For those of you who don’t know me, I am just a little bit ADD.
OK, I am a lot ADD. Sometimes something will divert my attention and I will go off on a tangent and not stop until I find what I am looking for and sometimes it has nothing to do with what I started out looking for but I find myself hours into something and I just can’t stop until I find an answer. Gasp.
So, that just happened.
Anyhow, I was researching this morning, and I got it into my head that I wanted to see these two addresses I have written down on my notepad. So I started searching.
Ohhhhh, Portland. Sweet, sweet, Portlandia. You know why people make fun of you? Besides your unexplainable obsession with chickens, putting birds on stuff, adding a little extra crunch to veganism, and probably attracting more weird than Austin, you did something I simply can’t wrap my mind around.
But you did it a LONG time ago, so I can’t take a hit out on anyone because the brain trust responsible for this tangent are long gone. Probably because City Commissioner Asbury Barbur and his entire staff were taken out by firing squad back in the 1930’s, but I digress.
First, a little history.
In the 1800s, there were all these little municipalities that were, by the standards of the day, somewhat far apart from one another. As Oregon Fever spread like wildfire, Portland started gobbling these little towns up like kale chips. It turned into a bit of a hot mess. So, in 1891, a whole bunch of streets were renamed, duplicate names were chucked, and it became a little bit easier to get from one place to another. No one really got their organic cotton panties in a twist over it, and most people just squirted some extra sriracha on their free-range egg-white and tofu omelettes and got on with life.
And then Captain Organization and his team of city planners decided that Portland’s melting pot of alpha-numeric soup should be organized. They wanted only one Main Street and they wanted street addresses sequentially numbered. They agreed they’d go down in history for creating this amazing gridded city of the future with five quadrants (no, not a typo) and NSEW indicators that actually indicated north, south, east and west. They’d even give out free address numbers to everyone who had to change their digits.
The mail carriers wanted to go postal on him, but the planners didn’t care. Portland’s future grandchildren would sing their praises when they could easily navigate from one locally owned and sourced organically grown free range coffee shop to the next.
Well, current Portlander grandchildren may be writing songs about him, but this Texas girl is all discombobulated.
You see, down here in Austin, street names aren’t even pronounced anything like the way they’re spelled. Not like it matters because half the streets have twelve different names anyway, so no one really knows where they’re going. If they’re not stuck on Mopac in traffic, that is.
So, why do I care?
Actually, 364 days out of the year, I really don’t care. But today, I wanted to find two addresses that just happened to be right across the street from one another. HOW HARD COULD IT BE? I mean, the houses were build in 1912 and 1916 in the enviable and historic Portland Heights neighborhood, so really—HOW HARD COULD IT BE?
So I hit up TheGoogle, and…. Nothing.
720 and 725 Sherwood Drive, Portland Heights.Nothing.
I even had an old phone number: Marshall 2583. Name: check. Address: check. Phone number: check. Nothing. NOTHING!
Google. Google again. Google again. Bang my head against the desk. Google again. NOTHING.
So then I found a website that this fantastic dude Khris came up with awhile back. On his site, Khris retells this PREPOSTEROUS story about the ENTIRE CITY of Portland tossing street names and numbers into the recycle bin, not ONCE, but TWICE, and then starting all over again from scratch. I mean, HOLD UP. That’s CRAZY TALK! But on Khris’ site, there’s a little Willy Wonkavator address converter that makes NO SENSE! You enter an address in one field, and moments later, a free range chicken carrying a cup of coffee prances out with a whole new and improved Portland street address! And then, moments later, I see it again on Vintage Portland!
Sweet sassy molassy. There ain’t enough craft beer in all of Portlandia to make sense of that. As we say in Texas, yer shittin’ me. I can’t even sort my laundry.
So I googled “Portland Street Rename” and I got something like 240 bazillion hits. Servers crashed. Networks were shut down. Power grids spontaneously combusted.
And I learned the truth. I learned that I had spent HOURS searching for addresses that haven’t existed in nearly a century but actually do still exist just with a new, swankier, more hipstery names and numbers.
Anyhow, all this blabbering and making fun of Portland actually has a purpose. I found my houses. It took like 1/10th of a millisecond, and BOOM. There they were. Two houses, right across the street from each other. Only now, they have brand-spankin’ new street numbers. So what if the “new” numbers are creeping up on their 100th anniversary of newness? They were still new to me!
And, I also stumbled upon all these fabulous pictures from the PARC Archives and on this fantastic blog called Vintage Portland. There are all these great pictures of Don Draper holding a number like a bikini-clad chickadee between boxing rounds. At first, I hoped it was the Godfather of Portland’s Self-Depracating Sense of Humor, but, no such luck. He’s the Number Man, and he is freaking amazing.
It was a Public Works project for street widening, property evaluation, and mapmaking. Not an early Portland Hipster playing the ultimate ironic joke with his Kodak.
Remember the ADD I talked about? Back to Sherwood Drive.
Without further ado, here you go.
In 1912, my great grandparents moved to Portland and built this cute little house at 725 Sherwood Drive. They had a house full of little boys, so a 3,917-sqft house with a huge yard, four bedrooms, three bathrooms, and enough space that my great grandmother could hide from the boys and hear herself think for a few minutes now and then.
Four years later, my great grandmother’s mother decided to retire to Portland, and her sons built her a little retirement cottage across the street from their sister. The little shack they slapped up for their mom had five bedrooms, five bathrooms, and was just shy of 4,800-sqft. These dudes were all builders, so what’s a few extra bedrooms? Their mom was happy to have her children and grandchildren and great grandchildren over, so the extra rooms were perfect.
So, with my parting thoughts here, I wonder if the current homeowners in either of these homes are aware of the seriously awesome histories of these houses. I know slightly more about 720 here, and if this homeowner doesn’t know the history of his house, he might want to look into that. Same with 725. The dudes who built those little cottages could possibly give your casa a little historical street cred and raise your property value just a little bit. OF COURSE you’d kick some my way, right? 🙂
All the vintage photos are from:
Maybe Pinterest too. Sometimes people post stuff and don’t give credit, but I try to find the origin. I think I found the right owners.
© Julie Dirkes Phelps
Photographer, Author, Researcher, Archivist, and Storyteller.
© Copyright 2015.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, reposting, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without prior written permission. Be cool, don’t plagiarize. If you want to use something, just ask.