Community Features

The "Events and Activities" for the month are below these featured stories!

City View Park in Sellwood, Southeast Portland, Oregon
Here’s an illustration of Sellwood’s City View Race Track in its heyday. While spectators enjoyed horse races here, there were many other activities – baseball games and cricket matches, boxing, track and field events, and tug of war matches among them. By 1890, the City View Race Track was one of 314 tracks operating across the United States. (From the Jan. 1, 1880, West Shore Magazine)

Back when what’s now Sellwood Park was ‘City View Race Track’

Special to THE BEE

At the start of the 1880’s, Portland was showing early signs of becoming a law-abiding town. City leaders were attempting to limit gambling; and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union was rallying the public to try to place a ban on beer joints and drinking establishments. It was even strictly forbidden to enjoy shooting off a few rounds with a pistol in the streets! Young men were beginning to complain that there wasn’t much fun to be had in such a “civilized town”.

Even horse racing, which was nominally a pastime for the rich and successful, was discouraged – because it involved betting, and also, the races were usually held on Sundays when folks should be in church!

Horse racing was an exciting sport which drew large crowds, and plenty of money exchanged hands there. Because of the possibility of fixed races, and because of the illegal gambling that often went with it, Portland city officials deemed horse racing off limits in the downtown area. Racing would have to be carried out somewhere else – preferably, at a safe distance, over on the east side of the Willamette River.

One site to which such gambling, liquor consumption, and cavorting was diverted was the newly-built City View Race Track, just south of Portland on the east side of the Willamette – a mere three miles away by boat. Here, a large oval track was constructed along a clearing of huge Douglas firs, on a bluff overlooking the Willamette River. Yes: This place was what most of us now know today as Sellwood Park. Next to the track was a diamond, used extensively for either the English game of cricket, or the exciting new American sport then starting to draw national attention, baseball.

More than 50 horse stalls were made available for race horses which were transported to the track by boat for racing events. Captain George Flavel was credited with transporting some of those first racing equines to the City View Race Track in 1882. The track featured a covered grandstand for spectators, which also offered (as the name suggested) a view of the growing city of Portland for those who would turn towards the north.

For some of those who arrived for the races in Sellwood, being at the track was a time to dress up and show off elegant finery, and to catch up on the latest gossip. Those spectators chose not to actually partake of the dusty races and snorting horses, but came instead for a pleasant afternoon of boat-watching on the Willamette River, while sipping tea. 

A dancing pavilion, picnic tables, a fine restaurant, and a resort for ladies were a few of the other amenities located at or near the City View Race Track. A barn in which were stored grounds-keeping equipment was also nearby. Decorative tents surrounded the grandstand on both sides, where those arriving could buy tickets, and make wagers on their favorite horse. The terrace out in front of the grandstand was an ideal place for early spectators to get a close look at the horses and jockeys – and also to cheer for the local firefighters in their pre-race tug-of war against the local mail carriers, or the railroad tough guys, or whoever else it might be.

However, Sellwood had yet to be established as a community! It would be another year before a townsite would be plotted just south of the race track – where families, churches, a school, and businesses would begin sprouting along the waterfront. In the meantime, until the clergy and their congregations settled in and began to propose changes, the City View Race Track was a sometimes-illicit place of entertainment – a safe distance from downtown Portland.

Although wagering on horse races was not always legal, America’s love of the racing of horses can be traced back as far back as George Washington, and the country’s Colonial days. But it wasn’t until the establishment of the Oregon State Fair at Oregon City in 1861 that horse racing became a sanctioned event in the Beaver State. Early residents brought their horses from various places in Oregon, Washington, California, and Montana to win bragging rights for having the fastest horse around. When the State Capitol was moved from Oregon City to Salem two years later, the annual horse races and the State Fair went with it.

In the years to follow, race tracks began appearing at county fairs and in many areas, including Hillsboro and Albany in Oregon, and Walla Walla in Washington – providing an opportunity for those who wanted to train race horses fulltime.

Farmers, agriculturalists, and occasionally wealthy merchants who dabbled in the hobby of raising horses, called themselves horse breeders. Bob Bybee, who considered himself a trainer, became successful operating racehorse stables at the farm of his brother, James Bybee, on Sauvie Island.

George Misner and Allen A. Unckless, who became expert horse trainers, provided their services at the City View Race Track, while property owner P.J. Martins (who gave his name to today’s Martins Street) owned an apple orchard near the Sellwood Bluffs, and also experimented as a horse breeder near the racetrack.

“Horse and wagon” was the dominant form of land transportation at that time, and making the trip from Portland to watch horse races in Salem by boat or carriage was a serious day-long undertaking. Serious racing fans preferred a venue closer to home, so riding the luxury steamboat from downtown Portland to the City View Park drew substantial crowds to Sellwood. The Oregonian newspaper heralded the opening of the racing season in which over 600 people boarded the steamer “Salem”, which made five daily trips from the west side of the Willamette upstream to the City View Race Course in Sellwood.  

The races held at City View were usually of the trotting type, in which drivers and buggies competed against each other over distances from a quarter mile to a mile. Races were run all day; but the main event pitted three to five horses, with the winner being declared from among the best of five heats, with a thirty-minute rest period between races to cool off.

Trotting races could be exhilarating as well as dramatic – as when a superior horse and rider won the first two heats convincingly. In the following race, the previous winner might find itself being boxed out by the other contestants. Riders were also known to use their riding crop on opposing riders during a heated contest, or even to slap an opponent’s horse while attempting to pass! Spectators packed the grandstand seats – not just to track their wagers, but to witness what must have resembled the ancient Roman chariot races at times…with collisions, and with opponents purposely ramming the wheels of their competitors buggies.

Apparently, security and order were on the lax side; newspapers around the state seemed to ignore the illegal and unsportsmanlike conduct. At the City View Race Track in July of 1882, the Oregonian reported that a crowd gathered around the judges’ box, located near the track, where a contestant wanted to scratch his horse from the next race – but an unidentified attendee settled the matter by whipping out a pistol and demanding the heats continue with no withdrawals. In the next day’s newspaper, there wasn’t any mention of any culprits being arrested or weapons being seized.

Also, riders were then allowed to wager on their own horses in secret, which meant that they could control the speed of their animals based on the amount of money they might lose or win.

