10 July 2005

[geography] The Address Nerd on East Portland Numbered Streets

Ever notice, how on the east side of the mighty Willamette, the main and collector numbered streets seem to mostly end in 2?

NE and SE 12th Ave. NE 42nd Ave. SE 52nd Ave. SE and NE 72nd Ave. 82nd Ave. 92nd Ave. 102nd Ave, which feeds into 112th Ave as you go south from Stark St. 122nd Ave. 142nd Ave. 162nd Ave. 182nd Ave. 202nd-not so much so, but there's a light on the part that's a/k/a Gresham's NW Birdsdale Ave and goes between Division and Stark. And there's also 242nd Ave, 272nd Ave and, going east from Gresham, 282nd, and, near Sandy, 362nd.

Going far out into Clackamas country, as the roads thin out so do the presence of numbered avenues, but those that are out there-many of them have 2's. There's a 422nd Ave, and of course, my personal favorite, 502nd Ave.

While I don't have my more arcane maps to hand, I'll bet that, if one looked at them, they'd find that these ending-in-2 avenues land on township lines-which are exactly one mile apart (from 82nd out, 102nd, 122nd, 142nd, 162nd, and 182nd are all one mile (20 standard blocks) apart).

Township lines require a bit of explanation and quite a digression.

Here we go.

When The Great White Father set about to populate the Great American West with colonists, these colonists cared very much about owning this land (this white person still does, what with property taxes being what they are). Land ownership requires records, and records require systems of location.

Thus we came eventually to what's called the Public Lands Survey. At its basis is the idea that you take an large enough (but not too big-then the curvature of the earth messes everything up) and draw perpendicular axes on it (the n-s one is called the meridian, the e-w one is called the baseline) and mark off big squares based on those lines.

These squares are six miles by six miles. This big square has a name too; we call it the township, not necessarily to be confused with the namesake legal and governmental entity found Back East. Each of these logcially divide into 36 1-mile squares, called sections.

Bingo. You now have a neato mosquito way of referencing great tracts of land that, in many cases, you probably haven't even seen yet, dotted here and there with villages of aboriginal people with brown skin who had the unmitigated gall to be there when you went and discovered the places.

Anyway. I told you that stuff to tell you this:

These township, range (the e-w lines are called township lines and the n-s are called range lines) and section lines make very handy boundary and road sites once they are known and cadastrally determined. Farmers used them to delineate ranch and farm lines...and to build roads upon. Thus the repetition of "2-avenues" as you go east; the regularity of the pattern attests to the underlying, ordering structure.

Typically, the 2-avenues are the ones that have been there, in eastern Multnomah county, the longest. The historical name of 122nd Avenue was Buckley Avenue (or Road). I don't know if the others had names,or what they were called when they did.


Anonymous said...

Awesome post[s]. I'm actually printing them out and stashing away.

Samuel John Klein said...

Thanks for the compliment.

I'll make extra sure they are on point then...

This is the sort of thing I think of when I think of nothing else...does it show...?

Samuel John Klein said...


One of them, out toward Gresham, was Hogan Road (parts still are, I believe), and two others were (I think) Rockwood Road and Russellville Road.

Absolutely correct, at least insofar as my limited research abilities go.

I have a personal connection to Hogan Road. If you're ever out that way, keep an eye out for a charming farm house and big red barn on the east side of SE 242nd Ave, hard by the Multnomah-Clackamas County line (on the Clackamas side). This is immediately south of the Rugg Road intersection and just north of the little HIllsview Store at the fork where 242nd and SE Borges Road split. That's the house where my grandparents on my mother's side lived when I was a kid. And, at the time, the road was called Hogan Road.

The name is preserved within the Gresham city limits as NE/SE Hogan Rd/Ave (depends on the map or the street sign-they also can't seem to decide whether Kane is a Road, Avenue, or Drive).

Your observation about the other former names of currently-numbered Avenues is well-taken. Rockwood Road would have no doubt been todays NE/SE 181/182nd Avenue; and my guess is that Russellville Road would likely be todays NE/SE 102nd Avenue.

Just as an aside, the spot where today's Mall 205 is at one time was the site of what the maps call Morningside Hospital. A past aquaintance with some roots in the area told me some time ago that it was actually a sanitarium run by and for local Native Americans.

Also, if I may mention, my older Portland area maps agree with your comments on SW 145th Ave/Murray, and your comments on the evolution of the road itself. My experience has been whether or not you think of it as Murray Road, Avenue, or Blvd have a lot to do with how far back you go in those part. But good observation.

I've observed the Murrayhill area evolution of Scholls Ferry-Old Scholls Ferry-Barrows Roads with a sort of bemusement. I remember driving out there some years back, a couple of years before all the recent development and road renaming, because I just wanted to see what the area looked like. This was a couple of years before they changed the road names and alignments. I was surprised to find that, despite the name, the main stem of traffic in that area was down SW Old Scholls Ferry Road.

Perhaps, though, that was a natural given that Murray Boulevard ended there. In the meantime, though I admit the renaming makes sense, I regret the loss of a name like Old Scholls Ferry.

It's not completely gone, though. A smaller, though topologically similar bypass exists north from there, adjacent to the Portland Golf Club, along the part of Scholls Ferry between Allen Blvd and Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, in the Raleigh Hills area.