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Take a Preservation Month stroll through neighborhood history

by: , This original 1882 plat map of Sellwood indicates the original boundary line between Multnomah and Clackamas Counties at Central (now Sherrett) Street.

May is National Historic Preservation month - and the 2008 theme is 'This Place Matters'.

Since daylight lingers until at least 8 pm, evenings are the perfect time for a post-dinner stroll to enjoy the various styles of architecture in your Inner Southeast neighborhood. There's history in all of them, and especially in two conjoined neighborhoods along the Willamette River.

Development of Sellwood and Westmoreland was not restricted to a short time period, so for those for whom those are their neighborhoods, there is a wide range of building types within your boundaries. In Sellwood, the oldest surviving house dates to 1876 - the year of the nation's centennial, and not long after the end of the Civil War.

One hundred and thirty years later, new construction continues, with decades of remodelings in between. This lack of architectural uniformity and conformity insures an interesting walk, with unfolding street-side gardens an added incentive.

There is more to this particular Southeast Portland neighborhood than just the two subdivisions we know as Sellwood and Westmoreland. These are the two largest, but there are almost thirty other smaller plats. However, walking the boundaries of either area provides a healthy sixty-minute walk. You might want to pace the perimeter, and in the future stroll up and down the streets, designing a personalized 'favorite' walk. If you like gardens, this will change throughout the year depending on bloom, leaf color or tree shape.

Settlers arriving in the late 1840's lived on scattered farms for more than thirty years before 'Sellwood' was named, subdivided, and its 50' x 100' lots put up for sale beginning in July, 1882. If you want to walk the boundaries of Sellwood, you will need to pick your way along its edges: South along the Willamette River to Ochoco Street, then east along Ochoco to 23rd Avenue, then north to Nehalem Street, returning west to the river.

This route will require some zigging and zagging, and covering the entire perimeter will take more than an hour. But a determined pedestrian can enjoy a great deal of greenspace in the process, including the river, the northern boundary of Waverley Golf Course, and Westmoreland Park.

The northern boundary of the Sellwood plat goes only halfway into the block between present-day Nehalem and Miller Streets, so you may want to veer outside of the plat boundaries to enjoy Sellwood Park as well.

Walking the straight lines of Westmoreland will require just an hour of effort. This area was carved out of the Crystal Springs Farm, which until 1907-08 provided lush pasturage for the 250 Jerseys that populated the dairy farm of the William S. Ladd estate. Deciding they could not afford to live as gentleman farmers, Mr. Ladd's heirs sold the farm, and on May 19, 1909 offered a portion of the property, divided into 50' x 100' lots, as 'Westmoreland.' Several months later a section east of the railroad tracks, 'Eastmoreland,' went on the market.

The Westmoreland plat lies roughly between S.E. 22nd and Milwaukie Avenues, and between Rex and Yukon Streets. The Iron Horse restaurant marks the northwest corner of the subdivision.

Head east on Yukon to 22nd Avenue, then turn right (south) onto 22nd Avenue. Depending on the traffic at Bybee Boulevard you may want to go one block east to the light at 23rd. Go through Westmoreland Park, staying on the right (west) side of the pond. At the second bridge (playground), head diagonally to your right to the corner of 22nd and Rex Streets. Proceed west on Rex to Milwaukie Avenue, then right (north), back to Yukon Street.

Like the Sellwood subdivision, Westmoreland includes an odd little half-block section between Yukon and Knight Streets, Milwaukie and 20th. And at the south end of the plat, it includes a half-block strip between Rex and Lambert Streets, running from Milwaukie to 22nd Avenue.

These uneven lines represent the boundaries of another owner's property, who either had already subdivided his/her land, or was not yet ready to sell to the Ladd Estate Company in 1909. This is why, when you go beyond the boundaries of either Sellwood or Westmoreland, the streets do not line up. When a street ends and you have to jog to continue you have entered one of the other thirty or so other plats in the neighborhood.

Since Portland evolved as a series of subdivisions, these jogs where streets do not line up are all over the city, and these frequent discontinuities are why so few streets will serve to take you all the way across the city.

Enjoy your walk, whichever Inner Southeast neighborhood you choose to stroll, and Happy Preservation Month!

P.S. - Will the member of the Cason family in Westmoreland who called regarding historic photos please re-contact the editor? He has been unable to reach you at the number given.