Some of Oregon’s first millionaires were breeders and owners of racehorses. Promoters realized that newspaper coverage was leading to people idolizing horses as sports heroes, and many spectators regularly filled the stands to cheer on their favorites. The cheap fares by boat to City View Park provided incentive to attend the daily races, since admission to the track was included in the transportation fee.

Not that the City View Race Track was the only track on the outskirts of Portland; other attractions, some of them rather questionable, included the Red House in Milwaukie, the White House Roadhouse and Race Track across the Willamette from the town of Milwaukie, and later the Irving Race Course in the Northeast section of Portland.

Riders, young and old, untrained in the sport of racing, challenged and raced each other along the macadamized country road (now Macadam Avenue!) leading from Portland south to the White House Race Track – which turned into a place where bets were won and lost, money and property exchanged hands, and fistfights (and sometimes lives) were lost over each contest.

Local folklore suggested that the White House Road House was full of drink, betting, women, racing, and any other devious activities that the idle mind could conceive of. Mary Goodall summed it up elegantly in a pamphlet she wrote entitled, “Oswego History: Oregon’s Iron Dream”. She said that the White House was a place, “Where Portland came for amusement, and where the daughters of neighboring landowners were not allowed to enter by their fathers’ stern commands!”  

Once payday arrived, men who worked at the Oregon Iron Company, in the town of Oswego just south of the White House, rushed to spend their money at the race track – according to Mark Browne, archivist and council board member at the Oswego Heritage House. With only about 90 people then living in the town of Oswego, the bulk of the spectators came from the metropolis of Portland, nearly six miles to the north, by horse and buggy.

Since racing was a seasonal sport, held mainly in the spring and fall, managers at the City View Race Track knew additional entertainment would have to be scheduled between racing events to meet the revenue needs of the facility. Joseph Buchtel, a steamboat man, a baseball organizer, and Oregon foot-race champion, became director of the baseball activities at City View.

In 1883 baseball was becoming quite an attraction for both players and fans from across the Northwest. A semi-pro baseball league was formed, comprised of teams from Portland – including the “Stars” and the “Willamettes”. Other baseball teams arose in Oregon City, Salem, Vancouver (Washington) – and as far away as in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Other events when ball games weren’t scheduled were wrestling matches, boxing matches, rifle shooting, soccer, cricket, and relay games. During the Fourth of July celebrations, the Portland Caledonian Games became a regular attraction at City View Park. Thousands of people packed the stadium to watch the three-legged race, the 100-yard dash for adults and children, the “stone put”, and a small version of pole-vaulting using a rigid stick.

The highlight of many such games at City View was a tug of war between the Sons of St. George, an English organization, and their chief rival – the Caledonians of Scottish Heritage. The match in 1883 was won by the sons of St. George, after a tug of war lasting fully one hour, thirty-four minutes, and forty-five seconds – and the progress of that tense and lengthy match was called out for the crowd by an announcer, who detailed gains and losses, inch by inch.

Balloon ascensions were quite a marvel on the West Coast in 1889, and it was during this time that over 3,000 people viewed a notable flight at City View. Ballooning was then a dangerous experiment, and many balloonists who considered themselves experts in air flight nonetheless took off from the safety of a river or lake that offered a soft landing if disaster occurred. This time, Professor P.H. Redmond was attempting to launch his balloon from a dock on Sellwood’s Spokane Street Ferry Landing.

Though he may have considered himself proficient at operating a balloon, his crew was not. His balloon helpers consisted of a few teenage boys who had just been hanging around the grounds, and were quick to offer their services in any capacity. Twelve-year-old Eddie Hall volunteered to man the ropes – but when the balloon began to rise, Eddie got stuck by his neck between the ropes and the basket.

While the young man evidently was not in danger of being choked to death, those who viewed the flight were not so sure. Eddie dangled precariously from the balloon for seven minutes until the professor could guide the craft down to safe a landing in City View Race Track. With burn marks on his neck, Eddie survived, and was able to regale listeners for years to come with the lurid details of his airborne ordeal. The Oregonian described the mishap as horrible: “Women fainted, children cried, and strong men turned their heads away.”

By 1890, the now-established new town of Sellwood was spawning a booming business district. People from the west side of the river were coming over to buy lots, build homes, and settle down just south of the race track. Lots were advertised at from $150 to $300 each, along Miller, Leo (now Lambert), Lexington, and Bidwell Streets, in the newly-developed “City View Park District” of Sellwood.

Sellwood Boulevard, then and now, had the only unobstructed views of downtown Portland. The east side streetcar arrived three years later – announcing with great fanfare its value as an alternative and faster way to reach the games at City View. Handbills were handed to race track attendees alerting them to saloons and bars hosting after-race parties near the intersection of 17th and S.E. Umatilla. For partygoers, or for those who wanted to continue celebrating long after the races were over, Mrs. Randall’s Hotel and Saloon at 11th and Umatilla, and the Sellwood Hotel on 17th Avenue, offered additional opportunities.

As the Twentieth Century began, the reign of horse racing near Portland was coming to an end. Horse racing at City View, along with the economy of rest of the country, had taken a serious blow in the financial panic of 1893. Attendance at races began a steady decline at that time, and winner purses at horseraces declined with it. The Irvington race course closed for two years, reopened in 1900, and then finally closed down permanently. Sellwood’s City View Race Track saw its last horse races just the year before. The last of the area’s grand race tracks was at the White House, across the river from Milwaukie – which burned to the ground in 1904.

In one last encore of sorts, in 1901 local newspapers reported on a “horse chase” sponsored by Portland Hunt Club, which started southbound along the dirt path of Grand Avenue in today’s Central East Side Industrial District, and finished at what they called “the old City View Race Track”.

It must have been quite a thrilling event, as the thundering of galloping horse hooves could be heard widely as they passed Midway School at Milwaukie Avenue and Ellis Street (today it’s a parking lot), and by the few houses in yet-to-be-named Westmoreland, as they rounded the bend at Bybee, and headed into the home stretch west down Sellwood Boulevard.

As the trotting races began to decline, a section of City View Park was placed on the real estate market – but, because of slow sales, very few lots were then sold or built upon. A resurgence of interest in the old race track occurred in 1903 when businessmen and promoters listed “City View Park” as one of seven possible Portland sites on which to hold the Lewis and Clark Exposition, which was to take place in 1905. West side organizers had more influence and persistence than the other competing groups, so Guilds Lake in Northwest Portland was the chosen site for the Expo. The Sellwood neighborhood was considered too far away for attendees to travel to by boat or by the streetcar.

