Overheard on the Trolley

On my way home from work on Sunday, I notived the Vintage Trolley coming down the MAX lines, and decided to catch it to its terminus over at Lloyd Center.  I like the trolley a lot; I enjoy its rumble, the big windows, the comfy seats, and most of all, the trolley conductor that points out interesting facts along the ride. The trolley conductor is kind of a Portland booster, extolling all of the things that make our city great, and dispensing interesting historical anecdotes. On this particular ride, however, the conductor talked aboutsomething that didn’t quite sit right with me.

As we were coming to the dip in the tracks that go underneath the Morrison Bridge, the conductor started talking about how that was the original location that Pettygrove and Lovejoy started clearing out for the future town. Okay, sounds about right. Next, he started talking about how that little dip was the original elevation of the land, and that due to flooding, they did infill all around the area. The original elevation bit seemed plausible, but what about this infill? He then went on to say that they did this around the time the seawall was built in 1929, and that in doing so, they buried the first floor of all of the original buildings, so that all of the ground floors that we were seeing were actually the second floors. Uh… HUH? That’s the first time I ever heard anything like that. Upon hearing this, I was surprised and skeptical, but didn’t outright disbelieve it – I’ve only lived in town for seven years, so there’s plenty about the history of the city that I don’t know. I was mulling this over, wondering if I’d heard him correctly, when we started passing the New Market Theater. At this point, he now tells everyone on the trolley that the floor of the New Market that we are seeing as the ground floor is actually the second floor because of this burying business. What?

For about two seconds, I thought to myself, My God! How could I not know that?? Then the guy started talking about Skidmore Fountain, and I realized that his statment about the buildings being buried couldn’t make sense, since the Skidmore Fountain is at ground level. If there is any truth at all to this, then this supposed infill would have had to happen between 1872 (when the New Market was built) and 1888 (when the Skidmore Fountain was dedicated). I decided not to believe any of it when he started talking about how the Skidmore Fountain was built by Stephen Skidmore (it was bequeathed by Stephen Skidmore) and that he selected the sculptor for it (that was C.E.S. Wood that commisioned Olin Warner).

The more I thought of all of this, the more it bothered me. For starters, all of the ground floor architecture looks like ground floor architecture. Second, if there was just one point in downtown that wasn’t filled, why was it conveniently done where the MAX would one day run underneath the Morrison Bridge? Third, where did this guy get this information? If anyone has some knowledge of this supposed “infill”, could they let me know? This whole thing sounds pretty fishy to me.

Anyway, aside from this, the conductor seemed like a really nice gentleman. I don’t know if I want to ride on the Vintage Trolley with him again.

ps – more comics coming soon.

The Leo Lange Postcard – Update No. 2

Well, I got a little more creative with my searching yesterday, and checked out the database “America’s Obituaries and Death Notices” at the Library. I found Kenneth Lange’s obituary first. And I thought his mother’s obituary was vague: 

Chicago Tribune, February 24, 1983
“Kenneth W. Lange, beloved husband of Lois, nee Driggs; fond father of Susan (Samuel R.) Lewis and Robert G. (Mary) Lange; grandfather of three; brother of Robert E. Lange. Memorial seervice Friday 2pm at Union Church of Hinsdale. Memorials preferred to Glenwood School for Boys, Glenwood, Ill., or American Heart Assn.”

Wow, thanks Chicago Tribune! I’m so glad that you included all those vibrant details about his life! You know, like those finer nuances of, um, date of birth, age at death, how he spent his life… sheesh. Anyway, at least it was some sort of information to go on.

Utilizing the same database, I found Robert Lange’s obituary in the Oregonian, which is weird, because I wasn’t able to find it when I did a previous search through the Oregonian specific database. Anyway, at least the Oregonian gives us some interesting information:

The Oregonian, September 4th, 1991

“At his request, no services will be held for Robert E. Lange of Portland, who died of heart and kidney problems on Friday in a Portland nursing home. He was 76.
“He was born on April 4, 1915, in Portland and graduated from Grant High School in 1933. Mr. Lange worked as a salesman and manager at Eoff Electric Co. in Salem and Portland for 40 years before retiring in 1980.
“He married Ruth Kincaid on October 2, 1953, in Portland.
“He also was editor of the National Historical quarterly magazine, We Proceeded On, published by the Lewis & Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, from 1974 to 1987. Mr. Lange served on the library acquisition committee for the oregon Historical Society.
“Survivors besides his wife include a sister-in-law, a niece and a nephew.
“Disposition will be by cremation.
“The family suggests that remembrances be contributions to the Lewis & Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, the Oregon Historical Society, or the Boy Scouts of America.”

