By Kathy Eaton
photos by Judy Nelson
See our Facebook album with more of Judy Nelson’s Sullivan’s Gulch photos here.
At the end of the ice age approximately 15,000 years ago, volcanic deposits on the east side of Rocky Butte were stripped from the slopes of the young volcano, and a gulch was carved from subsequent Missoula Flood events. The gulch, since known as Sullivan’s Gulch, extends from the Willamette River to Northeast 33rd Avenue. Filled in for construction of a Union Pacific railroad line in 1881, over the years it’s been home to a golf course, industrial buildings and a major highway.
According to Sullivan’s Addition between Sandy Road and the Gulch by Rod Paulson, Irish immigrants Timothy and Margaret Sullivan applied for a donation land grant in 1851 for 319.60 acres of land located roughly between Northeast 18th and 28th avenues. The Sullivans built their first home near Northeast 24th Avenue and Pacific Street, on the southern edge of the gulch named for him. Timothy Sullivan was granted citizenship in 1855 and died a decade later. Their son, John, died suddenly in 1872; their daughter, Maria, willed the property to the Sisters of Charity of Providence upon her death in 1904. The land, later deeded to Rodney A. Glisan, eventually became the site of Providence Hospital. By 1919, the gulch became an established industrial zone, home of Hyster forklift trucks and Doernbecher furniture factory.
Hooverville shanty town
During the Great Depression, the lower level of the gulch became a haven for approximately 300 homeless unemployed single men, including former tailors, shoemakers, carpenters, loggers and electrical workers who built crude shelters and formed a self-governing village. The last shack was torn down in July 1941 to make way for construction of Portland’s first post-war freeway, the Banfield Expressway, completed in 1956. In an article published the following year, the Oregon Journal concluded, “Today’s Sullivan’s Gulch is more forbidding than ever. Racing railroad trains and automobiles make it even more forbidding and perilous than the winding paths, murky ponds and hoboes of yesteryear.”
Sullivan’s Gulch today
Sullivan’s Gulch neighborhood is bounded by Northeast Broadway, I-84 and Northeast 15th and 33rd avenues. Brittain Brewer, board chair of Sullivan’s Gulch Neighborhood Association (SGNA) and Carol Gossett, chair of their land use and transportation committee, reside in the Sullivan’s Gulch neighborhood and live in an “alcove of security,” according to Gossett.
The Gulch celebrates old as well as new
In 2014, Sullivan’s Gulch residents will mark several anniversaries and completion of new construction projects:
- Fred Meyer’s Hollywood West store, 3030 N.E. Weidler St., commemorates its 30th anniversary after completing an $18 million remodel of one of its largest stores in the Portland area. “Friendly and fresh” describes their associates and wide selection of products offered in the store, according to Amanda Ip, spokesperson for Fred Meyer.
- The Fontaine, 1220 N.E. 17th Ave., a modern-style, 17-floor apartment building converted to condos in 1972, is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
- Holladay Park Plaza, 1300 N.E. 16th Ave., a continuing-care retirement community, is expanding its complex by constructing a six-story building with 19 units adjacent to the Plaza.
- Phase one of Grant Park Village (GPV) on Northeast Broadway between Northeast 32nd and 33rd avenues is scheduled to open in November 2014. Five buildings with 211 apartments above 34,500 square feet of New Seasons Market plus 13,000 square feet of other retail space will also include a garage with 269 parking spaces. Situated on a five-acre lot, the reclaimed brownfield site is one of the largest projects within the urban boundary in recent years, according to Gossett.
“The former Albina fuel site is a dense, mixed-use site that optimizes land use; and developers recognize the importance of neighborhood involvement,” said Gossett.
SGNA partnered with Grant Park Neighborhood Association to work with GPV developers to design a pedestrian and bike-friendly crossing on Northeast Broadway and 32nd Avenue. Both neighborhood associations are proposing to share representation of a sliver of land with unclaimed neighborhood status on Northeast Broadway between Northeast 33rd and 37th avenues. Brewer credits the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods (NECN) with facilitating those discussions.
NECN provides neighborhood resources
Founded in 1974 by Edna Robertson and Sharon McCormack to address community issues and create effective solutions, NECN is one of seven district coalitions. It’s part of Portland’s Office of Neighborhood Involvement (ONI) that oversees 95 neighborhood associations throughout Portland. NECN executive director Shoshana Cohen reports to an executive board consisting of representatives from 12 northeast neighborhood associations, including Sullivan’s Gulch. NECN sponsors four community working groups which meet monthly: Safety and Livability Team, Land Use and Transportation Committee, Schools Committee, and Community Economic Development Council. In 2014, NECN is offering six $1,000 grants for projects ranging from environmental education to providing a forum for community conversations to discuss and act on issues of aging, race, health and urban development.
“Our goal is to turn ideas into reality by offering structure, organization and advice,” said Cohen. NECN’s office is located inside King Elementary School, 4815 N.E. 7th Ave. For more information: Visit necoalition.org or call (503) 388-5004.
Vital transportation links
With MAX light rail lines, numerous buses and Union Pacific railroad, Sullivan’s Gulch has one of the largest transportation infrastructures in the city of Portland, according to Gossett.
“If Portland is going to continue to be a progressive transit city, we need to invest and take action to support projects like the Sullivan’s Gulch Trail,” said Gossett.