But, residents of the Sellwood area did receive some benefit from the Lewis and Clark Expo – the streetcar company anticipated making much money during the Expo conveying visitors to attractions, and so they built an attraction in Sellwood to take the streetcar to. They called it “The Oaks Amusement Park”, and it opened in 1905. That later led to a new interurban rail service continuing south and east from Golf Junction, at the south end of 13th Avenue.

Oaks Park has certainly endured in a way its founders could not have imagined – it not only is still open and vibrant more than a century later, but although the Expo grounds at Guilds Lake are long gone, Sellwood’s “The Oaks” today stands alone as the longest continuously-operated amusement park in the entire United States of America!

Furthermore, justice and hard work prevailed when the Sellwood Board of Trade lobbied city officials to turn the old race track into a city park – and, in August of 1909, the City of Portland paid W.H. Morehouse $47,000 for fifteen and a half acres to be renamed “Sellwood Park”. Once completed the following year, the city’s first public swimming pool, which also featured curtained dressing booths, was built in the park.

Later, a 60 by 70-foot swimming pavilion that included rest rooms, a refreshment room, shower baths, locker rooms, and an assembly hall, was added. A gazebo was built in 1914 in the center of the park for the band concerts offered twice every summer. A baseball diamond was built to continue the tradition of baseball played there for the athletes of Sellwood School, and for the use of the semi-pro team started by the Eastside Lumber Mill. Currently, Sellwood Park is used for picnics, and offers a playground for young people, tennis courts, and two baseball diamonds.

On the first Sunday in August, the “Sundae in the Park” music and ice cream family afternoon gathering began in 1979 in Sellwood Park, sponsored by SMILE, the Sellwood and Westmoreland neighborhood association; it celebrated its 40th anniversary last August. However, whether it can continue this year will depend on how and at what cost Portland Parks and Recreation will make it available for the purpose – and, very importantly, whether local residents who would like to see it continue will actually step forward to help to make it happen. (If you would like to help, or just want to learn more, call Nancy Walsh at 971/570-2702.)

And, just last year, the July Monday evening “Concerts in the Park” series moved up from Sellwood Riverfront Park into Sellwood Park. What was once a meeting place for horse racing, tug of war, and track meets in City View Park, today – as Sellwood Park – continues to be a focal point for outdoor and family activities for the Inner Southeast Portland community.

Reed College, new dormitory, campus, Eastemoreland, Southeast Portland, Oregon
In designing Reed College’s new Trillium Residence Hall, the architects produced a building that is “in conversation with” the dominant Victorian brick style of the campus, where even new buildings look retro (see left background), and yet is very radically different. They did so by consulting everyone from art historians and students to treasurers and administration. (Photo by Lincoln Barbour)

Reed’s new dorm: Innovative, and an award-winner

The Portland Tribune


When architecture firm ZGF went to design the new residence hall on the Reed College campus, they faced two challenges.
One: Pretty much every other building at Reed is red brick – the Victorian look that quality colleges aspire to.

Second: They had to find out what kind of building the staff and students wanted, which meant asking a lot of people. As one freshman put it, “It’s Reed College. Everyone's got an opinion here.”

After ZGF won the bid with a design based on the pinwheel shape of the trillium flower, ZGF Design Partner Braulio Baptista led a series of meetings on campus. The result opened in last August, and now houses around 180 freshman students.

Walk around the building, and you'll see copper siding reflecting the faintest glimmer of winter sun, the students' strips of LEDs and their possessions visible through the floor-to-ceiling windows, as well as Yang 2020 posters, and paper snowflakes stuck to the glass.

Some of the architects’ key goals with Trillium Residence Hall were to provide a sense of a stress-free home to freshmen; to offer communal spaces for working, meeting, and cooking by having both a double-height atrium and hallways and study nooks; and to evoke the architectural heritage of Reed’s campus by using layers of brick, copper, and glass.

Flower-shaped structure
The building has three wings arranged like a pinwheel around a node of shared space. Each floor has open kitchens. These are designed to “create daily invitations for students to connect over a shared meal.”

Few people know the campus buildings better than Steve Yeadon, Reed College's Director of Facilities Operations. He says he was invited into meetings by ZGF from the beginning. “I’d say the process was different from working with most architects, but not difficult. It was enjoyable. There were more people involved.”

Art specialists on the panel included Stephanie Snyder, a former Reedie and Director of the Cooley Gallery on campus, and William Diebold, a professor of Art History and Humanities.

“That was an aesthetic perspective that we don't usually have,” comments Yeadon. “We tend to match the red brick used everywhere else. And this group of folks said, ‘Wow, it’d be really nice to do something completely different than anything we've ever done.’ So, we had to change our aesthetic palette,” he said, referring to the college’s Victorian look.

Common areas, collision points
He recalls that students were consulted mostly about amenities. (Since this was three years ago, and is a freshman dorm, they just wouldn’t be around as undergraduates to live there, so they were not direct beneficiaries.)

“They were interested in common space, and how it would provide not just sanctuaries to be alone and quiet, but places that cause interaction among the students.”

They wanted collision points: “Spaces where you walk through a room with half a dozen students hanging out, and you can easily enter that conversation. So, you're not thinking, ‘I don't really know any of those people, so I’m just going to walk around them and make my toast in the kitchen’.”

Inner Southeast’s renowned Reed College had 1,400 students in the 1960s, and has roughly the same number today. After Trillium, the ratio of students housed on campus rose from 60% to 70%. The new freshman dormitory building features copper, like many Reed buildings – but it is in large, expensive panels on the sides of the building. “People really like the copper,” Yeadon remarks. "I think, from a facilities person’s standpoint, copper’s really concerning. You run into problems with copper when it's accessible, and people come in contact with it. You ding a panel of copper or you scratch a panel of copper, and you're replacing the whole panel. If somebody does graffiti on a stucco wall, I can just paint over it.” But, fortunately for Yeadon, the panels are not very accessible to students.

Trillium may one day be abutted by more buildings. The college may build on the patch of grass to the north. Yeadon says they will probably keep a soft edge (a buffer of greenery) between college buildings and S.E. Steele Street, the way they have with Woodstock Boulevard.