Robert Lange sounds like a guy that I’d be interested in sitting down and having coffee with, assuming that I had a time machine and could go back a couple of decades. Anyway, it looks like I’m now on the hunt Susan Lewis or Robert G. Lange. Given that Leo died so young, I wonder if they ever met their grandfather? Would they even care about having this postcard? Assuming they’re alive, maybe I’ll find out. We’ll see how I do at tracking down the (theoretically) living.

The Leo Lange Postcard – An Update

(for the back story about the postcard, click here.)

Well, I’ve come to a bit of an impasse in my searching for existing family of Leo Lange. I’ve found his wife’s obituary, but can’t find further mention of his sons in the Oregonian or online. I think that I’m going to have to get a little more creative in my search methods. Anyway, here’s Josephine’s obituary:

“Funeral for Mrs. Josephine M. Lange, 71, of 1000 SW Vista, who died in Lovejoy Hospital, Thursday, will be Monday at 10 a.m. in Colonial Mortuary. Cremation will be at Portland Memorial.

“Mrs. Lange, who was born June 13, 1889 at St. Joseph, Mo., was the widow of the Leo R. Lange, consulting engineer.

“She was active in the early organization of the Parent-Teacher Assn. in Portland and was an American Red Cross worker.

“Survivors include two sons, Robert, of Portland, and Kenneth, of Houston, Texas, and two grandchildren.”

Maybe the most relevant clue in this frustratingly vague obituary is that Josephine was actually born in St. Joseph, where Leo was. This sure would seem to put the kibosh on the idea that they met while he was over in Hawaii. Childhood sweet hearts maybe?

The End of the Hungry Tiger

I was just reading Jack Bogdanski’s post about the upcoming demise of the Hungry Tiger, which reminded me that I’ve been meaning to do a little writing on it here. In 2004, I participated in one of Red76’s Laundry Lectures, and did it next door to the Hungry Tiger at the F & I U Wash. It was the first of a handful of site-based history lectures I’ve given, and I own a copy of the lecture on DVD (although I’ve never been brave enough to actually pop it in and watch it). I’ll miss the Tiger, and that building itself, the decrepit monstrosity that it had become. 

I’ve been going through and organizing a lot of old notes at my new apartment. Later this week, I’ll try to find my 28th & Burnside notes and post my own proper eulogy to that property.

The Leo Lange Postcard

Last week, I wrote about my postcard shopping in Richland, Washington, and mentioned a postcard that I’d bought written by a man named Leo Lange. There were two reasons that his postcard stood out to me from the others that I would eventually buy: 1) it had a photo of the Willamette that I’d never seen before, and more importantly, 2) he had his return address on the card, verifying that he was actually a Portland resident, rather than someone that was just visiting. Here’s the front and back of the card:


The text of the back reads:

“Portland, Oregon 1/20/12
Dear Cap. I saw a picture of your boat stuck in the ice. You should come out here where it never freezes. This picture doesn’t show the steamboats but the river is usually crowded with them. Lots of big steamers come in here too. The river is from 40 to 70 ft. deep.
Leo Lange
363 6th Street

Capt. H.J. Stewart
c/o Premier Sand Co.
St. Joseph, Mo”

As far as I can tell from the front of the card, the sailboats are about where the RiverPLace marina is now, or maybe a little further South of there. I’m basing that off of my belief that Ross Island is the left side of the background, and Marquam Hill is in the right side. I can’t find any evidence that would confirm this, but I also can’t think of any other location in town that would have that background.

