Photo - Southeast 65th and Woodward 1950

Thursday, March 22, 2012

40 Years Later - It's About Time

Here is a neighborhood story about the slow movement of bureaucracy that proves it pays to keep records and know something about history. If you are interested in pedestrian/bike safety on SE Division, read on.

A South Tabor neighbor digging through old files last year found minutes of an August 7, 1972 neighborhood association meeting (then called South Tabor Community Association, STCA). At that meeting a committee report outlined concerns regarding traffic congestion at 67th and Division, hazardous pedestrian crossings, and speeding on Division. The minutes go on to say, "At this point the group voted to go on record as supporting installation of a traffic and/or pedestrian light at 67th and Division."

Later in the minutes there is an interesting section about a presentation by then mayor elect Neil Goldschmidt:
He (Goldschmidt) explained that community associations have proved to be effective ways of letting governmental agencies know what is best for a neighborhood . . . In illustrating the point that "the way to design traffic patterns is through people," he suggested that the STCA write a letter to Don Bergstrom of the Traffic Engineers office, outlining South Tabor's specific concerns with reference to traffic problems, and invite him to a community meeting.
I haven't found a record yet of a letter or visit from Mr. Bergstrom, but we all know there is no pedestrian light between 60th and 71st so we can assume STCA's efforts were unsuccessful.

Fast forward to March 1996 when the City of Portland adopted the South Tabor Neighborhood Plan. Under Policy 2: Transportation on page 19, I found the following:
Powell Boulevard, Division Street and 82nd Avenue are extremely difficult to cross. Both able-bodied and disabled persons have trouble crossing these streets. Crossings are difficult east of SE 60th because traffic is excessive and travels too fast to cross safely.
In the Action Chart on page 21, item T9 says, "Request that PDOT study the feasibility of making changes to SE Division to ensure that it functions as a pedestrian-friendly street with safe crossings and access to Mt. Tabor." The goal for implementation is five years.

Moving forward again to this year, 40 years after the first mention of pedestrian safety, the Portland Bureau of Transportation has committed to a year long SE Division High Crash Corridor project that could result in the long needed safety improvements. It's about time.

PBOT needs input from South Tabor neighbors. If you want to know more click HERE for more information and HERE for a copy of the survey. You can also contact Wendy Cawley, project manager, at

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Division Then and Now

I found this early 1900s photo of 60th and Division (looking east) on the City of Portland Archives website. The pump house and stairs are still there, but no trough for livestock and the reservoir is now a retirement home.

This once quiet country road is now a four lane highway that cuts South Tabor off from Mt. Tabor Park and makes access to West bound buses risky. Last summer during the Movie in the Park when we posted signs and escorted pedestrians at the 68th Street crosswalk even a City of Portland police car failed to stop. 

If you care about safety on SE Division, come to the open house on Wednesday, March 7th. Let's reclaim access to one of the loveliest public parks in the city and help make Division safer for everyone.

SE Division Street High Crash Corridor Safety Project


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Drop by anytime between 6:30 and 8:30 PM

Optional Overview Presentation at 7:00 PM

Harrison Park K-8 School (cafeteria)

2225 SE 87th Avenue, Portland OR 97216

Nearby TriMet Transit Access: Bus Line #4

MAX Green Line (.6 miles to Harrison Park School) 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

How far back is the beginning of the story?

Although there is no clear consensus on how and when the first people arrived in the Pacific Northwest many experts estimate humans have lived here for close to 14,500 years. This would mean the first settlers came toward the end of the last glacial period when extinct species such as giant bison, mammoth, and mastodon still roamed North America.

Human skeletal remains of southwest Idaho's Buhl Woman are dated from about 13,000 years ago and the Kennewick Man 9,400 years ago. In 1938, University of Oregon archaeologists on a dig at Fort Rock Cave (Central Oregon) discovered sagebrush sandals carbon dated between 9,300 to 10,500 years old.

Sandal from the Fort Rock Cave

We have all heard theories about early humans making their way across a land bridge between present day Russia and Alaska eventually populating the NW Coast from Alaska to California and inland across the Plateau and Great Basin. Recently archaeologists have also developed theories about early settlers finding their way here by boat. No matter how they got here, research has shown a connection between the people of Asia and the first Americans.
"Studies of mitochondrial DNA from modern populations confirm a close genetic linkage between Native American peoples as a whole and Asians living today across a broad zone from Siberia to northern China."  
(Oregon Archaeology, by Aikens, Connolly and Jenkins)
The first people spread out over Western North America and settled into geographic/cultural groups where they became familiar with the place, the seasons, and the food supply. In Oregon, archaeologists have identified similarities among groups living within five areas - Coast & Lower Columbia, Willamette Valley, Southwest Valleys & Mountains, Columbia Plateau, and the Great Basin.

Multnomah County, named for the Multnomah people living on Sauvie Island for an estimated 3,000 years, is part of the Coast & Lower Columbia area. Groups living in the area from Celilo Falls (the Dalles) through Wapato Valley (Portland Basin) to the mouth of the Columbia were all Chinookan speaking people. These people were also connected by their diet of fish, game, berries, and roots; the materials they used for their clothing, homes, weapons, baskets, and canoes; by marriage between groups; and by an active trade network.

