Present Appearance of
Portland-View from River and Hills-Prominent
Buildings -Character of Streets-Albina-Parks-Exposition
of Nature-Floods and Fires.
In order to describe a
number of the features of our city, which
need not be treated separately, but without
which our work would be quite incomplete, it
is attempted here to pass through the place
from north to south, giving a running
commentary upon scenes and events as we go,
and to throw in gratis whatever hard fads or
statistics may be necessary for elucidation.
It will be borne in mind that this is a
description of the Portland of today, and
may therefore serve for future reference, as
well as for present information.
A poet of America once pitched upon the Columbia river and its continuous woods as a type of solitude. This imperial stream, although now tracked by steamships and hundreds of boats, nevertheless impresses one as still lonely; the small rude villages, the canneries, the sawmills, situated in the shade of the forests or in the clefts of the hills, as yet exert no influence to trans-form the character of the river. On nearing the mouth of the Willamette one finds this air of solitude still unrelieved. St. Helens, an old-fashioned spot, possesses a certain dreamy attraction on its green shores above its bluffy rocks, but is unable to break the spell. The wonderfully beautiful islands and shores of the Willamette at the delta, fail to betray the fact that white men have been here for nearly a century. They are marked with but slight traces of man, unless it be for the huts of wood cutters, or the barns of cattle raisers. The wide, open meadow lands lie uncultivated. The trees along the shore have been felled but here and there. The steep impending hills to the west rise in successive eminences and ridges, hardly betraying the stroke of an axe. Old, weather beaten houses on the shore, a few mossy orchards, sweeping green meadow lands, with cows wandering and grazing, make, up most of the picture. To be sure one sees occasional sections of the railroad line and the telegraph poles strung on invisible wires, but hardly a more pristine scene is to be met with in the world, than on the lower Willamette, and it gives scarcely an intimation of the presence of a city. One would .think Linnton or St. Johns the end of the way.
From the lower river Portland is scarcely imposing. It has not amplitude of front to give it perspective. It could never rival New York, as seen from its lower bay. It has not the amphitheatric presence of San Francisco, or even Tacoma, enabling the observer to take in the whole picture at one glance. Neither has it a magnificent sweep of water to introduce it, like Astoria, or the sense of infinity from contiguity to the sea. The hills, still ragged with a forest broken but not cleared, tower on the horizon, and form the emphatic portion of the prospect. On the east side, as one looks against the face of the rolling plain, giant stubs of dead trees belonging to the once imperial forest, rise irregularly from out of a ground work of picturesque brush and wild young fir trees that have sprung tip with the vigor of ancient times, but ignorant that they have fallen upon an age no longer benignant to their existence.
The general ensemble of the city as it slowly discloses itself from behind the bold shoulders of King's Heights, is still that of nature untamed, and seems almost to forbid the idea that a city of 50,000 inhabitants lies between the river and hills. Nature is here present upon such a preponderating scale that it may be well doubted whether the general idea of art, and the craft of man as the ruling sentiment will dominate for half a century yet. Even piling up buildings of many stories in height, and towers, and lining the rivers with masts, seems to be but as the sinking of a river into the ocean-art into nature-leaving the long circle of hills to smile or darken as the sky is bright or dim. On a fine clay the Heights are gay with greenery or the colored foliage of deciduous trees; and in the summer flush to pink, or pale to amber on their exposed fronts. But more habitually they affect heavier tints, assuming a dark blue or a sombre purple. A soft veil of haze, curtain like, frequently rests over the city, and lies in tenuous invisible folds on the prominences, gathering to more perceptible depths in the cliffs and ravines. The rich verdure, the stately trees that will always grow, and the tinted atmosphere, will ever give Portland a peculiar tone and coloring of her own-not ruddy or blazing like some tropical or Rocky Mountain city, but rich, warm and entrancing.
Wreaths of smoke from a multitude of stacks, here and there jets of white steam from almost every building on the water front; masts of ships, bustling steamers and the iron bridge, looking in the distance like the work of genii, at length arouse one from the powerful spell of nature, and assure him that he has reached the place. Two great buildings at Albina demand first attention, and show upon what a great scale the city is now working. These are the Portland Flour Mills and the Pacific Coast Elevator. The flour mills occupy two immense buildings of seven stories in height, and turn out a product that not only feeds our own people, but goes the world over. Trains of cars run immediately to their walls. They are the property of W. S. Ladd & Co.
