This weekend

Hello everyone! It’s Andrew here, I just wanted to say hello and update you on what Village Portland has been up to.

We’ve added new neighborhoods, partnerships, and reporters— and we are stoked about some new moves in the works.

Cory Elia (Reflection: conducting the survey for the Portland Street Response) and Lesley McLam have been doing some awesome work around homelessness and homeless organizing, and are focusing in on more focused reporting on the areas of PSU and St Johns, respectively.

McLam has been reporting on Jason Barns Landing, a managed camp in North Portland that’s taking what I see as a civil disobedience approach to their camp. And their answering the question: what happens when homeless folk tire of being moved— tired of having their community scattered— keep coming back to the same place?

Both Elia and McLam are volunteers at community radio station KBOO, and use their equipment to publish a podcast called Tripp-p. Like KBOO, Open Signal, is a resource for community media creators that we’ve been collaborating with.

Another media non-profit that trains homeless youth in video storytelling we’re collaborating with, Outside the Frame, also uses Open Signal equipment.

Here’s the third episode of Village Portland Presents, a five-episode series we produced for Open Signal earlier this year. It’s a compilation of video stories, themed around community organizing and culture.

It’s been great to meet other organizations and folks passionate about independent media, and offering more folks a chance to tell their stories.



Music Fridays in Montavilla:

“2017 Cascade Blues Association Muddy Award recipient Steve Kerin is a true student of the New Orleans style–his playing complex and dense, but also joyous and danceable. And his warm singing voice is suffused with an authentic New Orleans growl. He’s the real Louisiana deal, and the Northwest is richer for it.”

Vino Veritas Wine Bar and Bottle Shop, 7835 SE Stark St * 7 pm – 10 pm * free


Montavilla cleanup:

Montavilla Church, 9204 SE Hawthorne Blvd * 9 am – 3 pm

Jim Pepper Native Arts Festival (website):

“Celebrate the legacy of Jim Pepper with Native musicians, singers and dancers, The Gary Ogan Band, the Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble and the Flying Eagle Band.

Parkrose High School 12003 NE Shaver St * 11 am – 9 pm * free

2019 Farm to table dinner & fundraiser (event):

“Join us for our Farm to Table, our signature annual event at Zenger Farm’s Urban Grange! The evening will include a live auction, dinner, and celebration of the thousands of children and families in the Zenger Farm community.”

Zenger Farms, 11741 SE Foster Rd * 5 pm * $200, tickets here


Farmers market:

Visit the farm’s website here.

Montavilla Farmers Market, 7700 block of SE Stark St * 10 am – 2 pm


What are those old Buildings?


I love the old buildings of Montavilla. I think they give character to our neighborhood and a sense of continuity. Mostly these are old houses and small businesses, but a few stand out as something more substantial, something more communal.

I can’t help feeling curious about how they got here, how they began their lives. I’d like to share a bit of what I’ve found out about some of Montavilla’s larger old buildings, ones I’m sure many of you pass nearly every day in your travels and have perhaps wondered about them as much as I have.

The Altenheim
Now Administration Hall, Portland Community College Southeast Center
7901 SE Division St
Built from 1911 – 1912

The Altenheim – Photo by Patricia Sanders

Two of Montavilla’s large historic buildings were created as retirement homes for Portland’s substantial German population: the Altenheim (meaning “old people’s home”), shown above, and the German Baptist Old People’s Home (see below). That German Portlanders built two retirement facilities is not surprising given how many Germans migrated to the United States in the second half of the 19th Century. Of those who settled in Portland, many resided in what is now the southeast part of the city. A large group lived in what is now Montavilla at the time of the 1900 US Census. Then German families comprised Montavilla’s largest immigrant constituency, 32 households compared, for example, to 19 households of Danish, Norwegian and Swedish immigrants combined.

