The Montavilla Streetcar Line

By PATRICIA SANDERS

Do you remember riding the old Portland trolleys? This electrified streetcar network once provided an easy way to get from home to work, to school, to shopping, to amusement parks, etc., and so made it possible to live further away from the city center. It is a major reason the Montavilla neighborhood developed so rapidly, especially in the early 20th Century, the heyday of Portland’s trolleys.

The Montavilla streetcar line opened as the Fairview branch of the City & Suburban Railway on July 26, 1892.  That day, The Morning Oregonian reported, C&S stockholders would ride the new four-mile line and then it would be available to the public. The route then went from SE Grand on SE Ankeny Street, turning north at SE 28th Avenue, and continuing east on NE Glisan Street to end at NE 82nd Avenue. The fare then was 5 cents for those who had contributed to the rail’s construction, 10 cents for everyone else.

Men posing with streetcar 595, Montavilla Line; City of Portland Archives A2011-007.25

The Fairview branch was soon renamed the “Montavilla” line, a contraction of the name of the housing tract at the line’s terminus, Mount Tabor Villa Addition. Service to Mount Tabor Villa and other nearby additions increased in 1900 when a single-rail spur was added on 80th Avenue between Glisan and Stark Streets, running along the eastern boundary of Mount Tabor Villa.

Real estate developers, of course, understood how streetcars could attract home-buyers to land several miles from downtown. In fact, H. C. Campbell, the man who put Mount Tabor Villa on the market in 1889, was also the general manager of the C&S Railway. (Incidentally, I learned just last week from the City of Portland Environmental Services that the old tracks are still beneath the asphalt on 80th Avenue. If you look closely you can trace their location in the street’s slight depression.)

The Montavilla line was also a boon to local entrepreneurs. The 80th Avenue (then Hibbard Street) spur ended at Montavilla’s main commercial street next to where Dickson’s Drug Store (now the Country Cat Dinner House) opened in 1910.

Further north on 80th businesses also popped up, taking advantage of this convenient transit. An example is the Gable Funeral Parlor built in 1927 at 80th and NE Everett Street (now the Rose City Nazarene Church), which The Montavilla Times of May 5, 1927 described as centrally located on streetcar service.

Businesses also opened along the Glisan section of the Montavilla line. Some of these old buildings are still in use today, such as the East Glisan Pizza building, which opened as a butcher shop in 1911. Located where the trolley turned south onto 80th, it was Samson the Grocer in the 1920s.

In 1911 the double-tracks on Glisan were extended to NE 90th Avenue, meeting up with the Montavilla Station, a terminal on the Mt Hood and Troutdale electric interurban lines. This gave Montavilla passengers and business owners an even wider range of travel and shipment options and allowed new tracts to be developed beyond NE 82nd Avenue.

The convenience and joys of riding the trolley, however, also came with risks. Accidents, although rare, did happen.

Take the one that occurred on a snowy Monday morning in 1905. The evening of the accident, February 6, The Oregon Daily Journal described it in vivid detail. Sixty-six passengers had boarded Montavilla car No. 107 on their way to work. Some were alarmed when the car headed down the steep decline on Glisan, a few blocks from SE 28th Avenue, at an unusually high speed. One passenger recalled later that Motorman H. W. Johnson said he was 12 minutes behind schedule and needed to make up time. Around 7:30 am, as the car started to make the sharp 28th Avenue turn, it suddenly leapt into the air and landed on its side, throwing passengers together in a tangled heap.

The Oregon Daily reporter gave all the gory details, but I’ll spare you those and simply say that 31 passengers were badly injured and one young man was killed. Fortunately, cries for help and the loud sounds of the crashing streetcar quickly brought neighbors to assist. Rescue workers and railway officials quickly arrived, the wrecked car was taken away by 10 am, and service soon resumed.

The Montavilla line continued in service until 1948.

If you have memories of riding the streetcar lines that served Montavilla, please feel free to share them below. You can also send information about Montavilla history to pat.montavilla.history@gmail.com.

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This weekend

New businesses in Montavilla:

Last week, both DB Dessert Company (6824 NE Glisan St) and Smart Foodservice (8250 SE Stark St) opened for business in Montavilla.