Approximate locations of Native American groups in the mid 19th century.

Before European explorers and traders came, as many as 300,000 people were scattered around the NW. After the arrival of Europeans, repeated epidemics of small pox, malaria, influenza, and dysentery devastated native groups. A population of approximately 20,000 in the Lower Willamette/Lower Columbia region was reduced to a few hundred by 1830. In the mid 1800s, without the manpower or resources to stop the waves of new settlers, native people soon lost their land. 

How far back is the beginning of the story? Thousands of years before EuroAmericans "discovered" the land we now call Oregon it was populated by native people with a long and rich cultural heritage that makes our EuroAmerican society look like little more than a tiny blip on the timeline of history.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Mapping Our History - More About Survey Maps

This post is a continuation of Mapping Our History - Cadastral Survey Maps

Look out the window of an airplane over the Western US and you will see a patchwork created by the Public Land Survey System, PLSS. The grid we see from the air is made up of sections, each one mile square (640 acres). The sections are broken into half sections (320 acres), quarter sections (160 acres), and smaller increments resulting in a colorful geometric quilt spread out over the natural landscape.

The reason the PLSS grid is so visible has to do with the way land grants were given under various acts of Congress such as the well known Homestead Act of 1862. Boundaries were set using Cadastral Surveys and acreage was granted in 160 acre (quarter section) increments .

In 1850 the Donation Land Claim Act was passed by Congress to encourage homesteading in the Oregon Territories (Oregon, Washington, and Idaho). In the next few years, thousands of settlers came to the territory to claim property that could be owned free and clear if they spent four years living on and farming the land. A single man could claim 320 acres and a couple 640 with each owning half in their own name. This was one of the first opportunities for women to own property.

After 1854 the land was no longer free. A price of $1.25/acre was levied on plots limited to 320 acres. The first South Tabor settler, Joshua Witten, registered his claim in 1866 therefore he paid for his land. More about Joshua in another post.

Back to the PLSS. In cities such as Portland the one mile grid is echoed in the layout of streets. This is especially true on the Eastside of town because the flat terrain provides few obstacles to left brain city planning. The map below shows street names imposed on the 1854 survey map to help you locate the borders of our township and show how the street layout has followed the section lines.

At the top (North) on the map SE Stark follows the Willamette Base Line with major streets such as Division and Holgate located approximately one mile apart to the south. Numbered streets starting with SE 42nd follow the same pattern from west to east. Foster Road is an oddity because it follows the route of the Old Portland Road that predates formal surveys. South Tabor is marked in section seven and eight.

If you like old maps check out the Historical Maps page at the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. Of particular interest is the Portland Plat Map c. 1906.

That's all about maps for now.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Mapping Our History - Cadastral Survey Maps

Cadastral Survey Map - What?!? According to Wikipedia a cadastral survey "is a comprehensive register of the metes-and-bounds of real property of a country." Or in plain English - a survey of the boundaries of real estate for the purpose of registering ownership and levying taxes. 

I started to learn about cadastral surveys including the townships, sections, and quarter sections they document, a couple of years ago while researching the location of my grandparents homestead in Montana. Recently I found a copy of the 1854 survey of the South Tabor neighborhood and another map from 1862 showing the boundaries of the original land grants. If we are going to talk about neighborhood history, we might as well start with the first settlers.

I can see your eyes rolling and hear you say, "why do I care?" Stay with me - mapping our history can be fascinating. Maybe some background will help.

After the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress passed the Land Ordinance of 1785 to help pay off the debts of the new country by selling the Western Territories. It was soon evident that the old system of using local markers like streams and rocks to establish property lines was unreliable so in the 1800s the Public Land Survey System made up of a six mile by six mile grid of Townships was dropped like a net over the new lands west of the 13 original colonies.

To conduct the survey, baselines running East and West and meridians running North and South were established in various regions. In Oregon and Washington we have the Willamette Baseline and Meridian which was marked first by the Willamette Stone and later replaced with a stainless steel marker located in Willamette Stone State Heritage Site on Skyline Boulevard in the west hills of Portland. All the cadastral surveys of Oregon and Washington completed in the mid 1800s are measured from that site.

Principal Meridians and Baseline Map copied from Wikipedia

Before we get to the interesting part about our own neighborhood you need to understand how the system works. Each six by six mile township is broken down into one mile by one mile sections. The sections are numbered back and forth like the movement of the plow starting with number one in the upper right hand corner. Here is a diagram from Wikipedia showing how it works:

You need to know all of this to understand the maps I found of South Tabor. We are in Township No.1 South, Range No. 2 East of the Willamette Meridian. Within that township, South Tabor is located in the NE corner of Section 7 and the N half of section 8. SE Division Street runs along the northern border of the sections and SE 62nd Avenue runs between 7 and 8. Click on the 1854 survey below to see what the surveyor noted about the land, trees, streams, roads, and settlements (use the diagram above to help find section 7 and 8). 