It was a big project by Reed standards, and they felt the pinch of competing with all the other buildings now going up in the Metro area, and the scarcity of skilled labor. “Contractors were busy. Gravel’s hard to get around here. Concrete’s hard to get. The city is jammed up, and permitting is hard. It draws everybody’s projects out.”

A tight timeline
“You can’t just say, ‘We were going to move people in on August 15 – but you know, you students can just go stay in a Motel 6 until we're done...’ We really had a deadline, and those create some nail-biting moments in an area that is just so heavy in construction.” However, the project came in on time and on budget.

Stephanie Snyder, director of the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Gallery at Reed College, said she was impressed that ZGF “had representation from every single part of our faculty and administration, including the Treasurer, and sometimes the President and the Vice President. So, from my perspective, not having worked with another company like that before, the process seemed very transparent.”

In particular, she likes the big, multi-use classroom space on the bottom floor, which other dorms don’t have. Another goal was that the building should “let in light during the dreary winter months, and have real community spaces – where people could really congregate and study together. . . [A] dorm can feel like there's your room, and then there's a little bit outside it,” said Snyder. The new building met all the stated goals.

Last month, on February 4th, Reed College announced that Trillium has earned a LEED Platinum certification for sustainability and energy efficiency.

Tree planting, Friends of Trees, Reed neighborhood, Woodstock neighborhood, Southeast Portland, Oregon
On February 8th, the Friends of Trees winter planting day, this group of volunteers unloaded a street tree destined to grace S.E. Woodstock Boulevard. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Volunteers dig in for ‘Friends of Trees’ Inner Southeast winter planting


Dozens of trees for planting were placed in their ‘new homes’ across the Reed, Foster-Powell, Creston-Kenilworth, and Mt. Scott-Arleta neighborhoods, on Saturday morning, February 8, after volunteers staged for the project at the Mt. Scott Learning Center.

“Today, with the help of all of our volunteers, we are planting 170 trees along streets and in yards today,” explained Friends of Trees Neighborhood Tree Specialist Ian Bonham.

“We have 20 crews going out to different parts of the neighborhoods, including two ‘bicycle-only crews’ who will be traveling to their assigned planting sites riding their bikes, with the new trees in bike trailers,” Bonham told THE BEE.

Asked why thinks volunteers mange to get up early on a cold and drizzly Saturday morning just to get dirty, Bonham said, “We hear it’s because ‘it feels good to do something good for our neighborhood’.

“And because we have enough volunteers to make the work light, it’s fun, and everything’s accomplished before noon – and then the rest of the day is theirs to enjoy!

“You know, many people tell us this is also a great way to make new friends and meet people; although some volunteer return, from planting-to-planting, because they enjoy seeing their ‘planting friends’.”

Our conversation ended, and then – fueled with breakfast treats, hot cocoa, and coffee – the volunteers headed out to help the environment, and have “some good dirty fun”, by planting trees.

Va;entine's Night Market, Oaks Park, Sellwood, Southeast Portland, Oregon
At Oaks Park’s Valentine’s Night Market on February 14, we came across Chef Jacobsen Valentine shucking fresh oysters. He explained that he gives cooking classes to low-income families, through his nonprofit organization called “Feed the Mass”. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Oaks Park hosts a new ‘Valentine’s Night Market’


Many couples choose to have a dinner out on February 14 – Valentine’s Day.

But, this year, scores of folks, including families, came instead to historic Oaks Amusement Park’s Dance Pavilion, on that romantic evening, to attend a first-time-ever shopping bazaar called the “Valentine’s Night Market”.

“Night markets certainly are not new, but we decided to try out the new concept of hosting a Valentine’s Night Market here,” remarked Sami Sattva of “The Daydream Agency”. “Because our partner, ‘Events in the Northwest’, has a relationship with The Oaks, we thought we’d host it here!

“We are supporting local artists, creators, and vendors, by creating this ‘shop local’ venue,” Sattva told THE BEE. “We also wanted to have a family-friendly event where there is lots of free parking, and is free to enter – something a little bit more low-key. But there is also beer and wine here, fresh oysters, and a local caterer; and the vendors get to sell their art!”

Visitors mingled and browsed extensively among the 45 booths set up inside the historic Dance Pavilion building that evening.

“The best part is being able to bring people together in a place where they can gather, and disconnect from their phones and the Internet, and just enjoy a nice evening,” Sattva smiled.

Sellwo0d house, 1892 house, demolish, replace with apartments, Southeast Portland, Oregon
This small Queen Anne style home at S.E. 13th and Nehalem Street in Sellwood was built in 1892 as a family home. It will soon be replaced by a 19-unit multiplex, with commercial space on the ground level. (Photo by Eileen G. Fitzsimons)

Rare Nineteenth Century Sellwood house to be replaced by apartments


A Sellwood house, almost 130 years old, is scheduled for deconstruction to make room for a new apartment building. Known by its historic name as the Benjamin F. Smith House, this simple Queen Anne style dwelling – perched on its high brick foundation, on the southwest corner of S.E. 13th Avenue and Nehalem Street – is probably best known as “the Sock Dreams store”. It is across the street from the 1905 Grand Central Bakery building, which has just reopened after interior remodeling.

The Smith house was built in 1892 by Sellwood contractor Benjamin F. Smith, and it also served as his primary residence until his death in the early 1920’s. The house appears to be the oldest surviving house on Thirteenth Avenue north of Tacoma Street, but it won’t be surviving much longer – the 50x100 foot lot will be the site of a new 19-unit apartment building, with retail spaces facing 13th Avenue on the ground floor.

Even back when Sellwood was an independent incorporated town (1887-1892), 13th Avenue was becoming the commercial heart of Sellwood. This trend accelerated after the spring of 1893, when the Sellwood streetcar line opened. Perhaps Benjamin Smith was anticipating the arrival of this new and modern form of transportation, since the route was already being graded in 1892 – the year his house was completed. 

Once the streetcars began to travel the length of 13th, the avenue slowly changed from being one dotted with houses into a business district with newly-built commercial structures. In spite of the noise of the streetcar – and later, automobiles – this house remained a residence for almost 80 years, until it was converted for commercial purposes in the early 1970’s.

