Montavilla’s history beneath our feet


I’m sure some of you have noticed while walking around Montavilla that here and there you come across names and dates stamped into the concrete sidewalks.

These, in fact, are important clues to the early 20th Century development of our neighborhood.

So how do you find these clues and how do you interpret them?

Contractor’s Stamp, NW corner of NE 80th Ave & NE Oregon St
Photo credit: Thomas Tilton

If you look at the photo above, you can just make out a name, Bechell Bros., and a date, 1911. These indicate the name of the sidewalk contractor and when the sidewalk was poured.

Contractor stamps usually occur at intersection corners— this one is at the NW corner of NE 80th Avenue and NE Oregon Street. Less often you can find them somewhere between the intersections.

The coming of the first concrete sidewalks must have been such a blessing. Before that you could expect to dirty your skirts or trousers with dust in the summer and mud during our long rainy season.

In 1902, we find mail carrier Mr. Jensma complaining of wading through mud so deep it went right over the tops of his gum boots. He must have appreciated how some people installed wood plank sidewalks. Unfortunately these were prone to deterioration and needed frequent repaired.

In 1902, when Mr. Jensma was still wading through mud on his delivery route, the City of Portland— which Montavilla was not yet part of–planned to lay about 50 miles of cement sidewalks. But Montavilla, where many considered concrete too expensive, was behind in this respect.

As late as 1906, Hibbard Street (now 80th Avenue) was being “improved” with wooden sidewalks.

As for concrete ones, the earliest date I’ve come across so far in my Montavilla rambles is 1908. Perhaps some of you will find something earlier. If so, please add a comment below.

Meanwhile, I hope you all will have a good time learning to read the history of Montavilla’s as you stroll around our sidewalks. Maybe take the kids on a sidewalk treasure hunt?

editor’s note: Reader Kate McCarter added the following photograph and comment on social media. Thanks Kate, we love the feedback and help telling these stories!

“Before sidewalks and pavement came to Montavilla. This was taken from 82nd looking west up Hawthorne circa 1919. Note the shrubs in the middle of the road!”

Historical story ideas? Questions about Montavilla’s past? Also share a love for neighborhood history? Reach out to Pat Sanders at


How Montavilla Got Its Own Fire Station


On April 30, 1913 there was a joyous celebration at the NE corner of E Burnside and NE 82nd Avenue, right where Cars to Go stands today. It was opening day of Fire Station No. 27, offering the fire protection which Montavillans had desperately sought for at least 11 years.

Despite a steadily growing population, and all-too frequent fires, it took community, persistent organizing, petition circulating and a devastating fire to finally make it happen.

The campaign for fire protection began before the people of Montavilla had voted to become part of the City of Portland in 1906. Before that election, Montavilla was just a suburb with no elected government, so it was up to private citizens and their organizations to help improve life in this section of Multnomah County.

As far as I can tell from articles appearing in the two main Portland dailies, The Oregon Daily Journal and The Oregonian, the effort to bring much-needed fire protection to Montavilla began in 1902. Although this suburb was growing rapidly in the opening years of the 20 th century, it did not have a volunteer fire brigade such as other Portland-area neighborhoods did.

So in 1902 the Montavilla Board of Trade, began to push for the formation of a volunteer fire company. After Montavilla became part of Portland in 1906, its citizens turned to the City for fire protection.

In 1908, the Montavilla Improvement Board joined the nearby Mt. Tabor and Center neighborhoods to petition the Mayor and City Council to provide fire protection. No luck.

In 1909, the Montavilla Board of Trade petitioned again, this time asking only for 1,000 feet of fire hose and a hose cart. But again, no luck.

Montavilla’s need became even more apparent on the morning of July 4, 1910. That day a huge fire destroyed an entire block of Montavilla’s main commercial district. The fire was started by a defective gasoline stove and spread rapidly, destroying 15 businesses as well as the attached residences on Base Line Road (now Stark) between SE 79th and SE 80th Avenues.