Are you still with me? If so the 1862 survey below might be of interest (click to enlarge and use your browser to zoom). If you can find sections 7 and 8 again you will notice that the original land grant for a large portion of South Tabor was owned by Joshua Witten and the area to the East of his land was unclaimed. 

There is more to learn about these maps, but maybe this is enough for today. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Then and Now

I stumbled onto some interesting South Tabor photos from the City of Portland Archives on a blog called Vintage Portland. The first one, taken from Mt. Tabor in 1909, is looking southwest toward the reservoir that was located at the corner of SE 60th and Division (now the site of The Courtyards Senior Apartments). The pump house is in the upper right corner of the photo. As you can see, Franklin High School has not been built yet and there are just few homes with agricultural land in between. The long wooden structure in the foreground had something to do with the construction of reservoirs further north on 60th. Click on the photo to enlarge.

The second photo is a 1912 view of Reservoir #1 located on the south side of Mt. Tabor above Warner Pacific College. Down below the reservoir SE 67th and a few homes can be seen. The developed area to the south of the open farmland is the Foster/Powell neighborhood. The South Tabor houses still exist, although the barns are long gone. The first house visible on 67th was my grandparents home from 1934 to 1960. I remember the barn from my childhood. The next house, located where the church now stands, was moved one block south to Taggart Street, turned 90 degrees and transformed into a duplex. It is still there.

This next photo is a similar view of South Tabor taken this year (no reservoir in the foreground). The steeple on the top of Trinity Fellowship at SE 67th and Clinton should help orient your view.

Less than 100 years ago our neighborhood was farmland with various crops, orchards, berry fields, and even a dairy. It is fascinating to compare the view then and now.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Arleta Library

The old Arleta Library at SE 64th and Holgate (now called the Wikman Building) is currently considered surplus property by Multnomah County. The following comments were sent regarding the future of the property. The photos are from the collection of the Multnomah County Library.

I am a resident of the South Tabor neighborhood writing in support of a plan that will return the Wikman Building – Arleta Carnegie Library to a use that will benefit Southeast Portland neighbors. The neighborhood grange proposal put forward by ROSE seems appropriate given the history of the building in this community.

Carnegie Grant
The Arleta Library, opened in 1919, was one of seven libraries in Multnomah County funded by a Carnegie grant. To receive a grant the community had to demonstrate a need, provide a site, commit an annual amount equal to 10% of the original construction cost for operation, and offer free service for all.
“Carnegie had two main reasons for donating money to the founding of libraries. First, he believed that libraries added to the meritocratic nature of America. Anyone with the right inclination and desire could educate himself. Second, Carnegie believed that immigrants like himself needed to acquire cultural knowledge of America, which the library allowed immigrants to do.” 
Deconstructing the Carnegie Libraries:
The Sociological Reasons Behind Carnegie's 
Millions to Public Libraries by Michael Lorenzen, page 75 
A Carnegie library was often the most imposing structure in the community and this is certainly true for the Arleta Library.

Neighborhood Legacy 
The Wikman Building – Arleta Library is not only a jewel of a building with recognized historical significance, it represents a legacy handed down to us by forward thinking citizens who donated their hard earned nickels and dimes to provide free access to knowledge in this historically undervalued and underserved Southeast Portland community.
“The Carnegie library fund having set aside $15,000 for a modern library building, the residents of the Mount Scott district, embracing a large and populous district in the southeast part of the city, have started a campaign to raise the necessary $1800 with which to buy a lot . . . If each family of the district would pledge from 50 cents to $1 the site could be bought.” 
Oregonian – October 29, 1917
The land upon which the new library will be built was given to the library association by the residents of Arleta, who by subscription in their own community raised a fund of $1800 with which to purchase it.” 
Oregonian – February 10, 1918 
During the 53 years the building served as a library, thousands of adults and children passed through the doors seeking knowledge or respite. In addition to the usual library programs such as story time, in the 1930s a well baby clinic was offered on Mondays and Fridays. Libraries have long served as community centers. It is time we return this building to a public use that will provide a gathering place for programs that benefit the neighborhood.

Architectural Significance
The Arleta Library designed by noted Portland architect Folger Johnson, was modeled after a similar Carnegie grant library he designed in 1913 for St. Johns. Johnson is responsible for at least five Carnegie libraries in Oregon. He was a civic-minded individual who served on the arts commission and was twice president of the local AIA. From 1940 to 1950 he was the director of the Federal Housing Administration.

The Wikman Buidling – Arleta Library is one of only a few structures in this part of the city with architectural significance. Any future use must honor the historic character of the building and preserve it for future generations.

My Story
This was my childhood library and it served my grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and friends from 1933 until it closed in 1971. I spent many happy hours there in the 1950s and 1960s. I remember the space as a warm and comforting retreat from the world even if some of the librarians were a bit too serious. The dark shelving, colorful book spines, and dark wooden library furniture balanced by light streaming through gracious windows created a welcoming atmosphere. When the building is opened again to the public, I can imagine tromp l’oeil bookshelves full of interesting titles or other public art painted on the walls to welcome a new generation of neighbors.

After 93 years the Wickman Building – Arleta Library has a soul. It is Multnomah County’s sacred duty to support a meaningful neighborhood use for this charming historic building.