The Elevator is a new enterprise, and a building has been erected this summer at a cost of about $1,000,000. It was established by a capitalist of Minneapolis, F. H. Peavey, who is the principal owner. Mr. E. C. Michner is the resident partner and general manager. Mr. D. P. Brush is superintendent. All of these gentlemen are thoroughly acquainted with the methods of handling wheat by elevator, and their enterprise undoubtedly marks a new era in the method of shipping cereals. The elevator is an enormous structure, built upon deep water of the river on a foundation of piling, which, however, is being filled in with earth at a cost of $20,000. It is 375 feet in length over all by 70 feet in width, with a height of 150 feet to the peak. It has a capacity of 1,000,000 bushels, being fully up to the eastern elevators in all dimensions. By its eight shippers, or sixteen elevators, eight cars may be unloaded at once, in about fifteen minutes time; and two ships may be likewise loaded. It is furnished with eight separators and cleaners, with a capacity of 3,000 bushels each per hour. There are also sixteen scales of a capacity of 60,000 pounds each. It is in every respect furnished with the latest appliances, such as steam shovels, and is adapted to handling in bulk or in sacks. The entire building is lit by 178 incandescent electric lights operated by an engine and dynamos on the ground; and is protected from fire by Worthington pumps.
Albina itself strikes one with the general weight and importance of its operations. It lies-so far as the business portion is concerned -upon a low tract of land about the level of high water, but twenty-five feet above the low stage. It is most admirably adapted to railroad work, and is the terminal of the O. R. & N. line. Here is seen upon the plat a labyrinth of tracks, long trains of cars, the immense brick round-house with twenty-two stalls; the car shops of brick, the largest more than 400 feet in length, and 60 feet to the peak, with arched doors and roofs furnished with windows for admission of light. A brick chimney of 156 feet in height, an engine of 500 horse power, and two other shops of large dimensions, afford means of repair and of manufacture.
Almost the whole river front of Albina is occupied by wharf buildings as much as 200 feet deep, with arching roofs as much as fifty feet above the water. They rest on piling set systematically and of selected smooth, uniform logs. The business part of the town, aside from its great works, is of rather mean appearance, of cheap temporary structures, small sized and of inferior architecture. The residence portion is built well back on the face of the bluff or on the plain beyond, and has attractive school houses and churches and many pretty cottages. On the river bank is the saw mill of John Parker & Co., with a capacity of about 30,000 feet per day.
On the lower part of the city opposite, on the west side of the river, one notices the bone yard of the O. R. & N. Co., where old skeletons of mighty ships-or shallow river crafts-lie white and dry on the embankment. Scant trees, usually shaking in the river breezes, of such deciduous growth as balm or oak, lend grace to an eerie looking shore. There are various river crafts tied up or moored along, or hauled up on the sand, some of which are occupied by families whose cook stove smokes ever curl and blow, and whose red and white garments washed and hung out to dry, ever flap in the breezes. Weidler's great saw mill, a mammoth, whose dust and shavings gild the shore for many a rod, whose corpulent logs float idly in the boom, awaiting the time of their dissolution, and whose tall chimney smokes silently, and whose engines still puff white steam, also draws a long gaze. It is next up the river from the " bone yard" or place where steamboats out of service are moored and as an establishment, ranks as one of the old standbys. Other lumbering establishments, wharves, warehouses, ships, and such amphibious buildings, huddle farther up. All this lower city front for many a mile is raw and wholly utilitarian, not a shingle or pile ever having been set for beauty or symmetry. Nevertheless, there is an immense attraction about it, like the grim, unassuming comeliness of rocks; and if kept a little cleaner so as not to offend the senses by a variety of ill odors, would lure one to long vigils and reveries in its environs. Behind the river bank lie the lagoons, green with slack water and aquatic plants, earthy smelling, and crossed and recrossed by trestle roadways and railway tracks. A great work has been done in filling the upper end of Couch lake, making the ground look for a long distance as if it had been the battle ground of the Titans-indeed of the modern coal-smutted dump-car hands of Titanic energies.