The house was the family home, and also the address of Smith’s contracting business.   After B.F. Smith’s death, the house remained under family ownership, probably through his son Benjamin F. Smith, Jr., who used it as a rental property. In the middle of the Great Depression, the basement was converted into a second rental unit, and the house was numbered both 8003 and 8005 S.E. 13th. 

In the following forty years, 1933 through 1970, there were many tenants in the structure – often single or widowed women, some of whom lived in the house for many years. Presumably they were tidy individuals who kept the house in good physical condition, as it has retained most of its exterior details and interior floorplan.

As a post-World War II desire to “modernize and improve” older buildings swept through the neighborhood, the house nonetheless kept its original windows, the glass becoming ever more wavy. The edges of the center window in the front bay are still ringed with multi-colored glass panes; the purple front door is appropriate to the architectural style of the period, and perhaps original. The small entry porch is embellished with ornamental millwork – often referred to as “gingerbread” – which extends to overlapping fish-scale patterned shingles in the two gable ends. The wide wood siding with deep channels also appears to be original.

Although he may have lived in the Sellwood area before 1885, it was in that year in which Benjamin F. Smith first appeared in a City Directory. He was a Sellwood resident, employed as a contractor, living at the northeast corner of Nehalem and 13th (in a house, later replaced, diagonally across 13th Street). 

He continued in the building trade until his death in the early 1920’s. From 1896 to 1899 he was also President of the Sellwood Lumber Manufacturing Company, a sawmill at the foot of Spokane Street that later became the East Side Lumber Company.   His partner was Jasper Young, whose grand 1895 house at S.E. 15th and Nehalem shares its double lot with an 80-foot-tall Heritage Copper Beech tree.

As Young’s business partner, and an experienced contractor, perhaps Smith was responsible for building his friend’s house with material from their sawmill. Smith’s business dealings were varied: Between 1889 and 1911 he was associated with boat builder Joseph Paquet, whose dock was at the foot of East Washington Street. In addition to steamboats, Paquet built sewer systems, bridges, roads, and railroads. This connection may have led to work for Smith – including setting the pilings for a sawmill/box factory at the foot of East Ankeny Street. 

Smith apparently was married, as he fathered at least one child – a son, named Benjamin F. Smith, Jr. Benjamin the Younger did not follow in his father’s career, becoming a draftsman for Portland Railway, Light, and Power Company. After that, he was a plan examiner for the city’s Bureau of Buildings. His father, Benjamin, Sr. may have been a widower by the time he built that house on Nehalem Street. It has less than 1,000 square feet of living space, which seems a small dwelling for a man so apparently successful and well connected, unless he was single. An 1895 crime report suggests that he was unconstrained by a wife or the small-town watchfulness of Sellwood – he was the victim of a pickpocket, a crime that occurred in a downtown Portland saloon on a Sunday night.

A major change occurred in Sellwood in the early 1970’s. Antique shops began moving into empty commercial spaces and into older homes on S.E. 13th.  From 1970 to 1978 the Smith house was “The Corner House Gift Shop”, operated by Harry Visse, who lived in Northeast Portland. In the early 1980’s, part of the shop – perhaps the former basement apartment – was shared with “Charlotte’s Workshop Art Studio”. It is not clear whether this was Charlotte Owen’s private studio, or if she offerd art lessons. Finally, in the mid-1980’s, “Country Collectibles” replaced the two earlier endeavors. Available records do not reveal how long this business continued, nor if there were other short-term tenants prior to Sock Dreams. 

There have been many changes to the streetscapes of the SMILE neighborhood since the Smith house was built. It began as a single family residence, became a rental property, and finally changed to commercial use. It is unfortunate that there are no nearby empty lots to which this small and historic house could be moved.

It is also a sign of the current appeal of the Sellwood-Westmoreland neighborhood, and the pressure for building space, that a 50x100 foot lot which sold in 1890 for a few hundred dollars was purchased this February for $930,000 – almost $258,000 over its listed market value.

Cleanup, Sellwood Community House, Sellwood, Southeast Portland, Oregon, Sellwood Community Center
We found volunteer Joan Planck pitching refuse into the dropbox outside Sellwood Community House on clean-up day. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Sellwood Community House gets ‘centennial spring cleaning’


Even though it wasn’t the most glamorous work associated with the community’s reopening of the former Sellwood Community Center, on Saturday, January 25, a couple dozen volunteers showed up at the newly-renamed Sellwood Community House to dig deep into the storied building’s basement and attic, ferreting out “100 years of stuff” – as event organizer, and SCH Program Manager Elizabeth Milner, put it

“It’s true; we’re here with about 25 volunteers who are cleaning out old junk from both the attic and the basement – and, in the process, finding some ‘treasures’ from long ago,” Milner told THE BEE

Some of the “really cool stuff” the volunteers found tucked away that day included antique metal toys and old books. “And, we found in ancient first aid kit that’s been here since the 1960s; it’s kind of fun to find these treasures.

“Stuff that’s totally unusable is being pitched into the big drop box outside; but many items someone might still want will most likely go into our big rummage sale, to be held on March 7.”

With that, Milner joined with other volunteers to lift and carry more “stuff” up from the century-old building’s basement.

Small Tall Ball, Llewellyn Elementary School, Westmoreland, Southeast Portland, Oregon, kids dance with parents
Sailor Singh, age 8, came to the Llewellyn “Small Tall Ball” with her uncle, Bradford Singh. (Photo by Rita A. Leonard)

Llewellyn School’s ‘Small-Tall Valentine Ball’ builds social skills


First dates can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. What better way to address the issue, for elementary school kids, than going with your own parent to Llewellyn School’s “Small-Tall Valentine Ball”, in Westmoreland.

Now in its sixth year, the February 7th gala offered the young students an opportunity to dress up, snack on Valentine treats, and enjoy music, balloons, and dancing in the gym.

Dance Coordinators Misha Cohen and Jessica Desrocher helped PTA volunteers set up the festive event with pink, white, and gold balloons. A paper “red carpet” led to the entrance. PTA Secretary Tracey Lawrence told THE BEE, “Proceeds from the entry fees and photo ops in the Cafetorium all help to finance overnight trips for our fourth and fifth graders.

“In addition, some of our students also made and sold ‘yarn corsages’ to help with class projects,” she continued. “One of our para-educators – Josh Fancher – acted as DJ in the gym, which was illuminated with flashing colored lights and the balloon entry arch.”