Paralleling the I-84 freeway, the proposed 4.3-mile trail crosses multiple neighborhoods and is a vital link to transportation for pedestrians and a bikeway that begins at the Willamette River and goes east to the Gateway district. The proposed trail has been 15 years in the making; and despite staunch support from conservationists, environmentalists, parks, and educators, SGNA was not successful in their recent bid for a Metro nature grant to build the trail. The SGNA is not giving up the fight as Sullivan’s Gulch Trail reflects regional benefits―social, cultural and economic potential―according to Brewer.
Northeast Broadway: everything for everyday
Northeast Broadway Business Association (NEBBA) president Murray Koodish, manager of Great Wine Buys, 1515 N.E. Broadway, said 100 members of NEBBA represent everything from retail, services, bars and restaurants; “everything you need for a 20-minute neighborhood.” He estimates that 300 small to medium-sized businesses populate Northeast Broadway between Northeast 6th and 33rd avenues, touching boundaries with six Northeast neighborhoods. “That fact makes it unique as well as tricky since different zoning rules apply,” said Koodish. For more information: Visit nebroadway.com.
The south side of Northeast Broadway between Northeast 33rd and 15th avenues comprises the Sullivan’s Gulch commercial corridor and includes a diverse spectrum of businesses from eateries to shops selling yarn, books, kitchenware and pet supplies.
Costello’s Travel Caffé, 2222 N.E. Broadway closed for 100 days in summer 2012 before the family owned cafe reopened to loyal customers and ex-patriots in fall 2012. Manager and son Chris Costello said, “Customers visit Costello’s to reminisce about places they’ve been or look forward to future travel. We think of the Caffé as a place that has an international look but a neighborhood feel.” For more information: Visit costellostravelcaffe.com or call (503)287-0270.
Rose and Thistle Restaurant, 2314 N.E. Broadway will celebrate 22 years in business in August 2014. Co-owner Kyra Rodgers said the back-yard patio is popular with patrons in summer. It’s a favorite destination of SGNA Chair Brewer, who enjoys watching soccer games on television screens inside the pub. For more information, call (503) 287-8582.
Twisted, 2310 N.E. Broadway, specializes in independently owned dyers, sock yarn, local products, natural fibers and hand-dyed yarns. The store offers comfortable seating for customers to meet and relax and classes for knitters ranging from novice to expert. Twisted is currently featuring Gulchtastic yarn, dyed locally by Blue Moon Fiber Arts. For more information: Visit twistedpdx.com or call (503) 922-1150.
Two pet stores located within 10 blocks carry supplies for dogs, cats and small animals. Pets on Broadway, 2762 N.E. Broadway, established in 1990, will board customers’ birds, reptiles and fish. “We need a little advance notice,” said store manager Rob Deinlein. For more information: visit petsonbroadway.com or call (503) 282-5824. In addition to sponsoring pet adoption events, like Animal Care and Rescue, a local nonprofit organization, Furever Pets, 1902 N.E. Broadway, carries high-quality pet food and treats for cats and dogs, such as Slammin’ Salmon Snaps and Turkey Bark. For more information: Visit fureverpets.com or call (503) 282-4225.
Several locally owned businesses, including Abe’s Broadway Cleaners and Alterations at 1728 N.E. Broadway, Broadway Books at 1710 N.E. Broadway and Kitchen Kaboodle at 1520 N.E. Broadway, have weathered economic downturns in the past decade. In 2002, Doug Fick, owner of Broadway Floral, Home and Garden at 1638 N.E. Broadway resisted developers who proposed demolishing his store adjacent to the 1620 N.E. Broadway condominium project. Today Broadway Floral is one of SGNA committee chair Carol Gossett’s favorite shopping destinations.
Third Annual Charrette
On Saturday, April 26, from 1-4 p.m., the Sullivan’s Gulch Neighborhood Association Land Use and Transportation Committee will sponsor a charrette. Topics covered will include transit options, the Broadway/Weidler Corridor and Sullivan’s Gulch Trail. The event will take place at Grace Memorial Episcopal Church, 1535 N.E. 17th Ave. Event schedule:
1 p.m.: Welcome
1:10 p.m.: Guest Speaker, Steve Dotterrer, History of Development in Portland
1:30 p.m.: Guest Speaker, Scott Burns, Portland State University Gulch Geology
1:45 p.m.: Guest Speaker, John Mermin, Metro Regional Bicycle Parkway Concept
2 p.m.: Guest Speaker, Carl Larson, BTA Bikes on Broadway
2:15 p.m.: Break
2:30 p.m.: Neighborhood Updates:
Eliot Neighborhood – Mike Warwick
Irvington Neighborhood – Steve Cole
Grant Park Neighborhood – Ken Peterson
Sullivan’s Gulch Neighborhood – Britt Brewer
3-4 p.m.: Participation and public comment
Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods promotes community by providing:
- Leadership development and training opportunities for neighborhood association leaders and offering tips on outreach and facilitation strategies
- A forum for education by providing speakers and facilitating discussions to share best practices
- Advocacy for citizens to help solve community problems with community based solutions
- Guidance with small grants program for community based-projects
- Assistance to help neighborhoods connect with other government entities by sharing information and resources