Residential Infill Project:

For March’s general meeting, the Lents Neighborhood Association hosted a forum on the City of Portland‘s Residential Infill Project.

In a RIP Displacement Risk and Mitigation released by the City last month, city planners expect Lents, Brentwood-Darlington, and the eastern part of Montavilla are likely to experience the most displacement.

The report is here, and the Portland Tribune article about the study is here.

FRIDAY, MARCH 29TH

Adulting 102: 

Adulting

“Being a grown-up can be hard: all those responsibilities just pile up with no help on the horizon! In the second class on how to become a responsible adult, learn some inexpensive tricks for making it suck a little less, including mending clothing, framing a picture, making at-home spa foot soaks, and cooking easy at-home romantic dinners with minimal ingredients.” 

Gregory Heights Library, 7921 NE Sandy Blvd * 4 pm – 5 pm

Coastlines and Crossroads: An AWP Offsite Reading:

Hosted by longtime friends and dynamic cultural organizing duo Traci Kato-Kiriyama and Candace Kita, this reading will feature Portland and Los Angeles-based poets speaking to movement along coasts and between borders.”

Milepost 5, 8155 NE Oregon St * 6 pm – 8 pm * free

Live jazz (event):

“Portland Jazz duo Rebecca Conner and Leon Cotter make music that is intimate and heartfelt, timeless and original. Leon’s virtuosic saxophone, clarinet and piano playing weaves soulfully around Rebecca’s sultry voice and guitar tone, enchanting their audience with unforgettable presence while blanketing them in warmth.”

Vino Veritas, 7835 SE Stark St * 7 pm – 10 pm * free

SATURDAY, MARCH 30TH

Weed Warriors (event):

“First Weed Warriors volunteer event of the season is this Saturday! Gloves are all clean and ready to go! Come join us in the beautiful spring weather to remove non-native plants and some other park maintenance projects.”

Mt Tabor Visitor’s Center, SE Salmon Way & SE Park Dr * 9 am – noon

Hora de Manualidades (Craft hour): 

“Agrega arte y color a tu vida con estas manualidades centradas en la alfabetización temprana. Todos los materiales serán proporcionados. Espacio para 20 personas.”

Holgate Library * 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm

Rockin’ Punk Invasion: a Showcase of Chaos (event):

“Punk Rockers and Rock n Rollers take over the Eastside for a full night of live music! Plan to arrive early and to stay late, we have a ton of music lined up and more to come!”

Bands performing:
GINAH
Wasted
All Hype
Dr Mouth and the Head Nurse
Davy Jones Locker Combo

Eastside Bar & Grill, 2530 NE 82nd Ave * 7:30 * $7

SUNDAY, MARCH 31TH

Talk Time (event):

“Talk Time is an informal conversation circle for non-native speakers to practice speaking English. First come, first served.”

Gregory Heights Library, 7921 NE Sandy Blvd * 12:30 pm – 2 pm

Literary Lesbians present: Readings of Rapturous Romance and a bountiful book fair (event):

“Seven published lesbian authors will read from their work and field audience questions. This event is Free and open to all who appreciate lesbian literature. We’ll have a book raffle after every reader finishes, plus a drawing near the end for a grand prize basket of books and goodies. Half a dozen additional authors will be in attendance to showcase and sell their books. We provide snacks— especially chocolate!— and water. It’s a smorgasbord of fun and frivolity!”

Taborspace, 5441 SE Belmont St * 1 pm – 5 pm


This weekend

Here’s a story about how some churches are re-defining their mission and serving their community by opening up their space to the public. We also discuss why some churches are reluctant to follow what Pastor Matt Huff from Central Nazarene Church calls “The Church’s Greatest Commandment”.

Portland’s pedestrian plan:

Read the draft plan, offer comments, and hear people’s stories on the PedPDX plan here.

There are a few more meetings left, and comments are being accepted until May 3rd.

SATURDAY, MARCH 23RD

Live music

The Black Flash / Creature Society

EastSide Bar and Grill, 2530 NE 82nd Ave * 9 pm – midnight

Sketch comedy:

This should be good… “In GOB We Trust”, sketch comedy with

“Witness the wonder that is Escape Reality, Portland’s newest sketch comedy troupe featuring Nicolette Regina, Katelyn Melton, Jared Souza, Jarrett Brown and Nathan Franklin!”

