By Kathy Eaton
with photos by Judy Nelson
See our Facebook album with more of Judy Nelson’s Irvington photos here.
In 2010, the National Park Service listed Irvington Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places, memorializing the neighborhood’s place in history. The Irvington neighborhood is bounded on the west by Northeast 7th Avenue, on the east by Northeast 27th Avenue, on the south by Northeast Broadway and on the north by Northeast Fremont. Irvington streets form a perfect square-shaped area, however, they share overlapping boundaries with Sabin on the north and Alameda on the northeast border.
Elizabeth Irving, widow of riverboat captain William Irving who had settled a 644-acre donation land claim in 1851, had the neighborhood platted initially in 1887, with parcels available for sale in 1891. According to Irvington resident and historian, Jim Heuer, Elizabeth Irving had the resources to develop the neighborhood and implement her vision of 25-foot setbacks, beautifully landscaped yards, and straight streets. Irving sold parcels with covenants specifying those requirements, and 84 percent of the homes in Irvington were built between 1900 and 1930. As of 2010, 28 Irvington homes were listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Roy Roos, Portland land surveyor and author of two local history books, including The History and Development of Portland’s Irving Neighborhood (1997), provides a comprehensive history of the development of Irvington, its influential builders and architects, as well as an inventory and history of individual homes.
Notable architects abound
Distinguished Portland architects were drawn to Irvington from the outset. Albert E. Doyle, who designed Portland’s Central Public Library, Reed College’s student union and chapel, and the Benson Hotel, lived in Irvington. In 1908, Ellis F. Lawrence built one of the first English Arts and Crafts homes at 2201 N.E. 21st Ave., and later founded the School of Architecture and Fine Arts at the University of Oregon. Lawrence’s firm designed the Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1624 N.E. Hancock, as well as the second story addition to the Irvington Tennis Club, 2131 N.E. Thompson St.
The Irvington Club: tradition
The Irvington Club, 2131 N.E. Thompson St., is the oldest tennis club in Oregon and one of the oldest in the country, according to general manager Barbara Farmer. When William Hoffman, father of the Royal Rosarians, served as president of the club, monthly dues were 25 cents. In 1998, the club commemorated 100 years of history with the publication of The Club that Roared, authored by the Club’s book committee, chaired by Sarah Thomas.
“If you live in the neighborhood, it’s a no-brainer to join,” said Farmer, who lives in Hollywood.
Proximity is a big draw, however the four indoor tennis courts with two tennis pros to meet member’s demands are also key factors. The club recently completed a $2 million renovation that didn’t gain a square inch, but added functionality to offer a variety of events to members, including bridge games and book readings. A decade ago, the waiting list to join the club was 25; today it’s about 250. For more information: Visit irvingtonclub.com or call (503) 287-8749.
Irvington Home Tours
Since 1968, Irvington has offered tours of its historic homes to the public. According to co-chair Brian Schaeperkoetter, this year commemorates the 33rd continuous Irvington home tour, one of the oldest in the Portland area. In 2014, the event drew 1,000 visitors on tour day. Despite a torrential rainstorm, it was their highest grossing tour, netting $32,000. Approximately half of the proceeds were donated to the Irvington Charitable Giving Program which funds non-profit agencies and school projects. The balance is provided to the Irvington Community Association for neighborhood projects.
According to Heuer, the committee was surprised to discover that one of the homes on the 2015 tour was designed by Joseph Jacobberger, a prolific Portland architect who designed St. Mary’s Cathedral and Irvington’s Madeleine School. Tickets for the home tour are available now and may be purchased on tour day. For more information: Visit irvingtonhometour.com.
In 1999, when Heuer and his spouse, Robert Mercer moved to their home at 1903 N.E. Hancock, they were curious about who designed it. Once they learned it was designed by architect Emil Schacht, “our historian juices were flowing like mad,” said Heuer. Built in 1906, their beautifully restored home was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001 and has been featured twice on the Irvington Home Tour.
Portland’s White House: politics aside
Portland’s White House Bed-and-Breakfast Inn, 1914 N.E. 22nd Ave., was built in 1912, and cost $46,000 to construct. According to Roos, it’s the most expensive dwelling (adjusted for inflation), built in Irvington. The colonial-revival styled mansion was restored twenty years ago by owner Lanning Blanks. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, today it’s a beautifully furnished and decorated bed-and-breakfast inn with five guest rooms in the main building and three in the carriage house. It’s a popular venue for events including weddings and receptions, meetings, parties, and memorial services. Couples who marry there often return to celebrate anniversaries, according to general manager Myra Plant. Plant owned the Campbell House, a B&B in Eugene, for twenty years before moving to Portland in 2013.
Blank’s extensive art collection includes a desk that belonged to Napoleon, bronze statues and period paintings. “It’s like a museum, except guests are permitted to touch the statues,” said Blanks. For more information: Visit portlandwhitehouse.com or call (503) 287-7131.