The Altenheim has an interesting connection to one particularly well-known German American, Portland’s brewer Henry Weinhard (1830-1904). He was not only a well-respected and successful businessman, but also a founding member of the General German Aid Society in 1871. Not surprisingly, his widow Louise bought and later donated to this organization a 20-acre tract of farmland specifically as a site for a German retirement home. Construction on the Colonial Revival-style building began in 1911 and it was dedicated on May 29, 1912.

The Altenheim continued as a retirement home for Portland Germans until 2003. Two years later the German American Society (formerly the General German Aid society) began using it for meetings, events, and German language courses. The Society sold the property to PCC Southeast Center in 2010 and relocated to the former Rose City Masonic Lodge at NE 57th Avenue and Sandy Boulevard.


German Baptist Old People’s Home
Now Milepost 5 Studios
850 NE 82nd Ave
Built from 1928 – 1950

German Baptist Old People’s Home, Oregon Street Entrance – Photo by Patricia Sanders

The German Baptists of Portland were already thinking about a retirement home in 1912, but World War I delayed the project, so it was not until 1920 when the First German Baptist Church bought a large tract of land at the corner of NE 82nd Avenue and Oregon Street. The property came with a house, which was converted into a 25-person retirement home. It opened in 1922, with the distinction of being the third retirement home specifically for German Baptists in the US.

This house is not, of course, the Colonial Revival building we know today. As needs grew, the German Baptist Old People’s Home Society built the large brick complex in four stages between 1928 and 1950. In 2007, the retirement home was re-conceived as a place with affordable rental spaces for artists. After years of remodeling, Milepost 5 opened in 2011. Then, in 2018, it was purchased by Community Development Partners, an affordable housing developer. Although the building changed over the years, it was continuously used for high-density residential purposes.


Oregon Employment Institution for the Blind
Now Sutcliffe Hall, Multnomah University
8435 NE Glisan St
Built in 1923

Oregon Employment Institution for the Blind – Photo by Patricia Sanders

In 1920 the Oregon legislature and Oregon voters authorized the creation of a facility offering living quarters and employment for blind men and women. After being temporarily housed in a building on Burnside, in 1922 an 11-acre tract of land on NE Glisan, just east of Montavilla Park, was purchased. Portland architects Houghtaling & Dougan designed the institute complex in a popular stripped-down Neoclassical style. It opened in 1923. There the blind residents made caned chairs, woven carpets and brooms for sale in the on-site shops.

In 1952, the Multnomah School of the Bible purchased the property. Today the old Institution’s administration building continues to serve the same purpose for Multnomah University as Sutcliffe Hall.


Monastery of the Precious Blood
Now St. Andrew’s Memory Care
1208 SE 76th Ave
Built in 1923

Monastery of the Precious Blood – Photo by Thomas Tilton

This monumental Spanish Colonial-style building located on SE 76th Avenue between SE Main and SE Salmon Streets is a familiar and well-known sight in the Kinzel Park Addition section of Montavilla. It’s elegant and ornate features are a stark contrast to the simpler styles of the previous three institutional buildings.

The building began life as the monastery that was home to the Sisters Adorers of the Precious Blood, a contemplative order founded in 1861 in Quebec. A contingent of the French Canadian order came to Oregon to establish a community, going first to Gervais in January, 1892, then to Portland in June 1892, when they settled into the original Greek Revival-style monastery. In 1921, when Portland’s fire marshal demanded substantial improvements, the growing community, requiring a much larger structure, hired architects  Jacobberger and Smith to design the elegant building we see today. 

The Monastery was sold in 1984 and, after renovations, reopened as St. Andrew’s Memory Care.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this little tour of four historical institutions that are monuments to important moments in Montavilla’s past. This exploration is part of my ambition to create someday a historical map of interesting places in Montavilla. If you have favorite buildings or sites you think should be on this map, please let me know about them. Together we can create a meaningful history of our neighborhood.


Historical story ideas? Questions about Montavilla’s past? Also share a love for neighborhood history? 

