Nowadays we only demolish houses when we need space. But at the start of the 20th century, they were more likely to be moved!
In last month’s BEE, I mentioned my surprise at the number of houses in the Sellwood-Westmoreland neighborhood that have been relocated. Sometimes the owner sold when his property was remodeled, which was the case with the Watson House on Tacoma Street (to make a parking lot for a church); the Priest’s House in Sainte-Agathe (for a parish community building); the Methodist Chapel (to make way for a larger church) – and, in Westmoreland, for the expansion of a parking lot. But I was not prepared for the clearing of an entire block – 18 houses! – in 1925, to provide a playground for the students of Sellwood School. It is noteworthy that at the time, the school was a kindergarten to grade 8 institution, with 777 students all living in the immediate vicinity. Children from the area north of Malden attended Llewellyn School, which in 1928 had 450 students. In 1975, Sellwood became a college, covering grades 6-8, but drawing its “junior high” population from Lewis, Duniway and Llewellyn elementary schools.
At the turn of the twentieth century, parents wanted their children to have a good education – to provide the tools necessary to function confidently in the workplace and in society at large. Sellwood’s parents were enthusiastic supporters of public schools and other institutions such as the Sellwood Community House and the local library. The Sellwood neighborhood opened for development in 1882; Westmoreland in 1909; and public schools followed soon after. In September 1884, the first students entered the one-class school at SE 15th and Umatilla. As the city grew, so did the number of schoolchildren. In 1893, the year the independent town of Sellwood became part of the City of Portland, a new two-story building was completed, containing four classrooms for its 183 students. However, by 1910 this charming Gothic-style structure (similar in appearance to the Oaks Pioneer Church) was insufficient for the estimated 700 students crammed there and in the portable structures gathered around it. According to a story of the school, written for its 100th anniversary in 1984, a new two-story concrete building was completed in 1914 and for the first time featured indoor bathrooms! It alleviated some of the overcrowding – but within ten years it had to be expanded.
Finally, at the end of October 1924, a front page article in THE BEE announced that “seven new [Portland] elementary schools were recommended by Miss Alice Barrows of the United States Bureau of Education. These were Hosford, Ockley Green, Sunnyside, Woodlawn, Highland, Ladd and Sellwood. The brief article reported that the chairman of the school board would appoint the architect for Hosford, while the others would wait for the purchase of [the building] sites. The next update of THE BEE took place four months later, in February 1925, when it was mentioned that “the necessary property for the new school [in Sellwood] has been appraised by the real estate board. At the time, only Block 67, cluttered with buildings and a small adjacent playground, belonged to the school district. Finally, at the end of February, two lines in the newspaper stated the “block of land has been contracted for the new school building in Sellwood.”
A week later came the revelation regarding Block 66: “The deal … for the blocks of houses demarcated by East 15th & 16th, Harney & Sherrett was closed.” [for 18 lots and houses] was $ 54,450. The block will be converted into playgrounds to complete the block on which the current building stands, and on which another large building will be erected. by Harold E. Sellwood, who spent several months bringing the board of directors and landowners to an agreement. He is also getting rid of the houses, and offers for these will be received at his office on SE 13. ”
It appears that, without any public announcement, the school board had decided, or had been persuaded by unknown people, that the 700 students at Sellwood School needed or deserved a whole lot for recess and physical education classes. . In addition, the individuals who owned the eighteen 50 x 100 foot lots, each with a house on it, were apparently quite willing to sell and move these structures elsewhere. There was no heated discussion at school board meetings and the board did not invoke “eminent domain”. No press conference, public hearings, letters to the editor (THE BEE at the time did not offer this report), and no protests. The BEE itself gave more space to the original Sellwood Bridge, which was then under construction; the arrival of two new Piggly Wiggly grocery stores; and plans for a future cinema in Westmoreland!
The school board was correct in employing a local real estate agent who lived in the neighborhood and probably knew many of the owners of the house. Harold Sellwood was the nephew of Dr John Sellwood, the physician and surgeon who had built both a hospital and the Bank of Sellwood in 1907 at SE 13th and Umatilla Street. Harold was also a descendant of the Reverend John Sellwood, who sold his acreage in 1882 to the Sellwood Real Estate Company, and after whom the community was named. Harold must have quietly approached each of the owners until each of them was ready to sell, “for the sake of the children.” Some of them may have already had children attending school and could see value in a large playground.
Of course, the amount offered by the School Board may have seemed reasonable or even generous to the owners. While the average bid per property was around $ 3,000, a one-story cottage would likely have been worth less than a large two-story Foursquare-style home. Three thousand dollars could have paid off the mortgage on the old house, covered the cost of new land nearby, and paid for the move itself. Houses and land were generally cheaper in “old-fashioned” Sellwood than in more modern developments, such as Westmoreland or City View Park. An ad for a 50 x 100 foot lot near Linn Street was listed at $ 490, while a new two-bedroom house in Westmoreland is expected to cost $ 4,000 to $ 5,000. According to Sanborn’s 1924-25 fire insurance card, the eighteen houses sold for relocation were quite small: nine were one-story, seven were one-and-a-half stories, and the other two were two stories high.
THE BEE listed the names of all the owners involved. At least three homes were rentals, as their owners lived in California and Corvallis. But among the rest, the newspaper said, “almost all of the vacant houses will remain in Sellwood … and be moved to other lots.” Reading the newspaper after March 1925, it was clear that the layout of the houses varied. Some owners have moved their homes and then resumed their occupations. Others simply sold and then moved elsewhere in the neighborhood. A few have left the region altogether. There is no mention of demolition, so it looks like all 18 structures were moved to new 50x100ft lots, which would have been pretty straightforward as most of them were so compact. years that followed, some of these tiny homes are gone – presumably replaced or remodeled beyond recognition. I could only identify two of the original houses moved to make way for the Sellwood playground. We only walked two blocks; but the other went fifteen blocks north, into the City View Park development.
By matching names with listings in city directories (which at that time only listed a person’s address and occupation, not whether they owned their place of residence), I was able to place one person in eleven of the houses and a few at their new addresses. They were:
Frank and Clara Twibell, whose home was on the 16th and is now on Malden Street
Monte J. and Julia Allen, also 16, whose house went to Sherrett Street
EW and Hattie Bartholomew, from Sherrett Street, have moved to Scotts Mills
The Beerman family, of Sherrett Street, the new address of the house is unknown
George T. and Emma Bishopp, of Harney Street, new address unknown
Bert Clark, from a Sherrett Street duplex, new address unknown
David Evans of Harney Street, new address unknown
JW Griffith, of E. 15th Street, new address unknown, but moved to Scotts Mills
CA Myers, owner of a rental on block 66, no specific address given
Dr John J. and Laura Morrow of Sherrett Street, new address unknown
Elver and May Pease of Harney Street, new address unknown
Alex Slaton, of Sherrett Street, new address unknown
· CW Tustin, who owned two properties one of which was at the corner of 15th and Harney streets was his residence; the other, address unknown, was probably a rental; unknown where either house went
· Absent owners: Ola E. Boyd, California; Ms. FW Bartlett, California; Emma Lingo, Corvallis, Philip Schneider, Portland; this means they owned properties on block 66, but did not live in the neighborhood, so rented them out to anonymous tenants
If readers know the names of any of the owners listed above, or believe they live in one of the houses that have been moved from Block 66, I’ll be happy to follow up if you contact me through THE BEE!
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