By Kathy Eaton
with photos by Judy Nelson
See our Facebook album with more of Judy Nelson’s Laurelhurst photos here.
The Laurelhurst neighborhood in Northeast Portland was platted in 1909 and is bounded on the south by Southeast Stark Street, on the north by I-84, on the west by Northeast 32nd Avenue and on the east by 44th Avenue. A residential area comprised of approximately 430 acres, Laurelhurst is known by several landmarks, including Laurelhurst Park, Coe Circle with an equestrian bronze statue of Joan of Arc, and seven iconic historic arches that serve as gateways. In addition to stately homes and bungalows, Laurelhurst is home to The Holy Trinity Greek Cathedral, 3130 N.E. Glisan St., All Saints Catholic Church, 3847 N.E. Glisan St., and The Mann Old People’s Home, which was built in 1910 and is today The Movement Center, 1021 N.E. 33rd Ave.
In 1869, William S. Ladd purchased Thomas Frazer’s 320-acre Hazelwood Farm, originally a donation land claim. Renaming it Hazelfern Farm, Ladd later acquired additional acres for dairy operations, fruit orchards, and pure-bred cattle raising. The Ladd estate deeded the property to son William M. Ladd whose investment company sold it for $2 million in 1909 to the Laurelhurst Company. Named for a Seattle development called Laurelhurst, the company platted 2,880 lots and was sold in 1926 to U.S. National. By 1935, all but 10 percent of Laurelhurst had been developed.
In 1909, the city purchased a 30-acre tract in the southwest section of Laurelhurst subdivision for $92,000. The park was designed by Emanuel Mische, Portland’s Park superintendent who applied Frederick Law Olmsted’s principles of natural landscaping. In 1919, it was named the most beautiful park on the west coast by the Pacific Coast Parks Association. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Laurelhurst Park hosted coronation festivities of Portland’s annual Rose Festival, the second largest floral pageant behind Pasadena’s. In 2001, the park was named to the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1912, Portland architect A.E. Doyle designed a home for then Portland mayor H. Russell Albee at 3360 S.E. Ankeny Street, overlooking Laurelhurst Park. In 1928, architect Herman Brookman designed a 17-room Mediterranean-style home for Harry A. Green, located at 3316 S.E. Ankeny St. Nearly a century later, when the Green home became available for development, an anonymous benefactor purchased it for the community according to Sean Green, president of the Laurelhurst Neighborhood Association (LNA). Plans are being developed to repurpose the grand home for a museum or conservancy, according to Green.
Historic district designation
In January 2015, when Green queried residents at a general meeting about seeking historic district designation of the Laurelhurst neighborhood, Constance Beaumont volunteered to form a committee to explore various options to preserve Laurelhurst’s beauty and charm. She quoted Jeffrey Tumlin’s book, Sustainable Transportation Planning (Wiley, 2012) which stated, “If something is beautiful, we will cherish it, maintain it, and continue to improve on it.”
The committee is currently gathering information about historic district processes to inform residents and consider lessons learned from other Portland neighborhoods like Irvington, which has historic designation, and Buckman, whose residents recently rejected it. To date, the committee has not developed a proposal for the LNA board. Beaumont is following a new Residential Infill task force with citizen involvement to ensure that new or remodeled housing is integrated with the neighborhood. For more information: See portlandoregon.gov/bps/67728.
Illuminating the arches
According to Jim Edelson, LNA board member since 2008, lighting the historic Laurelhurst sandstone arches has been a decades-long project initiated by volunteers and funded by sales from the annual Laurelhurst garage sale. Three sets of arches form the boundaries of Laurelhurst neighborhood; there’s no direct evidence that arches were constructed at the eastern boundary on Northeast 44th Avenue. Pairs of arches are located at Northeast Burnside Street and 32nd Avenue, Northeast Glisan Street and Northeast 32nd Avenue, Southeast Stark Street and Cesar Chavez Boulevard, and a single arch is located at Northeast Peerless Street and 32nd Avenue.
According to LNA board member Donald Gardner, the most visible evidence that the arches were once lit can be found at the pair of arches on Northeast Burnside Street and 32nd Avenue. “You can see the wire going down the arch; there must’ve been a direct power drop at one time,” said Gardner.
To reinstate the lighting, electricians will have to go underground and come up through the sandstone arches without damaging the structure. The arches are not designated a historic landmark nor does the LNA own them according to Gardner. Volunteers have discovered original cast-iron brackets to hold the globes and have pursued cost estimates for cast aluminum replacements that would be cheaper and lighter weight. “We want to emulate the original look of the lights,” said Gardner, noting the Laurelhurst arches date to 1909.
Coe Circle: the heart of Laurelhurst
Linda Kerekes, a semi-retired interior designer and Laurelhurst resident since 1974, credits Dave Ferguson with pruning and weeding Coe Circle to a more manageable state when she took over in January 2015. Kerekes coordinates several groups responsible for maintaining the Circle at the intersection of Cesar Chavez Boulevard and Northeast Glisan Street, including the Portland Bureau of Transportation (because it’s a traffic circle), Portland Parks and Recreation (which maintained the full sprinkler system in the circle until 2007, when funding cuts resulted in shutting down the water system), the Department of Urban Forestry (responsible for pruning and tree maintenance) and the Regional Arts and Culture Council (maintains jurisdiction of the bronze equestrian Joan of Arc statue).
The LNA has approved Kerekes’ phased plan for Coe Circle: getting the drip system functioning again, weed control, and planting a formal floral bed around the statue with drought-resistant plants to bloom three seasons of the year.
“In addition to landscape architect Erin Ray, we’re seeking volunteers for work parties and input from the Master Gardener’s program,” said Kerekes. For project updates: See laurelhurstpdx.org/resources/newsletters.
