a long time. It is something of controversy, life, and community. However, the neighborhood is changing. In order to keep the legacy of Eliot alive, Laurie Simpson and Arlie Sommer have teamed up with a group of Community Development undergraduate students from Portland State University to create an oral history project for the Eliot Neighborhood. Fusing together informational interviews of long term residents in Eliot and historical research, the students will create a historical walking tour of the neighborhood, bringing out oral narratives to show the changes and the history that exists here.

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Oral History Project Starting

The Eliot Neighborhood Association and Boise-Eliot School are about to begin the Eliot Oral History Project!  This project will bring Boise-Eliot middle school students together with Eliot residents to listen and record their stories and piece together an oral history and walking tours of the neighborhood.

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A Review of Jumptown

When most people think of jazz, Portland, Oregon, is not the first place that comes to mind.  And yet, for a golden decade following World War II, the Eliot neighborhood, a thriving African American neighborhood that would soon be bulldozed for urban renewal, spawned a jazz heyday.  Such luminaries as: Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Oscar Peterson, Dave Brubeck, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Dizzie Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, and local talent; Wardell Gray and Doc Severinsen headlined Portland clubs.  The fact that Portland was a port city with a busy railroad, and had a bustling shipbuilding industry, made it ripe to become a jazz Mecca.  Jumptown, by Robert Dietsche is a fascinating blend of music, politics, and social history.

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Eliot Remembered – Jane Bachman

Jane Bachman
Jane Bachman

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.

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Eliot Remembered – Emma Brown

Emma Brown
Emma Brown

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.

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Neighborhood History Book in the Works

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.

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Eliot – The Making of a Neighborhood

Written by Carol Kennedy
April 1998

The Eliot neighborhood, located in northeast Portland, Oregon, is locally significant as the original town site, of the City of Albina. Of the many communities that ultimately merged to form the present City of Portland, the City of Albina occupies a distinct niche in the city’s history. No other township contributed as greatly as did Albina to defining Portland’s present-day boundaries. The union of the City of Albina and the City of Portland in 1891 also added to the City of Portland’s sociocultural history by later fostering a diverse working class, immigrant, and minority community.(1)

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