When I first purchased the card, I guessed that Leo was probably from St. Joseph initially, and that he’d probably moved out here somewhere between 1905 and 1912, when the big post-Lewis and Clark Centennial population boom was going on. I imagined that maybe he was also some sort of sailor or dockworker based on his writing to his friend. The 363 6th Street address would not have been a reference to being 3 blocks from Burnside, because this was sent before the street re-naming of 1932, and would have put him closer to where PSU is now.

Resolving to find out more about Mr. Lange, I went down to the Central Library after I got back to town earlier this week. I didn’t find any “Leo Lange” in the 1912 City Directory, although I did find a “Leo Lang”, who resided at 363 6th St. I found him with the correct spelling in 1913, working as a draftsman and living at 897 1/2 E Ash, but then I couldn’t find him under either spelling in 1911 or 1914, and I got a little sad, thinking that maybe he lived here for such a brief time that I wouldn’t find anything out about him. I randomly pulled out the 1932 City Directory, but he wasn’t listed in the 1932 directory at all. Despondent, I decided to give it one more shot, and grabbed the 1928 Directory. And there he was: Leo R Lange, engineer, 602 Spalding Building, residence 687 E 32nd Ave N. He had a wife named Josephine. I wondered why I hadn’t been able to find him in 1911 or 1914, and I imagined that maybe he hadn’t moved here until late 1911 or early 1912. I checked the 1910 Directory, and after finding no sign of him, figured that my first thought must have been the case.

I was running low on time at the Library that day, so I decided to cut to the chase and see if his name was listed at all in the Oregonian card catalog. Most folks I look up aren’t listed in the catalog unless they had a published obituary; the card catalog doesn’t reference death notices. This makes looking up random past Portland residents a bit of a long shot, but with Mr. Lange, I hit pay dirt: I found his obituary from April 15th, 1932 (explaining why I didn’t find him in the City Directory published later that year). Here it is:

“OREGON ENGINEER DIES
Leo R. Lange Well Known Consultant Here
Funeral Services Will Be Held at 3:30 p. m. Today: Widow and Sons Survive.
Funeral Services will be held at 3:30 o’clock this afternoon from the Holman & Lutz chapel, East Fourteenth street and Sandy boulevard, for Leo R. Lange, 42, past president of of the Oregon section, American Association of Engineers, and a director in the Professional Engineers of Oregon Association, who died at a local hospital Wednesday.

Mr. Lange is survived by his widow, Josephine M. Lange; two sons, Robert Ernest and Kenneth Wilson Lange, both students at Grant High School; and by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. L. C. Lange, Kansas City, Mo.; and a brother, Ernest Lange, Fairfield, Ia.

Mr. Lange was born in St. Joseph, Mo., June 13, 1889, and came here in 1911. In 1913 he went to Honolulu and returned in 1915. For the past 12 years he had been a consulting mechanical engineer.”

So there’s our man, Mr. Lange. I haven’t looked for his wife’s obituary yet, but I’m currently assuming that they met in Hawaii, because she’s listed as his spouse in all of the City Directories from 1915 onward. I hope Josephine’s obituary will provide more clues about who they were. I looked through the rest of the City Directories to-day, and saw that between 1915 and 1923, they lived in at least three different residences before finally settling in at 687 E 32nd Ave N. in 1924. The obituary raises other questions: why did he move out here? Why did he go to Hawaii? Why didn’t he fight in WWI? Why did he die so young (he was 43)? My next step is too look for his wife’s obituary, and then the obituaries of his sons. Maybe there is a grandchild out there that might have a better use for Leo’s postcard than I do.

The Richland Postcard Score

So to-day is my only day off here in Richland, Washington, and I took advantage of it by visiting the three antique stores within walking distance. I dropped fifteen dollars and came back to the hotel room with ten postcards, seven of which were sent to someone. Here’s the text of the cards I got:

  1. Front: “Chamber of Commerce, Portland, Oregon”]Oct. 2, 1907
    Dear Clara;
    I have not heard from you for a long time. How are you and your sister. 643 Milwaukie St. Essie Shurie [sp?]     

    Miss Clara Miller
    901 Sixth St. cor Madison
    Oregon City, Oregon

     

  2. [Front: “Fountain, City Park [Now Washington Park – Khris], Portland, Ore.”]
    [postmark: August 31, 1911]
    How do you like this Sylvia? The flowers are no prettier than at home now. Only a few roses in bloom. The park is lovely. Mrs. Bruin. 354 Sacramento St., Portland, Ore. Am on steamer bound for Hood River.     