Laurelhurst living history
Mary Jane Groce, who will soon turn 95 years old, is a life-long resident of Laurelhurst where music has always been an important part of her life. She learned to play piano by ear and her mother played piano and organ to accompany silent films shown at the Sellwood movie theater.
In 1852, her great grandmother traveled the Oregon Trail from the Midwest in a covered wagon, ultimately settling near McMinnville. Groce grew up in a small Mediterranean-style home built in 1923 on Hazelfern Place and attended Laurelhurst School, 840 N.E. 41st Ave., built the same year. When the Depression hit, her father lost his job as a locomotive engineer and moved the family to a small town in the Oregon Coast Range near Vernonia. “We lived in a tent until my father built a shack that had no running water or electricity,” recalled Groce recently. They held onto the Hazelfern house and reclaimed it after the Depression was over and the family returned to Portland.
Groce met her future husband at Carmen’s, a popular bar that now houses Realty Trust Group, 3902 N.E. Sandy Blvd. Six months after they married in 1942, he joined the Army Signal Corps and served in the South Pacific. Groce went to work at Providence Hospital, which provided employees housing and wages during wartime. After the war, the Groces bought a home in Laurelhurst and raised five children, who still live nearby. Groce worked at Providence until she retired in 1987.
Groce recently recalled when their son Gary was nine years old and started a band with his friend, Paula, whose parents owned Sylvia’s Italian Restaurant, 5115 N.E. Sandy Blvd., which has since closed. They formed Paula and the Pipsqueaks in 1968 and competed in Dick Clark’s Battle of the Bands. They didn’t win the top prize, a Pontiac station wagon, recalled Gary, who lives with his family a few blocks from his mother’s house. At an antique shop in Northeast, Gary recently found the original door to his parent’s 1923 home on Hazelfern Place which had been torn down. He plans to restore and incorporate the door in his home.
Today Groce uses an iPad to follow her kids and grandchildren on Facebook and still loves listening to music. She particularly enjoys hearing her daughter, Maria Blum, sing music from the Big Band Era with the Providence Stage Band.
Greek festival cited as Oregon Heritage Tradition
The Oregon Heritage Commission will present a special banner to Katherine Ossey, chair of the 2015 Portland Greek Festival, declaring it an Oregon Heritage Tradition. The Portland Greek Festival is the 12th event to receive the designation, which met the criteria of being in continuous operation for more than 50 years, demonstrated a public profile and reputation that distinguished it from routine events, and added to the livability and identity of the state.
According to Mary Maletis, past chair of the Portland Greek Festival, the Festival started in 1952 as a humble bazaar and raised $5,000. Today, 15,000 people attend one of the largest Greek festivals on the West Coast according to Cleo Rumpakis. The three-day festival located on the grounds of Holy Trinity Greek Cathedral, 3131 N.E. Glisan St., is a cultural event that celebrates rich Greek traditions, including folk music and dance, authentic Greek cuisine and pastries. According to Vasiliki Vlahakis, a Hollywood resident and past chair of the festival, more than 17,000 pieces of baklava are available for purchase during the festival.
Proceeds from the sale of food and drinks at the festival benefit the local community according to Nick Fkiaras, who also volunteers in the kitchen. “We share proceeds with 15-20 organizations throughout the metropolitan area, including the neighborhood associations for Kerns and Laurelhurst,” said Fkiaras.
During the festival, attendees can sign up for tours of the cathedral and the Hellenic-American Cultural Center and Museum, which opened in 2006 on the second floor of the church hall. The museum “honors the future by preserving the past” quoted museum volunteer Katherine Karafotias, a retired teacher and librarian. In addition to old photos and artifacts, the museum hosts contemporary artists. Bill Papas’ work will be on display at the museum during the festival and will remain on exhibit there until December. For information: See hellenicamericancc.org or call (503) 858-8567.
A 10-year Conditional Use Master Plan that runs through 2022 stipulates that Portland Providence Medical Center (PPMC) provide a forum with its neighbors in Laurelhurst and North Tabor to discuss issues of concern. A Transportation Working Group (TWIG) was formed as part of the Good Neighbor Agreement and is chaired by Laurelhurst resident Jim Parker. According to PPMC’s Public Affairs Manager, Jean Marks, PPMC has worked diligently to reduce the number of single occupancy vehicle trips for employees commuting to their campus from 88 percent in 1996 to 68 percent today. PPMC offers several alternatives to employees as well as the public to reduce traffic and environmental impacts to the community. Because employees are on campus 24/7, and staff are on-call for emergencies, the hospital is not a typical employment location with predictable hours like retail sites. For more information about the Campus Institution Zoning Update Project: See portlandoregon.gov/bps/63692. The city is soliciting comments on the draft until September 14th.
PPMC sought neighborhood input in designing Providence Guest House, 4477 N.E. Glisan St., which opened on August 3. Parker toured the newly opened facility and was pleased with the results. He’s lived in Laurelhurst off and on since 1945 and cites increased traffic on major arterials as well as side streets in Laurelhurst as the largest change he’s observed in the past six decades.
64th Annual Portland Greek Festival
A cultural celebration of Greek traditional music, dancing and food.
Cost: Purchase “talents” for currency to buy food and drinks. Lunches and dinners served on-site or available for take-out.
Location: Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 3131 N.E. Glisan St.
Dates: October 2-4, 2015
Hours: October 2-3: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., October 4: 12 noon to 8 p.m.
Free tours of the Cathedral and admission to the Hellenic-American Cultural Center and Museum located on the second floor of the Church hall. October 2-3 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and October 4 from Noon to 8 p.m.
For more information: See greekfestival.com and hellenicamricancc.org.