Milepost 5 Theater, * 8133 NE Oregon St * 7 pm, Sat * $8, $14 gets you two drinks tickets

SUNDAY, MARCH 24TH

Talk Time (event):

“Talk Time is an informal conversation circle for non-native speakers to practice speaking English. First come, first served.”

Gregory Heights Library, 7921 NE Sandy Blvd * 12:30 pm – 2 pm

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.

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

andrewtaylorwilkins@gmail.com

Read more…

When Montavilla had its own library

By PATRICIA SANDERS

I’m a historian who taught university-level art history for many years, but today my passion is Montavilla history, which I’ve been researching for a couple of years. The initial impetus for this was my mother’s memories of the Montavilla commercial district on Stark St.

Now I’m deeply engrossed in looking for clues to Montavilla’s past from vintage newspapers (including Montavilla’s own Montavilla Times and The Montavilla Sun), from historic photos of our changing neighborhood, and from old documents.

Let me give an example of a recent passion. Did you know that Montavilla once had its own branch library?

When my mother told me about her memories of walking down from 68th Avenue to check out books from the Montavilla library, I was surprised because I’d never seen one here. She thought it was just north of Stark, so my husband and I drove her up and down streets searching, but to no avail.

Either we were in the wrong place, it no longer existed, or her memory was faulty. It turns out her memory was quite accurate.

After our futile search, I met a couple of longtime Montavilla residents who confirmed that, in fact, there was a library, and it used to be “opposite” the Methodist Church. But opposite in which direction?

On 80th? Ash? 81st? Pine? And which building? I looked and found nothing that really looked like a library. Had it been torn down?

Then one day while on a neighborhood walk, I saw a woman coming out of the two story building at 211 SE 80th Ave. I introduced myself and asked Brenda Jose, director of Unlimited Choices, if she knew whether this building had once been a library. She said “yes”, and the search was on!

Since the early 20th Century, Montavillans wanted a library. And beginning in about 1906, did have a reading room / branch library with books supplied by the main library. But this was in a rented space. Surprisingly, in the depth of the Great Depression, several forces came together to make a permanent building possible.

The Montavilla Kiwanis Club spearheaded the effort, the City donated two lots, construction labor was provided by the State Emergency Relief Administration (a Public Works Administration project), and the Library Association found a small amount of money for building supplies and to commission plans by famed Portland architect Herman Brookman.

Montavilla Branch Library
Multnomah County Library photo
Creative Commons license  

The Montavilla Library was dedicated on Sept. 3rd, 1935. The new building had an exterior with bright blue shutters and tan shingles. The interior was gray with coral trim, and had an inventory of 6,000 books. It was a simple building with clean lines and elegant proportions.

Today it looks quite different. It has the same rectangular footprint (minus a small office wing at the back), but now has two stories and a new dormer over the entrance. According to Jose, the original library structure was lifted up to provide the new first story.

The Montavilla Branch Library closed in 1981. Some of you may remember the building continuing use as the OSU Extension Service. Some of you may even remember the library.

If you have stories to share about the library, old photos of it or stories about other historic Montavilla people, places or events, please contact me at pat.montavilla.history@gmail.com.

This weekend

At the March Montavilla Neighborhood Association meeting, Jonathan Lewis with the Office of Community & Civic Life gave a presentation on the City’s homeless camping program and the phone number for reporting (non-violent) neighbors having a mental crisis without contacting the police: 503-988-4888. There was also a presentation on public safety.

Muz Afsal from Southeast Uplift spoke about some upcoming workshops, including a community conversations called “Exploring Power and Privilege with Courage, Creativity, and Compassion” set for March 25th.

A new board member also stepped forward to serve the MNA. David Onley does a lot of excellent service work in the community, and for full disclosure, is a friend and has contributed to Village Portland.

Seats on the board are still open if anybody would like to step up!

This week, we published a new Montavilla Memories column by Pat Sanders. Read it here.

In this column, Sanders explores her process behind learning about Montavilla’s former library.

FRIDAY, MARCH 15TH

Live music:

Weekends mean live music Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night at Montavilla Station.