Besides admiring their school friends’ fancy shoes, ties, and “prom dresses”, the elementary school students chased free balloons around the gym’s dance floor. Visitors munched on snacks set up in the hall, donated by the PTA and parent volunteers. New Principal Pam Gwynn commented, “There are usually about 300 attendees at the dance. It looks like everyone's pretty excited to be here.”

Vestry member Bill Habel and Rector Andria Skornik show THE BEE the All Saints Episcopal Church sanctuary, which is to be the venue for a series of community music events organized by the Woodstock church beginning in April. (Photo by Becky Luening)

Woodstock church creates a new venue for events in the community


A representative from All Saints Episcopal Church Vestry, Bill Habel, attended the February monthly meeting of the Woodstock Neighborhood Association (WNA) to announce the start of something new at the Woodstock church – a non-religious neighborhood concert series, aimed at strengthening local community. The music program is just one aspect of a larger space-sharing project the church is developing, called “The Commons” – similar to “Tabor Space” at Mt. Tabor Presbyterian Church on S.E. Belmont Street.

In that vein, All Saints will be producing a series of low-cost, high-value neighborhood music events, to be scheduled primarily on Friday and Saturday nights, and accompanied by sales of food and beer and wine (to be consumed in the dining hall). Some shows will be held in the church sanctuary (which has good acoustics), and others outdoors – perhaps in the fenced yard space. As a nonprofit venture, admission prices will be kept low, with “no one turned away”. Many attendees of the WNA meeting agreed it was an appealing idea.

There is a Gandhi quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world”. One reason the church’s leaders, including Rector Andria Skornik, decided to organize a concert series is that they see music as a positive force that has the potential of breaking down barriers, whether generational or political.

They hope these concerts will bring together people of differing ages and backgrounds with a variety of viewpoints, and that once people get comfortable with each other socially, they might start talking to each other, and thus begin to narrow the gaps and heal the divisions perceived to exist in our society.

Though a number of details have yet to be worked out, the concert series is beginning to take shape, and the first show has already been scheduled – an evening Portland Chamber Music concert slated for Saturday, April 26. This show was arranged through the church’s connection with The Rev. Joshua Kingsley, an Episcopal Priest who serves as a Board Director for Portland Chamber Music, a nonprofit seeking to make chamber music accessible to all.

In the spirit of cooperation, the folks at All Saints have also connected with Stan Davis, a retired engineer who volunteers with the Portland Folk Music Society, which has been producing concerts at the Reedwood Friends Church on S.E. Steele, as well as with Bob Howard at Artichoke music, a nonprofit venue that hosts a great variety of music shows on Powell Boulevard. All are enthusiastic about collaborating, by sharing know-how and connecting All Saints with performers.

At least one Bluegrass group has expressed an interest in doing an outdoor show come summertime. And All Saints is lucky to be in close proximity to Woodstock Wine & Deli, Otto’s Sausage Kitchen, and other nearby businesses, where food and drink for the shows might be sourced.

All Saints Episcopal Church already supports local community through weekly homeless feeding and the sponsorship of a Free Dental mobile service. Recently a mobile portable shower and clothes-washing unit supplied by The Harbor of Hope was engaged to provide weekly opportunities for houseless folks to “clean up” and receive new clothing from the Mustard Seed shop at the church. In addition, the church currently rents space for school activities and parenting classes – as well as such nonprofits as Al-Anon, the Johnson Creek Watershed Council, and the Portland Bicycling Club.

Keep an eye on THE BEE for additional coverage of “The Commons” project as it develops. In the meantime, if you are involved in the music community, and would like more information about scheduling a performance at All Saints Episcopal Church, please call 503/777-3829; or send an e-mail –

Playwright, Wallace Books, Conor Eifler, Westmoreland, Soutjeast Portland, Oregon
An actor and playwright who went through Cleveland High is currently to be found behind the counter at Westmoreland’s Wallace Books. (Photo by Rita A. Leonard)

Southeast playwright immersed in a ‘World of Words’


Future celebrities may be found behind the counters of local stores. We found one such person at Wallace Books! Sellwood playwright Conor Eifler recently authored a play that was commissioned by the drama department of Wilson High School; the play was performed there on the last two weekends of February.

“That play, ‘You Cannot Undo This Action’, is a dark thriller about teens and technology,” Eifler explained to THE BEE. “It grew from current events in the field.” Eifler also works fulltime as a bookseller at Westmoreland’s Wallace Books.

Conor not only writes plays; he has also acted in them. “I’ve done some work with the Oregon Childrens’ Theater, Coho, and Action Adventures,” he remarked. “Currently, I’ve taken a break from acting to focus on writing. Usually my plays feature two to four characters; but the Wilson High School drama had twenty parts, which was quite a stretch!

“So far, I’ve written several full-length plays, and a smattering of short ones.” He paused, then added, “I always wanted to be a writer. It started with a third grade story about my basset hound, Arlo – and I kept writing through my years at Cleveland High School, the University of Portland, and the Actors Theater of Louisville, Kentucky.”

Ideas for his plays arise from diverse sources. “It could begin simply from a line of dialogue by a character, and then grow from that seed,” he explained.

His work environment also keeps him in contact with a wide variety of books and local readers, providing many more ideas for his active mind. His next new play is always in the back of his mind, and he welcomes more commissioned works.

Woodstock Elementary School, Lunar New Year celebration, Woodstock neighborhood, Southeast Portland, Oregon
Concluding a Chinese dance number were students in the Woodstock Elementary School’s “Mandarin Immersion Program” during this year’s Lunar New Year festival. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Woodstock Elementary School hosts Lunar New Year celebration


Woodstock Elementary School was alive with activity on Friday evening, February 7, as its annual “Woodstock Lunar New Year Festival” got underway.

“We host this festival because of our Mandarin [language] Immersion Program here,” explained Principal Seth Johnson.

About 60% of the students, out of a student body of 550, are in that Mandarin Immersion Program, Johnson said. “And, because of our Mandarin program, students from a number of cultures come to school here; so it’s great to have the opportunity to celebrate Lunar New Year with everyone here.”

However, the celebration isn’t limited to Mandarin language program students and their families, Johnson pointed out to THE BEE. “We get the word out that all the families in our school community are welcome, and that we want them to have the opportunity to enjoy this cultural experience.”

