Friday, November 30, 2007

It wouldn't be Portland if all things didn't eventually come back to liquor

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.


Rick Hamell said...

Are you writing a book about the origin of Portland Street names or reading one? Just curious as it seems to me that one already exists, but of course a quick perusal of Powells, Amazon, and my own book shelf fails to reveal it's name.

I'd be very interested in such a book though. said...

No I am not re-inventing the wheel here, there was a very thorough book written on the topic some time ago... my bent is toward photography, so the book will be a collection of photographs taken from the various streets of portland whose names have historical signifigance in the city's past. As with the first book I did, it is meant more as an art/coffee-table book.

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