Comment on the article at the link in the heading. Or you can reach out to Pat Sanders at

Read all of the “Montavilla Memories” articles by Pat Sanders here

Montavilla School, Part I: The Not-So-Gay ‘90s


Writers note: When I began researching Montavilla’s first public school, I was unprepared for the extent of press coverage for what was initially a small suburban school. I decided that to give this institution its due, more than one article would be required. Here is the first installment.

I don’t know why we talk about the “Gay ‘90s”. If I look at the then-new community of Mount Tabor Villa (soon renamed Montavilla), it seems to me these years were anything but gay. For more than half those years, the United States was experiencing its worst depression ever.

Beginning with the Panic of 1893, it became known as the Great Depression. Fortunately, the push for a Mount Tabor Villa School got going in 1891 and 1892, but the ensuing years were difficult ones financially and socially.

Let me begin with the good news: the battle to create a school in Mount Tabor Villa, then we can examine the ensuing years of civic contention. I promise to end with some good news that closed out the decade of the ‘90s.

Grade School Children Posed in Classroom, with teacher standing in the back of room, Washington, D. C.
Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA, LC-USZ62-90211 

I can only admire those early residents of the Villa, as it was popularly called, for the determination to create their own school. When the Villa tract was established in 1889, it was incorporated into Mt Tabor School District 5. The problem was that this elementary school was so far away, on the other side of Mt Tabor, at what is now the corner of SE 60th Avenue and SE Stark Street.

This meant Villa pupils had to slog over or around Mt Tabor to get there. Besides being a long walk for the mostly very young children, imagine them doing it without sidewalks and with unpaved streets that turned into a rutted morass during our long rainy season. It’s not surprising, then, that very few Villa children attended classes.

Read more…

Amid an effort to remove two board members, KBOO is having its general board election


Andrew Wilkins

Enough signatures have been gathered and validated to force a special meeting to oust KBOO board leadership, wrote organizers of the effort.

Also as part of what’s described by them as an effort to return the independent radio station to its original values, the FreeKBOO Organizing Committee is asking for a strong turnout at the annual election.

KBOO membership elects its board through a vote-by-mail system.

At KBOO’s general election for its 12-person board planned for Monday, August 26th, four members are being chosen. There are eight candidates running, and you can read their candidate statements here.

Along with the four seats up for election, three additional seats are vacant. At the annual election the FreeKBOO committee wants the board to appoint members to those seats so KBOO can have a full board.

KBOO general board election, 20 SE 8th Ave * Monday, August 26th * 6 pm

The election comes amid an effort to recall two board members, who critics say have unduly acted in secret, mismanaged funds, unfairly dismissed employees, and created a hostile work environment.

In an email to supporters, the FreeKBOO Organizing Committee writes that they now have enough signatures to force a special meeting to remove Board President Ruban Lawrence and Board Vice President Danielle Parks.

According to the bylaws, FreeKBOO writes, the board must now set the day, time and place for the special meeting.

The petition titled “Keep KBOO True to Its Values” currently has 546 signatures. You can read more about the issue on the petition here.

Several associates of the FreeKBOO organizing effort did not respond to requests for comment, and the site, where updates used to be posted, is no longer online.

Willamette Week reports: “KBOO Staff Members Are Petitioning to Recall the Portland Radio Station’s President and Vice President”

No July board meeting was held. The reason given by the board was that a quorum couldn’t be reached because members were out of town, the Willamette Week reported.

Read more about KBOO’s core values, mission statement, and policies here.

All KBOO committee and board meetings are open to the public.

Full disclosure: Andrew Wilkins is a sometimes volunteer and former member.

The ins and outs of the Oregon mental health system


Wikimedia Commons

Oregon’s treatment of the mentally ill has come under criticism both for placing people back into the public before they are mentally fit and for not placing people back into the public fast enough. For instance, see this article by Fedor Zarkhin of OregonLive.

