Yesterday was very cold, but not rainy, so Grandpa Nelson and I went on an explore. I wanted to get to know a part of Portland called the Central East Portland Historical District, because that is where one of my main characters, Henry, is going to live.
When I hear the term Historical District, I usually think of quaint, narrow streets, old store fronts, and shops selling old-time sweets or antiques. If that’s what I was looking for, I would have been disappointed.
But I know Portland by now, and I know that even when something is labeled historic, it is still part of a bustling city and won’t be wrapped in bubble wrap and set aside. This Historic District is BUSY, because it is right near the Burnside Bridge over the Willamette river, where hundreds of cars and trucks rush by every minute. There are no horse drawn carriages or sarsaparilla shops.
The historic buildings in this area are from “history” that stretches from 1892 to 1938, and all of them are considered equally historic. They are in varying stages of repair, some totally gutted and waiting a new interior, others working pretty much as they have for over a hundred years. And they are interspersed with incredibly new, modern buildings.
I took pictures for my own reference, but with busy traffic, sometimes I chose not getting run over finding the perfect shot. But I managed to get the beginning of a sense of what life for a boy in this part of town might have been like.
From the upper floor of North Central School, he could have had a clear view across the Willamette to the west hills, as well as east to Mount Tabor, because none of the current buildings were there. He would have been mere blocks from sailing ships and fields, dairy farms and deep ravines. The Laurelhurst and Ladd’s Addition neighborhoods weren’t built yet, so open spaces were the rule.
Today I will read more old Newspaper articles about this part of town, so I can know what was happening. I am trying to let the city tell me a story, so that I can add mine to it.