A “bouncy house” was set up for kids to play in, in the gym – as well as stations for making Lunar New Year crafts. In the cafetorium, students performed traditional songs and dance routines.

“We also have food – which is my favorite part; this year, it was sponsored by Pure Spice Restaurant,” Johnson grinned.

In all, smiles abounded, and everyone looked to be having a delightful evening at this charming celebration.

Woodstock Library, Lunar New Year Celebration, Woodstock neighborhood, Southeast Portland, Oregon
At the Woodstock Library, Ryan Khoo played violin while Woodstock Assistant Librarian Sean Khoo held a microphone for the song “Happy New Year” in Mandarin – performed by (from left) Honson Huang, Evan Khoo, Adelyn Nguyen, and Mathias Lam-Sullivan. Woodstock Librarian Toan Lam-Sullivan, right, held the other microphone. (Photo by Elizabeth Ussher Groff)

Woodstock Library ‘Lunar New Year’ celebrates Chinese traditions


Instead of a New Year’s celebration that only lasts just one evening and one day, the Chinese Lunar New Year lasts two weeks. And, in Portland, during each Lunar New Year, celebrations usually take place on different days during those two weeks – and, in all parts of the city.

Sunday, February 2nd, marked this year’s Woodstock Branch Library’s celebration of the Lunar New Year, highlighted by multigenerational performances. Children and elders sang in Mandarin; two young people performed the White Lotus Lion Dance to the rhythms of loud cymbals and a bass drum. Then there was a ten-minute demonstration by Tai Chi instructor Mr. Li; followed by refreshments of Hawaiian donuts and mandarin oranges laid out on a table. 

The twelve-year-old son of Chinese Librarian Assistant Sean Khoo played the violin to accompany four small children singing, as part of the Woodstock Library Storytime Singing Group. Chinese Regional Librarian Toan Lam-Sullivan’s six-year old son sang with the three other children.

The two youthful Lion Dancers practiced martial arts (which is required, under costume, for the Lion Dance); and the women “elder singers” had arrived from Kirkland Union Manor on S.E. Powell Boulevard at 84th Avenue. All these performances were well-attended by a diverse group of people.

Over the past seventeen years, as has been regularly reported upon by THE BEE, the Woodstock Library has had a Lunar New Year celebration almost every year.  In part, that’s because the library is the repository of a large collection of Chinese-language items that complement Woodstock Elementary School’s Mandarin Immersion Program. The Mandarin Program was begun in 1998 – it was one of the first in the United States.

This year, after these singing and dancing performances had ended, children made crafts celebrating the Year of the Rat. Everyone present was gifted a red and gold “Hóngbāo” envelope, with a chocolate coin inside.

“During the Lunar New Year, families will give out ‘Red-Envelopes’ to their children, nieces, and nephews, as a way of bringing good luck. They’re supposed to have real money inside – but, at the Library, we can only afford chocolate coins!” joked Toan Lam-Sullivan.

“Most importantly – we wanted to wish everyone a wonderful New Year, and lots of luck!”

Ann Bentley, Rising Star honor, Lewis & Clark College, Reed neighbor, Southeast Portland, Oregon
Anne Bentley (center), a Reed neighborhood resident and Lewis & Clark professor, is the only person in the U.S. this year at a small college to receive the Rising Star Award for research and teaching in chemistry. She is shown here with students Sara Worku (left), and Genie Rose (right). (Courtesy of Lewis & Clark College)

Reed neighborhood resident receives ‘Rising Star Award’


Our southeast neighborhoods are filled with talented people. Anne Bentley, a resident of the Reed neighborhood for twelve years, and a Lewis & Clark College chemistry professor, is one of them. 

In September of last year Bentley was selected for a “Rising Star Award” from the American Chemical Society. Each year the ACS recognizes up to ten women scientists in mid-career for outstanding contributions in their field.

The award includes a $1,000 stipend to cover travel expenses to the spring national meeting. In late March, Bentley will be using that money to travel to Philadelphia and receive the award at the Women Chemists Committee’s annual symposium, held at the ACS national meeting. Award recipients make presentations informing scientists about their research and teaching.

Bentley moved from Lafayette, Indiana, in 2007, to Portland to teach at Lewis & Clark.  One of four women chemistry professors at Lewis & Clark, she is an Associate Professor of Inorganic Chemistry, and also serves as Chair of the Chemistry Department.

Referring to the Rising Star Award, she says, “I applied for the award when the Lewis & Clark administration told me about it, and I learned that recipients had to be no more than fifteen years past receiving their PhD. This was the last year I could apply.”

The Rising Star Award is given to scientists who do an outstanding job of integrating research into teaching, mentoring students, and emphasizing overall leadership. 

Bentley is obviously passionate about chemistry education. “I especially like getting to know students well enough to be able to support them in whatever they are becoming excited about, and connecting them with people in those fields”, she tells THE BEE.

At Lewis & Clark she is also an advisor to a club for gender minorities in science, and has participated in Lewis & Clark’s annual gender studies symposium. “Lewis & Clark has a good, strong number of women majoring in science,” says Bentley. She reports that she enjoys getting together with Reed College and Lewis & Clark women who teach science and live in Southeast Portland.

Before going to graduate school, Bentley spent two years in the Peace Corps in Namibia (formerly South West Africa), teaching 11th and 12th grade science – including biology, and a chemistry/physics class.

Bentley grew up loving math, and took her first chemistry class in high school. “Chemistry was a way to apply and use math. I liked working in the lab. And, as a child, I did a lot of cooking and baking using math.“The three things that attracted me to chemistry were math, labwork, and color. 

Water-based solutions of small gold particles (nanoparticles) are dark red, and small silver particles in water are bright yellow.” Bentley’s research focuses on understanding the possible fate of these nanoparticles if they were to be released into the natural water supply.

The Rising Star Award is an honor not only for herself, and her chemistry department, but also for Lewis & Clark College. Bentley is the only person at a small college to be included in this year’s group of winners.

Southeast Events and Activities

NOTE: Events in this listing are subject to change, in this fast-moving coronavirus situation. You might want to confirm events with the organizers, before making the trip. These had NOT been reported to us as canceled, as of the time this issue of THE BEE went to press – but the libraries were reported as being closed, raising questions about their scheduled events.