Citizens were able, with only garden hoses and bucket brigades, to stop the fire from spreading elsewhere. But by the time two fire engines arrived,
the block was almost entirely in ruins and $35,000 damage had been done.
Fortunately no one was seriously injured and most of the buildings as well as the goods inside them were insured. Business owners, undaunted, soon announced plans to rebuild, but this time most would choose inflammable materials, concrete and brick.

Clearly, however, it was time Montavilla had its own fire station. And immediately Dr. William DeVeny, one of Montavilla’s most energetic citizens, who looked and dressed like Buffalo Bill— we’ll see more of
him in future articles— sprang into action. It was petition-time again. Yet once more the City dragged its feet.

Another petition was circulated in 1911 and presented to the new City administration in July. By the following year a Montavilla Station had been approved. Now the project moved steadily forward.

By June, 1912, Portland Fire Battalion Chief Lee Grey Holden had drawn up the plans for a fire-proof station appropriate for both horse and motor powered engines. Construction was underway by August. On opening day, eight months later, citizens were invited to inspect the modern building, listen to the firemen’s band and hear short talks by Mayor Allen G. Rushlight and the intrepid Dr. DeVeny, among others.

The photo of Fire Station No. 27 featured in the “Montavilla Memories” masthead shows a hose cart drawn by two horses. The City, however, wanted modern equipment for its expanding fire department. The plan was to replace horses with motorized trucks— five times faster than horse— as soon as possible.

Portland was determined to have a superior fire-fighting force and the Morning Oregonian of April 30, 1913 in its full-page story on the fire department— the very day of the Montavilla fire house dedication— proclaimed that the City could boast of modern fire-fighting equipment superior to most other cities. “Even Chicago,” it said, “with its enormous [fire] department, cannot produce the equipment which can be assembled at a fire in Portland within a few minutes.”

Montavilla Fire Station No. 27 continued in service until 1953. Today Montavilla is served by fire station No. 27 located at SE 73rd and E. Burnside, between the old Montavilla and Mount Tabor Stations.

Please join me in this pursuit as a reader or as a contributor. You can send your ideas, memories, photos, scans of memorabilia or questions to me at:

Welcome to Village Portland

Welcome to Village Portland, neighborhood news & actions in East Portland.

We’re here to bridge the gap between news & civic participation… and to encourage folks get involved with their community and support their neighbors. There are a million voices fighting for your attention, but we want to help you connect with your village, your neighborhood… where your power to connect and make change is the strongest.

Sign up at the bottom of this page to get email notifications from Village Portland. We publish a weekly news and events multi-media post to keep up up to date on what’s happening in the neighborhood. You can also follow us on Facebook / Twitter.

Support us and help promote your business or organization to your neighbors by having us tell your story. You can also get involved and tell stories from your community through our multi-media citizen journalist training program. 

There are Village Portland sites for Montavilla, Lents, and Brentwood-Darlington:

Village Portland @ Montavilla

Village Portland @ Lents

Village Portland @ Brentwood-Darlington

Village Portland @ Richmond

We’re most excited about the Village Portland @ Montavilla site. It has the space for more in-depth stories, as well as a neighborhood directory where neighbors can find and learn the story of local businesses and organizations.

Explore your Village with DuckDuckGo, the search company that respects your privacy.


If you’re an organizer or writer interested in bringing a Village Portland to your neighborhood, contact Andrew Wilkins, Publisher / Editor:

Read more…

Volunteer opportunities in Opportunities to volunteer in Montavilla

A few weeks ago, a neighbor wanting to volunteer in their neighborhood made a post on Montavilla Neighborhood Community, a Facebook Group page, asking for input.

The response was incredible.

It’s easy to get caught up in all the tragedy and negativity spotlighted in the news, but there is so much good work being done in Montavilla and beyond that doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

I was encouraged to compile this list of volunteer opportunities by neighbor Amy Reaney, and since one of the goals of Village Portland is to encourage civic engagement, I thought it was a great idea.