Photographer Chris Emerick runs his popular van rental business, Road Trip Oregon, from Portland’s White House. With 12 vans in his fleet, visitors can rent Volkswagen Westfalia Campers and Eurovan Campers, touring the Pacific Northwest in comfort and style. For more information: Visit roadtriporegon.com or call (541) 806-2084.
Business on Broadway
Murray Koodish, one of the managers at Great Wine Buys, 1515 N.E. Broadway, is also president of the Northeast Broadway Business Association, which represents about 300 businesses. Koodish, an Irvington resident, said the store opened in 1985 and is one of the oldest independent wine shops in Portland. “There’s something here for everybody,” said Koodish, who said the demand for bottles of wine in the $20-range is common, and they’ll fill special orders. Wine tastings on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons are a great way to sample the inventory. For more information: Visit greatwinebuys.com or call (503) 287-2897.
Rebecca and Brian Newell opened Postal Annex, 1631 N. E. Broadway in 1999, and have expanded twice inside the shipping and office supply store. In 2012, they added a freight franchise, Navis Pack and Ship, located on Northeast 33rd Drive, to handle freight: packing, crating and palletizing large shipments. “We wanted to better serve our customers who wanted to ship bigger pieces, like an upholstered chair or dresser,” said Rebecca. Navis Pack and Ship has a larger footprint and dock, making it easier for big delivery trucks to load. For more information: Visit postalannex.com or call (503) 284-6092.
In March, Josh Johnston and his business partner, James Hall, bought the Cadillac Cafe, 1801 N.E. Broadway. The vintage pink vehicle sits inside the restaurant and was included in the purchase from long-time owners Rod Brackenbury and Terry Hughes. Johnston plans to retain the same menu at the popular breakfast and lunch spot, but hasn’t ruled out expanding to include dinner service in the future. “We plan to operate the Cadillac with the same guiding principles as Rod and Terry who sustained a friendly neighborhood place where locals can drop in and enjoy a meal with good value,” said Johnston.
This month, Johnston and Hall are scheduled to re-open Produce Row Cafe located in Portland’s Central Eastside, adding it to their portfolio of restaurants, including The Station on Northeast Alberta Street, Circa 33 on Southeast Belmont Street, North 45 Pub on Northwest 21st Avenue, and Paddy’s Bar and Grill, located downtown.
Susan Fries, who lives at 1927 N.E. Hancock St., with her husband, Lew Bowers, is an active member of the Hardy Plant Society, and said, “The gardening community in Irvington is the best in the Pacific Northwest.” Their home, built in 1903, is one of the oldest craftsman foursquare homes built in Irvington, according to Roos. Fries’ favorite neighborhood spots include Trade Roots, 1831 N.E. Broadway, a unique clothing and gift shop, Garden Fever, 3433 N.E. 24th Avenue, and Blossoming Lotus restaurant, 1713 N.E. 15th Ave. Bowers enjoys the Fifteenth Avenue Hophouse, 1517 N.E. Brazee St., located next door to Foster and Dobbs, 2518 N.E. 15th Ave., a wine and cheese shop that’s been in business for a decade.
Since 1985, Jim Swenson and his wife, Janet Gillaspie, have lived at 2336 N.E. 23rd Ave., in a craftsman foursquare home built in 1909. William Kaiser, a physician related to the family that founded the shipyards and hospitals during World War II, was the second owner of the home. When Swenson moved in, other families who lived on the block shared tools, resources, and formed a food group where they prepared meals once a week to share with neighbors. “Five minutes spent exchanging meals connected families on our street,” said Gillaspie; “we raised our kids as a pack.”
Shirley Lewton and her husband, Jaime Leopold, moved to Irvington in 1985 because they valued the neighborhood’s affordability, aesthetics, and diversity.
Leopold, a songwriter who plays bass guitar, began his career in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district at the height of the 1960s cultural revolution. He later returned to Portland and married Lewton. They raised two daughters who are now employed as an artist and art curator. His band, Jaime Leopold and the Short Stories, plays folk, country and acid memory music. For more information: Visit jaimeleopold-shortstories.com.
Irvington Community Association
In 1966, Irvington residents established the Irvington Community Association in response to emerging concerns about blight and crime, according to Dean Gisvold, who’s lived in Irvington since 1967. A semi-retired commercial real estate attorney, Gisvold chairs ICA’s land use planning committee and has been active in implementing guidelines for complying with requirements of the historic district, establishing a pre-application committee to help homeowners sift through requirements to make the review faster.
“Since the historic district designation in 2010, there have been no demolitions in Irvington,” Gisvold said. Because 85-90 percent of the structures contribute to the historic district designation, it’s difficult to demolish and build something new in Irvington. He credits aggressive implementation of the guidelines and said the majority of residents are compliant. However, not all residents within Irvington’s boundaries are enamored of the historic district designation.
According to Jim Heuer, the Alameda neighborhood association has proposed a boundary change to delist about 20 blocks from Irvington’s historic district designation. The final determination is expected this summer by the National Park Service. For more information: Visit irvingtonpdx.com.
Correction: The Montavilla Jazz Festival, scheduled August 15-16, 2015, is sponsored by a wide variety of local neighborhood businesses.