Meanwhile, the number of homeless people in Portland has increased, and some of them are less than mentally stable. This is the first article in a series that will discuss the Oregon mental health system, how it is intended to function, and whether the laws for involuntary treatment are reasonable.

Specifically, there are two important questions that set the boundaries for the state’s actions: One, when is the state required to detain and treat a person for mental illness? Two, when is the state permitted to detain and treat a person for mental illness? The answers to these questions will tell us whether you can get another person committed for mental health treatment if you believe them to be dangerous. They will also tell us how easily someone who doesn’t like you could have you committed. 

Once you know what the rules are, you can decide for yourself if you think those rules are fair or whether they should be changed. What the rules should be is a difficult question to answer because it strikes at the balance between individual liberty and state authority. 

The first thing to understand about the Oregon mental health system is that it is entirely of Oregonian design. There are no federal laws relating specifically to the treatment of the mentally ill, though states must still obey procedure such as habeas corpus. This means that each state has its own mental health laws and policy. On the one hand, this is good news in that if we don’t like the mental health laws in our city, we only need to go to the state level to change them.

However, this is bad news if you think that the federal government could write laws that would raise the bar in states that are falling short of caring for the mentally ill. If you would like to read Oregon’s current laws, they can be found in ORS Chapter 426

To aid in understanding involuntary treatment in Oregon, I created a flowchart of the pathways into and out of the system. One crucial detail to note is that, in Oregon, two people is sufficient to submit a Notice of Mental Illness (NMI) and begin the process that can result in civil commitment. Civil commitment is the official term for when the state mandates mental health treatment for a person, though this does not necessarily mean that the person will be required to live in a locked facility.

In the next article, I will detail what criteria must be met for a person to qualify for involuntary treatment. Then both you and I will have a better idea of whether our NMI will have the desired result of getting a potentially dangerous person off the street and into a mental health treatment program.

We will also have a better idea of just how easy it might be for that neighbor who has it out for you to get you committed. 


Darren McCormick is an amateur philosopher applying to masters programs in political science. When not giving kids chess lessons, he examines local practices and governance through a lens of political theory.

Contact Darren:

Berry-picking time


If you talk to long-term Montavilla residents, sooner or later the subject of berries comes up. “Past 82nd Avenue,” you may be told, “there was nothing but berry farms.” An exaggeration— there were other crops like vegetables— but berry crops were a major enterprise in eastern Multnomah County and they stuck in people’s memory, perhaps because so many grew up with berry-picking summer jobs. 

Some of these berry farms were in Montavilla— for example, the 65-acre strawberry farm of German immigrant Nicholas Thomas located a quarter-mile east of 82nd Avenue on the south side of Stark. And Berrydale Park is a reminder of the importance of berry crops in eastern Montavilla.

But most Montavilla children picked berries at farms further east and many of these were owned by Japanese-American farmers, such as the Fujii family farm in Troutdale that has been in business since 1943. (Japanese-Americans, who came from rural areas in Japan with restricted farming resources, applied traditional intensive techniques that produced high yields.)

Strawberry Time in Oregon  Source: Oregon Blue Book, 1911

Summertime meant berry picking. Farmers needed workers to harvest their blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, black caps, and blackberries. Children were out of school and ready to work to put a little money in their pockets.

Several Montavilla residents have told me about their experiences with berry picking and many, many Portlanders have shared their memories on Facebook. Their experiences date mostly from the 1950s through the 1980s. I like these stories because they seem so vivid and personal. Collectively they paint a picture of mid-20th Century Montavilla and East County as it was before the later urban sprawl. 

Most people mention getting up in the dark to catch one of the “berry buses” (old school buses) which fetched workers for a day’s work in the field. It was hot work and backbreaking, especially when stooping to pick strawberries. And with thorny berries, you’d probably end the day with pricked and stained hands. Still, there was fun, too: eating berries—maybe too many and cutting into your profits—, making new friends, having berry fights (which could get you fired).