From these somewhat uninviting parts, one passes westward up the long streets, meeting with an area of manufacturing establishments, and gradually finding himself in the midst of a middle class of cottages, mostly unpretentious, but comfortable and occasionally displaying signs of ambition. This passed, one is led rapidly on by the sight of grand and imposing residences in the distance, of costly strucure and splendid ornamentation. Many of these are set upon whole blocks, beautifully decorated with trees, turf and flowers, and supplied with tasteful drive-ways. One notable feature of Portland here first seen, is the elevated or terraced blocks, making the level of the lawn a number of feet above the streets, giving a somewhat regal aspect to the whole premises. Some of the more palatial of these edifices occupy double blocks, the cross streets not being run through. Among those of the spacious and magnificent West End are houses costing about $20,000 to $50, 000-some of them $90,000 each-of three and four stories, and mainly in the Queen Anne style. It is upon the swell of the plateau that these fine houses begin to appear, and the views from their upper windows and turrets are extensive. For ten blocks back-16th to 26th streets-or even further, and from about N street southward to Jefferson, or some twenty streets, the region is, by popular consent-and still more by prevailing prices-forever dedicated to dwellings of wealth and beauty. The streets here are, for the most part, well paved and delightfully ornamented, but not overshadowed by trees. The houses are projected and their accompanying grounds are laid out on such an ample scale, and there is so little crowding, the sun and sky have such complete access that one is much impressed with the general air of elegance and taste: There is, of course, none of the marble and stony grandeur of New York or Chicago, of the splendor of Euclid Ave., in Cleveland, or the lavish adornment of Jackson street in Oakland, California, or the pre-eminent extravagance of the palaces of the money kings of Nob Hill, in San Francisco; but for substantial comfort and tasteful display the west end of Portland has few rivals. It is, moreover, devoid of superfiness, or niceness, but is wholesome and neat. The general spirit of this portion of town might be distinguished from the streets or avenues of other cities, in that the separate houses appear to be built independently and with reference only to their own needs and entirety, while the others referred to are more often constructed as complete streets, each edifice being planned and laid out with reference to the rest, and as but a part in. one continuous whole. The characteristic of Portland in its residential quarters will probably prevail even when the city attains its largest population, since the irregularities of ground and peculiarities of situation will necessarily modify the architecture, and, to quite an extent, at least, make each dwelling a complete whole in itself.
On the environs of this region toward the north are two buildings very worthy of note. One of these is St. Vincent's Hospital, under the charge of the Sisters of Charity, among the cottages and shops toward the Lake; and the other the Good Samaritan Hospital, on 21st and 14 streets, much nearer than the other to the hills. The latter was established in 1875 under the Episcopal diocese, but chiefly by the labors of Bishop Morris. It, like St. Vincent's, has a substantial building three stories high, including basement and 75 feet wide, by a length nearly twice as great. Both St. Vincent's and the Good Samaritan make amends-to some extent at least-for the evil deeds of the men stealers and body destroyers that lurk along the North Shore. The Bishop Scott Military Academy on 14th and B streets, founded by the first Episcopal bishop of the Pacific Northwest, the medical college near by, the stately block of houses of Mrs. Judge Williams, and a multitude of handsome dwellings adorn the bulge of the plateau on the other hand. The steep hill to the west is rapidly being cleared of its logs and brush and fine houses are ascending its sides, and perching upon coigns of vantage and in sunny plats on their uneven slopes.
B street, running up from Couch's Addition, is the natural boundary of North Portland on the south, following for the most part the depression of Tanner Creek, and further on over to King's Creek. Between this and Jefferson street, some ten blocks, the land has, owing to the irregularities of the ground, and the little winding vale of the creek, been left lying in large, and often irregular blocks, some of which contain an area of as much as five acres. The lay of the tract is romantic and delightful in the extreme. The creek forms a sunken valley, with little meadows on either side, which have been, and to some extent are still occupied by the Chinese for garden purposes. Ash trees, weeping willows, and various wild shrubs have been suffered to grow, and the winding lines of this depression, cut by water, form a most grateful rest from the strict angularity of the streets as laid out by man. Upon the west side the hill climbs rapidly, but not abruptly out of the cleft, going steadily and confidently toward the Heights. On the way its looks back, figuratively speaking, somewhat lovingly, certainly very gracefully, and makes no such violent assent as the sterner hills to the northward and southward. It is no breathless climb, but an easy ambling gait. The big plats, grassy and set with small trees, lie wide, with but few houses, but those present large and stately. That of Mrs. Gaston on the first swell, and a cluster near form a handsome group. On the northern side of this hill front a tract of some five acres is occupied by the residence and grounds of Mrs. H. D, Green, the house, whose delightful architecture and adornment is almost submerged in a wealth of beautiful trees. Her large hot-houses, filled with the finest of exotics, are a mark for the sun and a gnomon to the whole city upon which they look down.