    Miss Sylvia Finley
    2021 Second Ave.
    Butte, Mont.

     

  3. [Front: “Forestry Building, Portland, Ore.”]
    Portland, Oregon
    I was so sorry not to see you before leaving. Mr. Moore said you didn’t know when we intended going. I was sure I told you the first of June. We enjoyed the Rose Festival. Francis has gone to Roseburg – we expect to go on to Los Angeles but I may back out the last minute and go to Roseburg too. Hope you are well and happy. Yours, E. Browne.
    June 12, 1911     

    Mrs. Frank Moore
    Vollmer, Idaho

     

  4. [Front: “Rose Hedge, Portland, Oregon.”]
    8/21 [1909]
    I picked as big a bunch as I could hold & wished for everyone I knew so I could give them out. Am going to be on the Pacific Ocean for three days, starting this morning. Love to you, Miss Richards     

    Miss Ruth Kellum
    RR 12
    Mallot Park, Indiana

     

  5. [Front: “An East Side Residence and Garden, Portland, Oregon.”]
    Dec. 13, 1908
    Hello Dannie,
    Your card came to hand and was very much surprised, for I thought you had forgotten this kid long ago. Yes I had a pertty [sic] good time so far this winter, are you going to school this year? I’m glad that you enjoyed your self at our party. I hope all of them had a good time. Tillie S.     

    Wishing you all a merry Xmas and a Happy new year.

    Mr. Dannie Jones,
    Newberg, Oregon RFD #2

     

  6. [Front: “U.S. Custom House, Portland, Oregon.”]
    I received your card a few days ago so I will answer. I certainly was glad to hear from you, I hope you will answer this one as soon as you did the other one, I am[?] not choice about what kind of card you send me. I want you to have your picture taken and send me one please. Now be sure and have your picture made and send me one by return mail. I am ready for that ride any Sunday Afternoon. Your Sincere Friend, Kate Harton, RFD #2, Henderson, N.C.Mr. Perry E. Lee
    Doylestown, Ohio,
    RFD #2  
  7. [Front: “Interstate Highway Bridge Over Columbia River, Between Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington”]
    Vancouver Wash. Gen. Del.
    April 7 [1948]
    Dear Elva,
    We are enjoying the nice weather. Lots of rain but at least it don’t pile up like the snow in Dak. Leo Smith passed away. 1/2 hr after we got here. Mar 23. We will meet Grace in Eugene Ore. Tues. 620 PM. Saw lots of people that used to live in Dak. Plan to call on Ethan[?] when we go up north. Write and give me the low down on whats going on. How is Ole? Sorry to miss the shower[???] on Nortons. Write. Love, Della & F.W.     

    Mrs. J.J. Nolsted
    Cogswell, N.D.

When I get home, I’ll try to remember to scan these postcards in so you can see the fronts of them, and if I get really ambitious, I’ll scan in the backs as well.

On a final note, as it relates to my last post and my experiences in antique stores, a word of advice to antiques mall vendors: If it says “collectible” or “collector’s edition” anywhere on the original package of the mass-produced, made in Hong Kong crap that you’ve bought, it will never be collectible! I don’t know how many “collectible” Hot Wheels I saw to-day…

Antique Shopping

I love shopping at antique stores. I rarely ever buy anything, but I can spend hours in them. Every object has some sort of story, and sometimes, if you’re lucky, the person selling the item has written a little bit of that story down, a tantalizing clue into it’s past. And you can find entertaining lies and embellishments in antique stores. To-day I found a recently built “antique” armoire and some heavily refurbished other articles of furniture (including the unfortunate choice of putting a tacky marble top on top of a pretty nice looking 1920’s dresser). I found an old-timey print that bore a tag claiming it to be from 1896, when it was pretty obviously from the late 1960’s or 1970’s. And maybe a personal favorite in the “oh no you di’n’t” category was someone trying to sell some cheap “collectible antiques” in the original packaging that said “collectible antiques” on them.