Brothers Dave and Mike Kaplan, sons of Joseph Kaplan— who owned the old Hammond Portrait Studio on Stark across the street from the Academy Theater— have vivid memories of picking berries every summer from about age 11 until they got “regular jobs” at about age 15 or 16. Dave remembers getting the “berry bus” at SE 96th Avenue and Division Street. Mike took the bus that stopped at Vestal School. (Another stop in Montavilla was at the Ascension grade school. Possibly there were other pick-up points in Montavilla as well.) 

Both brothers remember picking raspberries at what is currently Advantist Health or Mall 205, just outside Montavilla’s east boundary. The strawberry fields they went to were further out, almost to Gresham and Boring. Strawberries earned them 50 cents a crate with a 10 cent bonus if they worked to the end of the picking. It was hard work and, in those days, pickers had no protection from either pesticides or the sun.

Some pickers, instead of catching the daily “berry bus”, camped out near the fields. EmmyLou Johnson remembers camping with her mother and three of her sisters during the week and going back to Montavilla on weekends. The berry farm where they camped was on 12 Mile Road, which seemed so far away when she started picking at age 11 or 12. The girls first picked strawberries, then later raspberries and finally beans, making enough money to buy their own school clothes. One year, EmmyLou missed a week of school because she wanted to finish picking the bean crop to get her bonus.

Such was many a child’s summer in the mid-20th Century. Now children, if they pick berries in quantity, are likely to do it at u-pick farms and earn not cash but toppings for shortcake or ice cream. As for me, I get my berries in my back yard or the Montavilla Farmers’ Market.

Times change. Memories linger.

Historical story ideas? Questions about Montavilla’s past? Also share a love for neighborhood history? 

Comment on the article at the link in the heading. Or you can reach out to Pat Sanders at

Read all of the “Montavilla Memories” articles by Pat Sanders here

Montavilla Gets a Playground


Just the sight of a playground can send me back to the thrill of play. Leg hooked over a bar spinning around and around until the back of my knee was sore. Seeing how high I could go on a swing. Getting dizzy on the metal merry-go-round. Oh, the joy!

Ad for Everwear All-Steel Playground Apparatus.  Source: The American School Board Journal, vol. 65, 1922

Didn’t every child have this experience? Wasn’t it a child’s right? Well, no.

Playgrounds don’t actually go back that far and the first ones— dating from the 1880s in the US— were pretty modest, just sand in a big box, called sand gardens, set up in crowded eastern cities. 

Early Sand Garden in Boston.  Source: Clarence Elmer Rainwater, The Play Movement in the United States, 1922

Very soon, however, reformers and parents wanted more elaborate play areas for children of all ages. They advocated for safe, outdoor play areas with a variety of activities— games, sports, classes— which they believed would develop healthy bodies, sound minds, and good citizenship. So convinced was the American public, across the spectrum from progressives to conservatives, of the virtues of organized play that a playground movement gradually took shape in the early 20th Century. 

By 1900, 14 cities already had public play areas. The movement picked up speed and intensity in 1906 with the founding of the Playground Association of America. To promote playgrounds the PAA sent speakers around the country, published a magazine called The Playground and held annual conventions. When the PAA held its first convention in 1907, Portland’s Mayor Harry Lane appointed delegates from the People’s Institute Club and the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association).

By this time, Portland already had its first playground, located on the North Park Blocks between Davis and Flanders Streets, the result of the women of the People’s Institute, which lobbied the Park Commission for space and play equipment. Like other playgrounds of the day, girls and boys had separate areas and play was supervised.

North Park Blocks Playground.  Source: Portland Parks and Recreation, “Play Areas Technical Paper,” June 2008

Soon neighborhoods like Montavilla were clamoring for their own playgrounds. In 1909, the Montavilla Home Training Circle and the Montavilla Rose Association advocated for a Montavilla playground and put in a request to the Board of Education. However, it was not until 1921 that Montavilla finally got its wish but, at first, the play area was minimal at best.

Read more…