Montavilla Station, 417 SE 80th Ave * Fri & Sat 9ish pm

SATURDAY, MARCH 16TH

Leach Spring Garden Fair (event):

“Join us in celebration of Lilla Leach’s birthday by preparing for the gardening season. Rain or shine, this promises to be a fun, helpful, and inspiring way to get ready for spring!”

“Community Seed Exchange, compost demonstration, tool Sharpening by Sharpening4u, garden tools for sale by Red Pig Garden Tools, naturescaping & rain garden info and more by East Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District, Xerces Society (invertebrate conservation) table, OSU Extension Service Master Gardeners  experts to answer your questions, and Leach Manor House & Stone Cabin Open House” 

11 am – nature walk, pruning workshop

noon – native plants for the home garden

1 pm – ethnobotany garden tour

Leach Garden, 6704 SE 122nd Ave * 10 am – 2 pm

SUNDAY, MARCH 17TH

The symphony in East Portland:

“The award-winning Oregon Sinfonietta, now in its 46th season and conducted by Dr. Donald L. Appert, is a full symphony orchestra of about sixty musicians that draws together community musicians from the greater Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington metropolitan area. The orchestra performs four free concerts per season at the Sunnyside Seventh-day Adventist Church in SE Portland.” 

Sunnyside Seventh-day Adventist Church, 10501 SE Market St * 3 pm 

Cooking Around the World Club: No-Bake Desserts: 

“Families can learn with their kiddos how to make simple healthy desserts. There will be something for everyone, whether it’s for an afterschool snack or a special weekend treat. It’s easy, it’s healthy, it’s fun! Samples will be given at the end of the program.”

Holgate Library, 7905 SE Holgate Blvd * 3:15 pm – 4:30 pm





This weekend

We’re pleased to introduce “Montavilla Memories”, a new feature with Patricia . Learn more about her and her work in the first story here.

In the story, she makes a call to neighbors for their mementos and stories about the life and times of nearly Montavillans.

I saw this week that Lent’s Zoiglhaus Brewing Company announced that they are now serving bread from Fressen Artisan Bakery and Cafe. Fressen is a traditional German bakery, and that goes along great with Zoiglhaus’ German-style beers.

We’re working on a feature on Fressen, and it’s been fascinating learning more about the business and the tradition and history it represents. Every business and organization has a unique story, and we’re looking forward to telling more of them.

FRIDAY, MARCH 8TH

Montavilla movies:

“If Beale Street Could Talk”, “Spider Man: Into the Spider Verse”, and five other second-run films are showing at Academy Theater.

Academy Theater, 7818 SE Stark St * show times *  $4 for adults, $3 for youth & seniors

SATURDAY, MARCH 9TH

QTPI Talanoa: Celebrate Micronesia (event):

“Come join us for our first QTPI (Queer and Trans Pacific Islander) Talanoa of the year in celebration and storytelling from our QTPIs from Micronesia. Experience love, joy, laughter and shed a few tears with food and refreshments provided. This event is free and family friendly. All are welcome.”

Orchards of 82nd, 8118 SE Division St * 4 pm – 7 pm

Live rock n roll music:

The Weight / Moonraker / Lust for Glory

Eastside Bar & Grill, 2530 Ne 82nd Ave * 9-ish pm * $5

SUNDAY, MARCH 10TH

Community dinner (event):

“Community Dinners at Zenger Farm are a space to talk about issues that are impacting our community while sharing a meal together. This community dinner we will talk about how the legislative process works and how we can engage with it. We will also be talking about the Welcome Home bill that would support the resettlement of Refugees in Oregon.”

With community chef Lul Abdulle.

This is a family friendly event. We will have activities for kids 4+ and a full meal. Please let us know if you any dietary needs or allergies and translation needs. Register by emailing your name and group size to thao@zengerfarm.org or call 503-282-4245.

Zenger Farm * 4 pm – 6:30 pm * $5-15 per family (no one ever turned away)

Jazz happy hour (event):

“Come enjoy live jazz Sunday afternoon along with all day Happy Hour. A wonderful way to wind down the week.”

Vino Veritas, 7835 SE Stark St * 5 pm – 7 pm