Anyway, all that aside, the real appeal of antique shops for me is collections of old personal photos and postcards. Good collections of personal photos are rare, since ideally, they would be passed down through the family, but they are an excellent resource for getting ideas of how people lived, or what certain areas of towns looked like when the photo was taken. I’m always on the look out for old photos of Portland that have never been published before, but I haven’t found any good ones yet. Another fun thing to do with old photos is to look for photos that are embossed with a Portland photography studio mark (so you know it came from town), and then to find one with the person’s name written on the back of it. After that, you can go look up information on the person’s life. It’s like making a new friend, except your friend died fifty years before you were born. Postcards are good for the same reasons, but the obvious advantage of a postcard is that your new friend actually wrote something to a friend of theirs, giving you insight into the inner workings of the mind of the postcard author. Of course, Portland is full of people that have an interest in Portland history, so coming across Portland postcards can be a rare and expensive hobby.

Good for me then that I’m in Richland, Washington, right now (more on why I’m here later), where they don’t give a care about Portland or long dead visitors sending postcards out of the City of Roses. I hit a few antique shops to-day, and found a few treasure troves. Most of the postcards cost a dollar a piece, and I could easily see myself spending fifty dollars on the ones that I want. There are some real jewels I found here: “It rains lots out here but don’t get [something] like it does out in Dakotas. Mr. [forgot his name] died 1/2 hour after arriving here. Lots of Dakotans here.” or “I thought Mr. [so-and-so] told you that I was coming out here. I wish you’d stayed to see me. It was the first of April that I was coming here.” or “Don’t you remember me?” All of those are from between 1906 and 1912 if I remember correctly. I’ll go back to the shops tomorrow and pick out my favorites and share them with you.

I did find one that compelled me to purchase it to-day, just on the off-chance that it wasn’t there when I went back tomorrow. It doesn’t contain any of the implied drama of the other ones, but stood out to me for some reason. I’d like to post it now, but since I don’t have access to a scanner here, I’ll share it next week when it turns ninety-five years old. That’ll also give me some time to look up a little background on my newest dead friend, Leo Lange.

The Colonel Summers Park Notes

Prologue

In mid-Novemebr, my friend (then girlfriend) Jo and I were walking through Colonel Summers Park on some wet evening. We made some conversation about how the section of the park we were walking through (near the intersection of 20th and Belmont) was always sort of spongy under the feet. Jo told me that a friend of hers told her it was because the park was built on top of a toxic waste dump. I scoffed at the idea, because I knew the park had been there at least since the 1930’s, and it didn’t make sense that there would have been a toxic waste dump in that neighborhood during that time period. Anyway, I told her that I’d look into it, and a few days later went to the Library and took some notes. On return from the Library, I typed up my notes so I could refer to them later when I was writing up my post for the website.

If you follow my website at all, you know that my internet access has been sporadic at best for the past few months. So my notes sat around on my non-wireless laptop collecting dust. Until to-day. So, here, without any particular editing (meaning that there might be some parts that bore the heck out of you), are my notes on Colonel Summers Park.

The Notes 

Owen Summers (1850-1911) joined the Army on the side of the Union during the Civil War when he was 14 years old. He grew up in Chicago and returned to that area after the war. In 1875, he made a trip out to Portland, where he stayed for ten days before going down to San Francisco and returning to Chicago. Six weeks after returning to Chicago, he moved to San Francisco, where he lived for two years. After leaving San Francisco, he moved down to San Diego for six months. In January 1879, he moved from San Diego to Portland and established a crockery store at 183 First (which I think was at First and Yamhill). In The Summer of 1879, his brother-in-law, J.C. Olds, joined him in the crockery business, where they became both a retailer and wholesaler. The building that they operated in burned down in 1886, and they moved to Yamhill between 1st and 2nd. In 1895, the business went back to 183 First, and Olds withdrew from the business. The business expanded from the original location, and moved to the corner location of 157 Washington and 111 Third. He sold out his interests in 1900. He also apparently was a member of the State Legislature, and composed the Oregon National Guard in 1886. He became Lieutenant Colonel in the National Guard in 1887, and rose to Colonel in 1894. His big thing was being part of the Spanish American War, but I didn’t really take notes on that, because I know very little about that war.

