By Kathy Eaton
with photos by John Butenschoen
“As Swift went, so did Kenton,” according to Alta Mitchoff, author of the book, History of the Kenton Neighborhood, published in 1997.
Kenton was a company town built in 1909 by the Swift Meat Packing Company. Kenton was home to manufacturers including Monarch Mill, Pacific Tank and Pipe, Ajax Auto Traction, and Pacific Coast Safe and Vault Works, along with Nicolai Door Manufacturing and Durable Roofing. The neighborhood was mostly blue-collar in the 1920s, and still is.
In 1920, Company No. 30 fought a fire in the Swift stock pen yards and was the first to respond to the Vanport flood in 1948. Like other historic Portland firehouses, the second renaissance revival style building shuttered in 1959 and was designated a historical landmark in 1976.
The building was restored and re-purposed to serve the community by housing offices for North Portland Neighborhood Services and meeting space for neighborhood and business association meetings. The building serves as a model of environmental stewardship with a solar system, geothermal heating, and rain gardens to absorb stormwater.
Construction is underway to build an annex for Kenton’s Tool Library, the first one in Oregon, according to Tom Griffin-Valade, NPNS director. For more information: See npnscommunity.org.
Siblings Preston Browning and Rachel Browning opened Salvage Works in Kenton in 2010, but soon outgrew the space they needed for a yard, shop and retail.
In 2014, they negotiated a long-term lease for 25,000 square feet at 2024 N. Argyle St.
“Preston is the quintessential lumberjack,” said Rachel, general manager for the company’s staff of thirteen. Clients include homeowners for do-it-yourself projects, contractors and customers who commission Salvage Works to build unique pieces. The majority of lumber comes from deconstructed houses or barns in Portland and surrounding areas. “Salvaging timber is a way to preserve a piece of history, whether it’s from a craftsman bungalow in Alameda or a barn in Troutdale,” said Rachel.
Salvage Works shares the provenance of the materials (the history of when it was built and where) with the consumer. “We re-purpose materials and give old growth new life,” said Rachel. For more information: See salvageworkspdx.com or call (503) 899-0052.
Figure Plant, 8411 N. Denver Ave., a full-service engineering design and fabrication studio, is located next door to Salvage Works. In spring 2010, David Frederickson, the owner/founder of Figure Plant, began leasing the building that once housed Kenton Machine Works. He negotiated a long-term lease with Portland Development Commission and uses Salvage Works to source reclaimed materials.
While seeking space for their company, Frederickson said it had to be large enough to create a double-decker British bus. In 2007, he reconnected with John Ceniceros, the company’s director, whom he initially met while attending Lewis and Clark College in 1985. Their staff “fabricates dreams in three-dimensional story-telling,” including building a 22-foot unicorn. “If you wondered who built that, it may have been Figure Plant,” said Frederickson. For more information: See figureplant.com or call (503) 289-2070.
Swift and Union
In 2012, Ken “Zig” Naffziger planned to open three restaurants within five years. He opened Tabor Tavern, 5325 E. Burnside St. on July 13, 2012 and three years later, opened Swift and Union, 8103 N. Denver Ave. He persuaded Donna Lambeth, owner of the Kenton property, to lease the building to him by offering her a gift card to Tabor Tavern. After a meal of fish and chips, not only did she agree to lease the building to him, she offered additional space to accommodate a walk-in cooler and office.
Mike Duggan manages Swift and Union and shares Naffziger’s passion for Kenton’s history. Naffziger kept the original “for lease” sign posted to the storefront window and discovered a 1942 calendar advertising Blue Ribbon Market and Delicatessen housed in the building he now leases. He collaborated with his wife, Kristen Siefkin, an interior designer, to honor Kenton’s roots as a cowtown. Joel Hope, a local metal and lighting artisan made pendent lights to hang from meat hooks. The bar top was made by Salvage Works.
“I’m getting the itch again to open another restaurant,” admitted Naffziger, “but July 13, 2017 isn’t far away.” For more information: See swiftandunion.com or call (503) 206-4281.
Kenton Neighborhood Association treasurer Angela Moos is spearheading a community fund-raising effort to collect donations to restore Kenton’s iconic Paul Bunyan statue. Sponsored by Kenton businesses and neighbors, the grassroots campaign has raised almost $21,000. According to Moos, they’ll begin a citywide campaign to help reach the $80,000 needed to complete the full restoration by late summer 2017. For more information: See paintpaulpdx.org.