Friday, April 20, 2012

Got History?

Hawthorne & 50th (1936)
Aerial View of Portland (1936)
My fascination with history and place is no secret.  While i am intrigued with urban history in many forms, there's always a desire for a connection with the place you inhabit.  Typically this fascination comes via maps, which have been well documented, but the timeline of the past 150 years plus of Portland is worth a bit of investment.   For folks on the go, there's also an app that highlights historical site - prepared by the Architectural Heritage Center.  Also a new site, WhatWasThere, is a crowd-sourced version that allows folks to upload history photos of their places.

In addition, there are a number of other sources that augmented by a number of great resources that are provided by city and other historical society archives.  Each has some overlap but occupies a unique and often personal niche for the blogger and site owner - to scratch their particular history itch, and all make for some great information.

A veritable decoupage of historical imagery awaits at Portland History - a no-frills site that organizes images, postcards, and a few words - sorted into categories like streets, amusement parks,  A good shortcut is to go the site map, which gives some links to the categories - but just randomly moving around the site isn't a bad idea either.

Council Crest, the Dreamland of Portland, Oregon

Lost Oregon is a great example of an engaging history tour, albeit typically focused on architecture and riddled with some really bad theme ideas like this one.  The site is simple and delves into some more details about some of the areas, buildings, and locations - which augments what is somewhat visually based on other sites.

A spinoff of Lost Oregon writer is PDX: Then/Now which juxtaposes historic and current photos of buildings and places.  Some show destruction or evolution, and some, such as the Union Bank Building in Downtown, are eerily similar over 40 years later.

Vintage Portland is another site 'exploring portland's past', through "...photographs, postcards, illustrations, advertisements, etc. ... It’s not a history lesson, it’s not an architectural critique. It’s a forum for displaying photos of the city’s past, to show how we lived, what we’ve lost (for good or bad) through progress and just to enjoy some wonderful camera work."

I particularly appreciate the 'mystery' posts - which show a building, corner, streetscape - with a question to help find where the site is.  Sometimes it's to fill in a missing link to an archival photo, but other times it becomes more of a game.  The context over time is fascinating evolution - and really highlights the impermanence/permanence of the urban realm.  This shot of MLK @ Ainsworth from the north - replace Texaco with Starbucks (old fuel/new fuel?) and Gilmore with Popeyes (old grease/new grease?).

Cafe Unknown is a new one for me, but author Dan Haneckow pulls you in with compelling history (more text than other sites) along with some good images.  A recent post on Mark Twain in Portland is a good read, and some of the trivial pursuits are great - like Will- vs. Wall- for our fair river (which subsequently ended up 'Willamette') are nuggets of pure gold.  Haneckow is a true historical writer - with the requisite head shots of historical figures quoted... along with some really solid writing and research.  These walking tour images were pretty interesting finds - along with the story of a missing sculpture found.  This stuff is priceless - and firmly about our place.

Check all of these resources out - It is true - you will be sucked in for a few hours/days/weeks - and might come out forever changed.   I feel like a landscape or at least urbanism oriented history site wouldn't be a bad endeavor - if someone is inclined to collaborate - look me up.  But the caveat on these sites, and historical maps, photos, and primary materials - it's addictive.  Don't say i didn't warn you.


  1. Solid list. Thanks for the shout out to Lost Oregon and Then/Now. Personally, for me, doing each has veered off of being mere history blogs, and more about place - and how it's changed through the decades. Having seen many of the buildings in photos only (usually in a postcard or historical photo) then finally seeing one in person makes for a powerful connection. Or even seeing a beloved building from a different angle during lunchtime walks. Landscape-oriented history site? Go for it, Jason.

  2. excellent article and very good story .. I certainly liked the photos.

  3. Super... I can't get enough of 'then and now' pics and maps. I have spent hours pouring over Cape Towns (South Africa) growth over the last 200 years. Cape town is a bit unique in that major developement is underway with social housing as well so the landscape has changed a lot even in the last 15 years.

  4. go this very good story and the photos are beautifull ... very good article indeed.

  5. Amazing, I love reading and watching the pictures shown in your post.
    The architecture and design are our passion and we enjoy to communicate and show our work those who have this passion in common.
    For us is great pleasure enjoy your blog.
    Thanks for this great post!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.