The holidays are approaching. Check out the links to the right that will allow you to preview some pages in my book for free. If you are needing to find a unique but inexpensive gift for someone this holiday season, Shots of Portland may be the answer for you.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Friday, November 30, 2007
The new book I have begun is a study of the street names of Portland. More specifically, the history behind those names. I have lived here most of my life, was taught little about the history of my city, so after writing my personal history book about the bars of the city, Shots of Portland, I have moved on to other historical aspects of this town.
I knew most of the names growing up here, but I never gave much thought to lives of those to which many of Portland's streets are named. For this entry, I start with someone quite recognizable, if only in name.
William Sargent Ladd, originally from New Hampshire, arrived in Portland in 1851, at the age of 24. He could not have predicted it, but this gentleman would eventually become the single largest landholder in Portland at one time.
Ladd's first 5 years after stepping off the ship were spent mainly in the liquor trade (shocker). The liquor business is good to him, and in a few years he eventually builds Portland's first 3 brick buildings. By 1854 Ladd expands into grocery stores. By the age of 27, Ladd is elected mayor of the city in 1854 at the age of 27. As his businesses thrived, Ladd would go on to help open Portland’s first Bank, Ladd and Tilton.
Ladd spent the next decade growing his business and family. A wealthy man by 1865, Ladd sells half of his interest in liquor business (perhaps to polish up his image? or just tiring of an industry he practically conquered before the age of 40?).
Ladd began purchasing plots of land on the east and west side of the Willamette River. Today, his most famous plot lies just off of SE Hawthorne, known then and now as Ladd's Addition. In its day, it was known throughout the state as one of the most attractive pieces of residential design most had ever seen... and seeing it is about most would ever be able to do. Ladd built posh homes, with back-alleys for privacy and to keep the cars and horse carts out of the streets within The Addition.
Platted in 1891 just after the first housing bust Portland had ever known, Ladd took what was then 128 acres of tract farm land and built upon it what is now the monument to the man himself.
Though it is rumored he never fully left the liquor business, Ladd overcame that stigma by the time of his death at age 91, in 1893.
Ladd's Addition rose to the height of luxury and comfort in the 1920's, when Portland specially allocated an electric street car line to run down Hawthorne and into the city. A ride that only took 20 minutes.
The next time you happen to hop a street car, or a MAX line, with perhaps your beverage of choice wrapped in a brown paper bag, give some thought to a man who in many ways shaped Portland into the city is has become.
Friday, July 27, 2007
I lay on a bed in my one bedroom apartment. It is early July. My place is on King Street, one block up from West Burnside road. Once known as Skid Road for the fact that early loggers used to fall timbers in the West Hills and skid the logs down a path to river. The path eventually became a street when the timbers ran out. And then Skid Road transformed itself into Skid Row for the better part of the 1900’s, where fallen men drank themselves up and down the street.
The leaves on the trees outside my window sway in the evening breeze that always builds this time of night as the sun goes down and the heat from the city draws wind down from hills for several hours. A little known fact: living on the east side of the West Hills you never get to see the sun actually set, except in this time of year, when the Earth is still tilted enough to allow the downtown skyscrapers to reflect sunlight back upon the hills themselves. It is this sunset-reflection from the east that I witness as I walk out of my apartment to my first destination of the evening, The Ringside.
The Ringside bar is dark, brick laden, with waiters and bartenders dressed in the old fashioned "black and whites". It is a class joint, lit only by small candles on the tables and a few overhead lights that shine down upon the shelves of liquor. As a restaurant I hold their steaks in the highest regard, but as tonight is not for eating, I merely order a Manhattan, light a smoke, and stare at the ice in the glass.
Time passes, but the night remains young. Another Manhattan, and then I pay the tab and continue the evening down at the Kingston.
The waitress comes over and I order a Budweiser. On another night I might have been able to recall more about this old building, its upper windows now boarded up. But nothing comes to mind on this night. A sports bar today, the crowd here is more blue-collar, mixed with students. Sports bars have their place, but it isn't my scene, and I leave my bottle half full as I walk out the door.
Station number three tonight is the Marathon Taverna. Half-way between The Ringside and the I-405 overpass, and half way from upper class to lower. This bar has a flavor to it that can only be appreciated after dark. On this night the crowd is older, raw. Most are honest hardworking people, but there is the mixture of aged winos and stool rats that could have been decaying in the haze of smoke probably since the afternoon. I sit and order another beer.
Several beers and many hours later I find myself walking east through the heart of the modern Skid Row. The last bastion in Portland these days where the homeless, hapless, users, pushers, prostitutes and pimps still gather just off the side streets of Burnside.
On NW 2nd I sit myself down on the curb with a brown bag in hand and find myself staring at a brick facade with gold lettering that reads ‘Erikson Saloon’. On this very spot, over 100 years ago, August Erikson built one of the grandest bars Portland ever had. The Saloon took up two city blocks in it early days, and had a bar that boasted to be the largest is the world. It was known as The Working Man’s Saloon, and back in the day that is exactly who it catered to. The loggers, miners, sailors, and dockworkers that all migrated to this house of liquor, gambling, and entertainment. Erikson’s closed in 1981, at that time it had been cut in half, and was a mere shadow if itself. This sign exists as a memorial to the bar.
The sky begins to lighten in the early morning. I drop the bottle in the street. Hail a cab. Time to return to the empty apartment. My walk is over. The city moves on.