Walkin’ the Neighborhood

Dear Liza,

I love where we live! Sunnyside, in Southeast Portland, is the best!

Grandpa Nelson, chatting on the balcony

There are hundred year old houses, townhouses like ours, and brand new builds. Some of the trees were planted last year, and others have been here a long, long time. Heritage tree number 241, a Japanese maple, has probably been in the front yard of this house since it was built in the 1920s.

Because of how closely the trees and houses are spaced, winter, when the trees are bare, is the only time to get a picture of it.

Sunnyside was started in the 1890s as a trolley car neighborhood. Folks would live here, a few miles from the mud and stink of downtown, and be able to take the newly installed trolley cars to work.

From the 1900s…..

Back then, the houses and lots were bigger.

As the city became more crowded, newer houses were built in between the original ones. Each was built in its own style. These three very different houses stand within two blocks of each other.

1950s….


…. and 2020!

There are some industrial buildings that are being up-cycled, as well. Jacob’s Garage, which housed the trucks for the Belmont Dairy, is now a set of very cool condominiums, having kept its brick-Ish charm.

Every walkabout shows us new things! As flowers come up and trees leaf out, some of the hard lines are masked and softened, but the architecture of the turn of the century is still here if you know how to look.

Besides, where else can you find a tiny free library right next to a dinosaur-infested dogwood tree?

I can’t wait to share it with you!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Another Landmark Gone

Dear Liza,

It has been a hard spring for trees here in Portland. With so many of our tall giants being over a hundred years old, extreme weather takes a toll.

The other day in Lone Fir Cemetery, we saw with sadness that our General Joseph Lane Tree was gone. This maple tree memorial to the first Territorial Governor of Oregon Territory had come down in a storm and been removed.

The General Lane tree in 2017, with Pioneer Roses in the background

I can find no record of when this tree was planted. It may have been an accident of squirrels or an anonymous memorial to a loved one, as are many of the trees in Lone Fir. In 2009, the Pioneer Rose Association chose it as a memorial to General Lane and listed it as a Heritage Tree, and it joined a list of more than 300 other magnificent trees in the city.

It stood in the center of the cemetery, just across the way from the memorial to the soldiers of the Civil War and the Pioneer Roses of Oregon garden. It was Heritage Tree #295, and stood 100 feet high with a spread of 105 feet. It looked like it would stand forever.

I know in my head that this sort of thing is inevitable. Trees, like humans, are living things and subject to injury and age. But they are also landmarks, survivors of the past lasting into our present to remind us of who has come before.

Remains of the General Lane tree, 2021

But in my heart, I mourn for these living monuments. I wonder what finally broke them? Was there more we could have done? What will we do to remember them and honor their life?

And seeing that these monuments can’t last forever, I become obsessed with recording what we have, right in this moment, because I know that someday I will look and they won’t be there.

This year the city of Portland has lost many monuments. The statues of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, even the Thompson Elk, have been vandalized and removed for their own protection. I understand some of the arguments against who they memorialize (except the Elk) but these statues were part of the downtown I loved and I miss them.

Time keeps sliding by. Let’s see and appreciate what we have while we have it.

Love,

Grandma Judy