Much of this list is based on that post, along with a few other groups I knew about. Please let met know if there are other groups you think should be included. There’s not rhyme or reason to the order of these organizations.

If you’re looking for a way to get involved in 2019, I hope you can find an organization that fits your skills and interest.

Rahab’s Sisters

“Rahab’s Sisters creates community through radical hospitality with those marginalized by poverty, houselessness, sex work, violence or substance use.”

Every Friday they offer a meal and supplies “to anyone who identifies as a woman, or whose gender identity makes them vulnerable.”

If you’d like to learn more about their work and or get involved, fill out their form here.

Join PDX

JOIN offers basic services to homeless people “in a welcoming, low barrier setting”. They need volunteers to commit to a weekly two-to-three-hour shift to help staff their day space. JOIN is open from 10 am to 3 pm Monday through Friday.

Portland Public Schools

To volunteer with PPS, you have to pass a background test, review the mandatory Child Abuse & Adult Sexual Misconduct Volunteer Training, and sign a confidentiality form. Then you can contact school leadership. Start here.

You can also work with an organization already working in schools. School leaders are also open to ideas for new programs. For example, my plan to develop a media education / journalism training was well received.

Oregon Parent Teacher Association

Composed of parents, teachers, and staff, the purpose of this organization is to “serve the needs and desires of its members in promoting the health, welfare, safety and education of children and youth”.

Get involved here.

Multnomah County Library

Every library hosts events and ways to get involved in the community.

You can serve by helping both youth and adults improve their reading skills, neighbors to improve their English skills, as well as shelving and checking in materials, assisting in computer labs and helping with outreach.

Here‘s a list of current opportunities.

Montavilla Emergency Warming Shelter

During winter’s coldest days, Portland simply doesn’t have the shelter capacity for all of the folks living outside. Hosted at Saints Peter and Paul Episcopal Church (SE Ash & 82nd), this volunteer-run shelter is an amazing neighborhood effort.

Montavilla Neighborhood Association

The MNA meets monthly, and with presentations on everything from grassroots initiatives to development projects, it is a great way to stay in touch with what’s happening in the neighborhood. The organization also hosts community events and weighs in on City policy on behalf of its members.

Neighbors can volunteer by sitting on board or on a committee, helping out with current initiatives, or proposing projects of their own. Watch this video for the highlights of MNA’s achievements from last year.

Montavilla Initiative

This organization advocates for a safer and more livable neighborhood.

Read about controversy surrounding the organization and members ‘responses to criticism here.

Montavilla East Tabor Business Association

The goal of this organization is to create a strong local community by hosting local events for entertainment and networking, promoting local businesses, and recruiting new businesses to fill gaps in needed goods and services in the area.

METBA is run by a volunteer board and is comprised of about 100 businesses. Visit their website for more information on their events and how to get involved.

Montavilla Food Coop

The board and members of the Montavilla Food Co-op are working to bring a member-run grocery store to the neighborhood. There are several ways to participate, and, specifically, they need help with social media, volunteer coordination, and community outreach. Learn more and fill out a survey here get involved.

Friends of Mt. Tabor

Mt. Tabor is a wonderfully unique park, with multiple opportunities for service. Friends of Mt. Tabor organize the Mt. Tabor Weed Warriors to tackle invasive species, staffing of the visitors center, and conducting foot patrols of the park.

You can also become a member of the group, sponsor a bench, or partner with the organization.

Weed Warriors meet once monthly from April through September to “remove invasive plant species and restore native habitat to Mt. Tabor Park.” 

Volunteers at the visitors center greet guests, hand out maps, answer questions, and give out dog biscuits.

Friends of Mt. Tabor’s periodic foot patrols “observe park activity and conditions; record and report theft, vandalism, graffiti, and improperly secured facilities; manage lost and/or found items, provide first aid, assist lost or disoriented individuals, and pick up litter while on patrol.” An orientation is required before participation.

