27 May 2012

[pdx] Downtown Portland: The Good Old Days Weren't That Long Ago

2832.John Chilson, the esteemable chronicler at the helm of Lost Oregon, has shared an album of what he calls 'Recent Portland Losses'. This is an album of stuff that has been razed in aid of putting something else there.

These were the Rose Friend Apartments.

Rose Friend Apartments Prior to Demolition - May, 2006

They were on the southwest corner of SW Broadway and Jefferson Street.

This was in 2006, just six years ago. What's there now? Take it away, Google Maps

It's a condo and upscale retail tower. Does anyone care what the name is? Given what it replaced, I don't, not really At least they saved the Ladd Carriage House, just in sight to the right of the tower there, rather famously moving it a few blocks west in typical Emmert style, but can we really say what's been put there was better, when this:

Rose Friend Apartments - Courtyard and Entry Arch - May 29, 2006

… seemed just fine?

Can you really blame the people who moan all the time about how something in Portland these days is only worth something if it can be replaced with something else? Can you really say they're moaning? I think they have a point.

Now, I know I'm quite lucky to be able to call myself a Portlander. We have a sense of history here, and despite what's been deleted from the public view in just the last 10 years, we actually have more of our history than most places. I know a guy in Phoenix who laments that whenever anything … anything … is more that 10 years old it gets pulled down in favor of something else.

I think we can do better than we have been though.

This circumlocution actually was in aid of a goal. This album crystallized something for me; when me and The Wife™ returned to Portland after a break in Corvallis, we went downtown as often as we could. You couldn't pry us out of that place. So much charm. There were nifty places and shifty places. There were new places and gritty places. I saw Waiting for Guffman at the old Music Box Theatre, on Yamhill between Broadway and Park. The block of Broadway between Yamhill and Taylor was beautiful with its Fox and Music Box marquees. Anyone remember Barbara Clark, Social Stationer? We browsed there once. Where the Columbia Sportswear store is now used to be a food court business, Metro on Broadway, where all sorts of colorful downtowners would eat.

That's all gone now. Downtown is kind of a sterile thing, a sanitized vision for the office workers and the hotel patrons we seem to lust after in an unseemly way, and the ├╝ber-prosperous condo dwellers we wish would fill those towers. Downtown Portland looks wonderful, but it's gotten just skin deep.

There's very little there there any more, to kype a thought from Gertrude Stein.

Me and The Wife™ now spend our time in Montavilla, along Hawthorne, places that still have a little soul to them. Foster and Powell, a bit of Woodstock, and our beloved Russelville, which even has a cart pod of its own now. But we almost never go downtown. Why bother?

It's our downtown any more. Not really. It's someone else's.

Did you  know that there used to be an Arctic Circle restaurant on the corner of Broadway and Yamhill, on the first floor of the Jackson Tower? And you could get yourself a bit of soul-satisfying junk food and sit at the big window and watch the Square and Broadway. Nothing like that downtown now, certainly not that's not overpriced and effete. I couldn't picture myself sitting in The Original watching the world go by (and neither could my budget, for that matter).

Sic transit gloria mundi, I suppose. One must live with it.

Here's the rest of the album, from Mr. Chilson. Give him propers; he's an Oregon transplant that loves Oregon history more than most Oregonians I know, and as a native-Oregonian, I say he's doin' a hell of a job.

Here's the link to view the rest: http://www.flickr.com/photos/9807122@N08/sets/72157601847946673/.

What a difference 10 years can make.

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