St Philip Neri Church’s rummage sale today and tomorrow:
  The annual fundraising rummage sale at St. Neri Catholic Church will be today and tomorrow, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. both days. The sale is in the church’s Carvlin Hall, S.E. 16th and Division Street. “Kitchen items, books, home décor, and lots, lots more.”

Silent Auction to benefit Grout Elementary tonight: Grout Elementary School’s fourth annual auction takes place this evening, 6-9 p.m., at Oaks Amusement Park in Sellwood – in the Pavilion. It’s a 21+ event with food, drink, and lots of items on the “silent auction block”. The school’s playing field is a well-used destination, and this fundraiser will improve that outdoor recreational space. For more information, and to buy tickets, go online –

Palm Sunday service at Moreland Presbyterian:
At 9:30 am this morning, attend a celebratory service commemorating Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. All ages are invited to join in the procession of palms to begin the service. S.E. 18th at Bybee Boulevard.

“Ukulele Open Mic” at Artichoke Music: Nonprofit Artichoke Music, 2007 S.E. Powell Boulevard, offers a “Ukulele Open Mic” this afternoon, 2-4 p.m., “all levels welcome”. Hosted by Avery Hill, Director of “Song By Song”, participants represent a variety of ukulele communities around the Portland metro area. Individuals and small groups are invited to sign up by e-mail for a slot ahead of time – – or, on the spot that day, if there is still space. Tickets are $10 to attend – available at the door, or online –

Woodstock Community Church opens doors: Woodstock Community Church is a new church, and invites you to its services on today and every Sunday at 5 p.m. People of all ages and backgrounds are welcome. Currently meeting at 4937 S.E. Woodstock Boulevard, at the Chinese Presbyterian Church (diagonally across the street from the Woodstock Branch Library). For more information, go online –

Moreland Presbyterian “Maundy Thursday” dinner:
Moreland Presbyterian Church offers a “Meal-around-a-worship-experience” at 6 p.m. This gathering is family-oriented dinner and service in the Fellowship Hall. S.E. Bybee Boulevard at 18th.

Good Friday observance at Moreland Presbyterian Church:
At 6 p.m. this evening everyone is welcome for a ‘Taizé meditation on “Love Crucified’” in the Sanctuary. “Taizé is a reflective, peaceful experience by candlelight, centered on simple, contemplative sung prayers balanced with scripture readings and extended silence. This service is ideal for people from any religious tradition.” S.E. Bybee Boulevard at 18th.

Moreland Presbyterian Easter Sunday Services:
For Easter Sunday, we are offering two worship celebrations of “Love Resurrected” in our Sanctuary, at 8:30 am & 10:30 am. Both services will feature special music from the Chancel Choir, Bells, and an Intergenerational Easter Choir, as well as brass & percussion. Coffee & refreshments will be served between services in our Fellowship Hall. “Come as you are…all are welcome”.

“Pageturners” for adults, at Woodstock Library this evening:
Read “The Gifts We Keep” by Katie Grindeland; then come to the Woodstock Branch Library at 6:30 p.m. tonight for an hour and a quarter of stimulating conversation about books, exchanging perspectives about characters and plot, and getting to know your neighbors. Pageturners is free, sponsored by Friends of the Library. The Woodstock Library is on S.E. 49th at Woodstock Boulevard.

“Laundry Love” for those in need:
Today Woodstock Community Church and Woodstock Laundry are partnering together to provide a “Laundry Love” service. From 9 to 11 a.m. they are offering two free loads of laundry for low and no-income individuals and families. For more about “Laundry Love” go online –

African Storytelling for kids and families, in Sellwood:
Come to the Sellwood Branch Library at 11 a.m. today to hear stories meant to inspire, entertain and provoke; Habiba, a native of Ghana, will share stories about African history. He offers an interactive, multicultural performance, with authentic West African costume – spiced with singing and movement. These stories help us explore our own world, as well as those far, far away. Free, but since space is limited, come a bit early to be sure of a seat. The Sellwood Library is on the corner of S.E. 13th Avenue and Bidwell Street. The performance lasts 45 minutes.

Twirly Whirly Extravaganza for kids and families, in Woodstock: Create your own simple toy with wire, beads, and found objects. Watch the beads shimmer and dance as you move your toy in your hands. Gain experience with needle-nose pliers, wire cutters, hammers, and anvils, to create your one-of-a-kind toy. Free. 2 to 4 p.m. this afternoon at the Woodstock Branch Library, S.E. Woodstock Boulevard at 49th.

Bug Out! Drawing and Painting Insects, for Adults: This afternoon at 2, in the Sellwood Branch Library, you will investigate and observe natural insect specimens to create detailed nature-based artworks, working with pencil, pen, watercolor, and ink. This 1-1/2 hour program encourages your observational skills and critical thinking, and informs you on natural sciences. It is adaptable to any skill level. It’s free, but registration is required; register in the library, or by calling 503/988-5123. The Sellwood Library is on the corner of S.E. Bidwell Street and 13th Avenue.

Learn about “Mary Anning, Fossil Hunter”, 6 p.m., Sellwood Library: Born in England in 1799, Mary Anning became a fossil hunter in her youth, discovering several important fossils off the cliffs of her native Dorset which would change the course of paleontology, and would lay the foundation for Darwin's Theory of Evolution. This talk was made possible by The National Endowment for the Humanities Fund of The Library Foundation. Free, but space is limited, so come early to be sure of a seat. Lasts an hour and a half at 6 this evening at the Sellwood Library, S.E. 13th at Bidwell.

Benefit rummage sale on S.E. Steele:
“Shop for a cause” at Brooklyn’s Cooperative Preschool’s annual rummage sale, both today and tomorrow, 9 to 3 both days, in the Reedwood Friends Church basement, 2901 S.E. Steele Street, just north of the Reed College campus. Books, household items, tools, clothes and shoes, furniture, baby gear, toys, and more. Proceeds benefit Brooklyn Cooperative Preschool, a 503c3 nonprofit – and donations to the sale are tax deductible. For more information, e-mail –

Free “Ladies Night Out” in Woodstock:
This evening from 6 to 9 p.m., Woodstock Community Church invites all women to a free Ladies’ Night Out. Dinner is provided. “We will enjoy a group canvas painting project, hear personal stories of fellow Christian women, and worship together through music.” RSVP online – – to provide a headcount for food, and to allow needed dietary accommodations.


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