There were two articles in the card catalog about Colonel Summers Park. Here are the dates of them (I didn’t write down the headlines):

Oregon Journal 22 March 1962 page 5 column 6
Oregonian 15 April 1964 page 17 column 4

The Journal article lamented that no one used the park, and then described the opening ceremony, and Colonel Summers. The Oregonian article looked like filler that they had lying around, because it was essentially the same information, except without any sort of context, although it did refer to the park as the “only open space in a growing industrial area.”

The dedicating ceremony for the park occurred on Tuesday, September 13th, 1938, during the 40th National Conference of Spanish American War Veterans. Apparently, the Ceremony was a bit of a sideshow, because the big deal was the creation of the USS Oregon Memorial Park, or something like that. I couldn’t figure out exactly where they were talking about, or if they were talking about the ship itself. That article was a little confusing, and I’m going to have to look into getting more clarification on that one. Anyway. So at the request of the United Spanish War Veterans, Mayor Joe Carson submitted an ordinance to  rename the existing park (then known as Belmont Park) to Colonel Summers Park. At the dedication ceremony, Governor Charles H. Martin was the key speaker. He was introduced by Sheriff Martin Pratt, who was apparently a member of the Guard, and was subbing for Owen Summers’ son, Owen Jr., who had been called to Washington DC on military business. Summers’ grandson Lieutenant Williams was there, though, as well as Seneca Fouts, “the prominent Spanish-American War veteran” (Oregonian, 14 September 1938), Colonel Percy Willis the highest ranking officer of the 2nd Oregon that was alive at the time, County Commissioner Ervin Taft, and City Superintendent of Park C.P. Keyser. They dedicated the Kelly Butte stone and the plaque (designed by Portland artist Daniel Powell), but the article didn’t say how many people showed up for it. There was a picture of Summers’ grandson shaking hands with the Governor in front of the plaque, but the picture was partially obscured due to whoever did a shitty job at copying the stuff to microfiche.

So that’s what I got from the newspapers. I couldn’t find any sort of reference to Belmont Park in the card catalog. When I looked in the Sanborn Maps of 1905, it looked like there was some sort of park area established over towards the 17th and Taylor side of the park, but what really interested me was the 20th and Belmont side of things, where it was marked with elevation lines that said “Deep Gulch”, and indicated that the intersection of 20th and Belmont was actually planks on trestles over this gorge. There’s an article in the Journal from 1917 complaining about the idea of paving Belmont, and I’m wondering if that has anything to do with this gorge. I’m going to try and find out tomorrow.

I looked up the articles on the paving of Belmont from 1917, and indeed the paving in question was to be done between 19th and 21st Streets. However, at the very end of one of the articles, it states that the current road surface is macadam. This would be consistent with an in-fill of the gulch, but would not explain why the 1927 Sanborn maps still show the gulch and the plank roads. I’ll have to double check the 1927 maps to see if I wasn’t just confused or not.

It would be interesting to check with the Department of Transportation to see if they have any sort of records on the plank road and when the in-fill was done. If I have a chance this week, I’d like to shoot an email off to them to see if and how I can access their records from the time period.

Epilogue

I never did check with the Department of Transportation, but I did double check the 1927 Sandborn Maps, and verified that they still showed the “Deep Gulch”. It is possible that 1927 maps were just an update of the significant changes in Portland, and that they left that there if nothing else had been built on it, but that explanation seems somewhat unusual. Exactly when the gulch was filled in remains a bit of a mystery.

So there you are, the ground gets spongy when it’s wet because it’s in-fill. And the toxic waste dump? Judging from the trestles, and some of the supports on nearby houses, it seems likely that the gulch was extremely steep, and could have been a local dumping hole for all manners of garbage. Over the years, the oral history may have gone from something as mundane as “garbage pit” to something more interesting, like “toxic waste dump”.

Happy New Year everyone. ’07 will bring more stories of my favorite city in the United States, and maybe even stories of cities I don’t like quite so much (my company is sending me off to the wilds of the Tri-Cities for a couple of weeks – I might do a little local snooping around). Whatever the year brings, thanks for reading my website!

1 2 3