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!

Walking Report: The Pedestrian Obstacle Course, aka the Morrison Bridge

Back when I first moved here in March of 2000, I quickly learned that the Morrison Bridge is the least pedestrian-friendly bridge of all the spans over the Willamette. I quickly learned to avoid it if at all possible. Now that the Burnside Bridge is closed for construction and I’ve returned to using the Morrison Bridge for my work commute, I will go a step further and say that the Morrison Bridge is a specifically pedestrian-unfriendly bridge. To-day I brought my camera along for the obstacle course of the bridge’s north side.

Continue reading → Walking Report: The Pedestrian Obstacle Course, aka the Morrison Bridge

Walking Report: Saturday, August 5th, 2006

Now that I work downtown again, I get to see a greater variety of weird things. Most of the “weird things” are actually weird people, like the “People aren’t as friendly as they used to be” homeless woman that’s eighty-sixed from Valentine’s for stealing a book, or the white Street Roots-peddling rastafarian wanna-be. I don’t have the courage or the callousness to snap photos of these people and post them on here, but I am camera-equipped for whenever I find weird objects. Like this:

It’s a stuffed toy sitting on top of an electric utility box. That in itself doesn’t seem to strange, but considering this was the third instance of spotting a stuffed animal sitting on top of one these boxes during my walk, I thought it was weird. There’s a lot of different kinds of utility boxes in town, but the stuffed animals are apparently only interested in attacking these kind, which I think are related to traffic lights.

I saw Gus Van Sant having drinks at Huber’s. He’s weird people. I didn’t take a photo of him. I’ve got to say, it definitely seemed like a good afternoon for drinks in front of Huber’s.

When I was getting up onto the Burnside Bridge, I noticed this bumpersticker on a van. It’s from a place called Matt’s in Minneapolis. That slogan there says “Fear the Cheese!” which is in reference to their specialty, the Juicy Lucy. The Juicy Lucy is a cheeseburger, except that the burger meat is packed around the cheese, meaning that when your burger comes to the table, it’s full of molten cheese. The waitstaff will warn you to let it cool down for a bit before you eat it, because you will otherwise severely burn your mouth. Unfortunately, I was a vegetarian at the time I visited Matt’s, so I can’t say that I’ve ever had a Juicy Lucy. It’s a great place, though, and if you’re ever in Minneapolis, you should definitely check it out.

Portland’s Streetcars

When I first moved to Portland, I was fascinated, like many other newcomers, by all of the small pockets of commercial districts around town. It intrigueded me that I could walk for fifteen or twenty blocks, and find myself in a business district like Belmont, or Clinton, or NW Thurman. It wasn’t until I started researching the city’s history that I discovered that these were all due to Portland’s old network of streetcars. As it turns out, each of those neighborhood business areas were street car terminus’s at one point or another (the Belmont business district neart SE 34th Ave being the earliest one, with the first line opening in 1888). Portland’s original streetcars were the primary forms of public transportation from the the 1890’s up into the 1930’s, when they started being replaced by bus lines. The last streetcars (before the current one) ceased running in 1954. 

After spending a large number of hours trying to research the streetcars, and fruitlessly looking for line maps, I came across this site one day, and realized that someone else had already done the research. In my fantasy of a Utopian Portland, all of these lines would someday be re-established.

1 2 3 4