PDX Soapbox Car Derby

One day every summer, Mt. Tabor attracts dozens of DIY soap box cars builders for an annual race down the extinct volcano.

The event attracts thousands of visitors and hundreds of volunteers are need to make the event happen. The event also has a year-round board that meets monthly.

Learn more about the participants and community effort to make the derby happen in our video from 2018:

Mainspring Portland

Mainspring is a community food, clothing, and resources pantry located near 82nd Ave and Freemont St. They accept donations, and need volunteers to do a variety of tasks including: greeting participants, organizing donations, picking up supplies, determine the need of participants, and more.

Saints Peter and Paul Episcopal Church

This church is a great example of a community of believers using their time, energy, and meeting space to serve their community. They host multiple events and organizations including Rahab’s Sisters and Multnomah County Needle Exchange.

I imagine many of the churches in the area are doing good work and providing charity, and would love to know about their work as well.

Portland Animal Welfare Team

This organization provides free veterinary care to the pets of people who are homeless or living in extreme poverty.

Located near 82nd Ave and Halsey St, this organization needs volunteer veterinarians, as well as veterinarian assistants, and non-medical help.

Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon

APANO is a statewide, grassroots organization, “uniting Asians and Pacific Islanders to achieve social justice.” Fill out a form here to start the process of getting involved.

APANO’s projects include community organizing, supporting the arts and culture, leadership development, and small business development. The group has also been instrumental in the establishment and development of the Jade District.

Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization

IRCO has a long list of opportunities for volunteering including: photography, multiple tutoring positions, mentoring, and event organizing.

Habitat for Humanity / ReStore

With this organiation, you can volunteer by helping build housing for the less fortunate, helping in their offices, or taking a shift at a local Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

Located near Mall 205, the ReStore sells salvaged material from homes to fund their work. Start here.

Meals on Wheels People

This organization serves hot, nutritious meals at dozens of dining centers throughout the Portland area including a serving at East Portland Community Center (740 SE 106th Ave). Meals on Wheels delivers to home-bound seniors. 

Both services need volunteers to support their organization and deliver meals. Here’s an overview of their programs featuring an adorable father and son who volunteer together:

TriMet Ride Connection

Like their website says: Transportation is an essential human need.

Ride Connection volunteers helps folks get where they need to go. You can use your own vehicle to help or use one of theirs. Visit their website to learn how to get involved.

Montavilla Jazz Festival

Hosted in August, this two-day festival’s mission is to bolster the local jazz community. Organizers need help with their fundraiser as well as tabling at other events.

More details emerge on the new shelter planned for Foster Road

More details are coming to light about the new women and couples shelter planned for 6144 SE Foster Rd, including the fact that it’s planned to be a low barrier shelter. Since the beginning, neighbors involved have criticized the process around opening this shelter— and are still asking for more collaboration and clarity

The Foster Shelter Steering Committee meeting begins at about the @ 8:00 mark. Whether you’ve been following the issue or not, there’s several insightful comments on the Facebook livestream, and you can read the comments in realtime as you watch the video.

If you’re new to the issue, here’s a story from when the shelter was approved by the Multnomah County Commission in January, and a more recent piece from a meeting on the shelter in March.

I want to thank Gray Ayer for filming the meeting and allowing me to use it in this story. If you’re interested in getting involved in the planning process around the shelter, visit SouthEast Allied Communities web page.

To recap the last meeting, reviewed the program and building design.

@ 12:30 – April, from the Joint Office addressed questions from the last meeting:

In the last meeting, she said the committee wasn’t asked to vote on what population would be served, rather it was a “straw poll” or “check in”. The shelter would serve the most vulnerable homeless and those who “haven’t be able to engage in more traditional shelters”.

Said there wasn’t a budget for public safety, and that would be based on the good neighbor agreement.

@ 19:40 – April said it wouldn’t be humane to site shelter facilities far from neighborhoods they’ll have to integrate into eventually. If a person’s criminal history precludes them from being within a certain distance from a school, they wouldn’t be able to stay at the shelter.

@ ~25:40 – Willamette Center (a shelter similar to the one planned for Foster Rd) has a good neighbor agreement, but when pressed said that it wasn’t an actual written agreement. But it was clarified that a written agreement was offered, but not requested because things were going smoothly.

The neighbor who asked for a good neighbor agreement, bringing applause from many in attendance. He was told he’s get a good neighbor agreement.

@ 33:24 – A neighbor said that the current low barrier plan is at the different end of the spectrum from what Mayor Ted Wheeler said. His staffer said Wheeler didn’t understand the terms meant, but does now.

@ 50:32 – Officers from the Portland Police Bureau addresses public safety concerns around the 120-person shelter. The comments on the FB livestream are insightful during their presentation.

It’s good these meetings are happening, but this all exists within the context of a top-down process that didn’t include neighbors until the decision was already finalized. Early in the livestream, one neighbor criticized the steering committee modelpreferring to pursue a lawsuit against the City.

This isn’t an endorsement, but Loretta Smith, a candidate for next month’s City Council election, address the issue in the video below:

Portland City Council Candidates Debate

It was good to see candidates for two Portland City Council seats discuss the issues brought forward by East Portland neighbors. Also encouraging was how many volunteers from different neighborhoods stepped up to help put the event together.

The debate was put on by the Brentwood-Darlington Neighborhood Association, and organized by the organization’s president, Chelsea Powers. 

After introductions and thank yous, the debate began.


@ 3:15 – The candidates for City Council Position 2, (L to R: Julia DeGraw, [a surrogate for] Nick FishPhilip J. Wolfe, and Nicholas Sutton) made their introductions.

@ 9:50 – The candidates are asked about better representation for outer Portland, and if they would support changing the City Charter to create districts.

@ 14:55 – The candidates answered how they would include neighborhood associations and other community groups in City decisions.

@ 20:40 – The candidates were asked about livability issues, and more specifically, if they supported hiring more police officers.

@ 29:25 – The candidates were asked how they would balance the budget to support City services.

@ 36:15 – The candidates were asked about how they would pave streets in East Portland.

@ 41:50 – The candidates made their concluding statement.


@ 49:30 – The candidates for Portland City Council Position 3 (L to R: Stuart Emmons, Andrea Valderrama, Loretta Smith, Jo Ann Hardesty, and Felicia Williams) made their introductions.

@ 55:30 – The candidates are asked about better representation for outer Portland, and if they would support changing the City Charter to create districts.

@ 1:03:08 – The candidates answered how they would include neighborhood associations and other community groups in City decisions.

@ 1:11:54 – The candidates were asked about livability issues, and more specifically, if they supported hiring more police officers.

@ 1:22:15 – The candidates were asked how they would balance the budget to support City services.

@ 1:30:33 – The candidates were asked about how they would pave streets in East Portland.

@ 1:37:47 – The candidates made their concluding statement.


Election Day is May 15th. The last day to register to vote in this election is April 24th.







MNA – March meeting

The March Montavilla Neighborhood Association meeting welcomed candidates for a Portland City Council seat, a representative from Portland Community College adult GED certification program, and heard about a planned development.

@ 4:45 – Candidates for position #2 of the Portland City Council incumbent  Commissioner Nick Fish and organizer Julia DeGraw spoke on these four issues: homelessness & housing; livability & crime; police funding & accountability; and the role of neighborhood associations

The last day to register to vote in the May 15th Portland City Council election is April 21st.

@ 52:30 – Juliet Purcell, with Portland Community College spoke on its Adult Basic Education / GED program.


@ 59:10 – A representative of the 14-unit development planned for 90th Ave & SE Hoyt spoke. 


@ 1:11 – The MNA board members gave their reports.

@ 1:25:00 –  Lene Garrett called for volunteers to be advocates for the elderly through the Oregon Long-Term Care Ombudsman. For more information go here.