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The merchants and residents of "South Moreland"

SOUTHEAST HISTORY


by: COURTESY OF ELSIE TSCHIDA HEINEMAM - This is a photo of the Gottschalk Cafe and Beer Parlor, established in 1906. Bill Gottschalk was forced to leave San Francisco after the big earthquake and fire in that year. He built this structure and, aided by his relatives the Tshidas, the cafe catered to area residents for over 49 years. It is now the Sellwood Inn Pub at the corner of 17th and Umatilla.There is really no “Moreland” here, but at one time there were South Moreland, a brief re-naming of part of Sellwood – and North Moreland, which today is simply the northern part of Westmoreland. Of course there is one more Moreland – Eastmoreland. How this all came to be is part of the history of Inner Southeast Portland…

In the 1890’s, two separate commercial districts were located along the town limits of Sellwood and Willsburg. The business area of Sellwood was concentrated along Umatilla Street, eastward from the foot of the Willamette River. At Willsburg, The Shindler Furniture Warehouse, Wills Brothers Brick Factory, and other shops and homes were located near the Oregon and California rail lines, close to today’s McLoughlin Boulevard at Tacoma Street.

These days, few know that at that time a separate business district was evolving along 17th Avenue from Spokane Street south to Ochoco, situated in the middle of these two upstart communities, but that is our focus this month.

Freight and passenger service in and out of Sellwood was available only by steamboat or ferry, while at Willsburg the railway to Portland – completed by 1870 – provided the easiest route for goods to be shipped. For the Merchants along 17th Avenue (or 9th Street then, since it was 9 blocks from the river), access to the community was along a country road that ran north, paralleling the tracks, from the community of Milwaukie to the big city of Portland.

In 1840 Ben Stark and William Pettygrove laid out this road, later named Milwaukie Avenue, hoping to stimulate trade between the east and west sides of the river. Travelers along this route helped support the establishment of new shop owners who considered 17th the perfect resting point for man and horse.

Yet, this road was easy to travel only in the summer time. The muddy ruts left by horses and wagons were impassable in the torrential rainy season of Oregon, and Umatilla Street still remained the faster and more serviceable road for obtaining supplies to Portland via river craft.

Nonetheless, young business speculators were determined to make a go of it, and in 1898 the St. Charles Hotel was constructed on the northeast corner of Umatilla and 17th. Charles Bellgarde, its proprietor at the time, was hoping to attract boarders to his lodging house, naming it after the popular St. Charles Hotel in the nearby metropolis of Portland.

One of the Northwest’s largest racecourses was the City View Race Track in Sellwood, and it was situated within just a few blocks of the St. Charles. Knowing that thousands of spectators and gamblers planned on arriving by steamer ready to spend their weekend money at the track, Bellgarde wanted in on the action. Once the checkered flag was waved, signaling the end of the last race for the day, festivities for the evening moved to the Rostian Beer Gardens, which happened to be adjacent to the St Charles Hotel. Carriages and open wagons were provided to transport the racing enthusiasts by Mr. Bellgarde, and any overzealous patron or tipsy visitor was welcome to stay the night at his hotel. A comfortable bed at the St. Charles was more popular than the alternative: Simply passing out along the muddy road of 17th. The beer garden celebrations proved to be quite popular and profitable for both Bellgarde and the Rostian’s.

Either to address confusion that there were two hotels with the same name in Portland, or perhaps because the new owners preferred not to beholden to a business named after the previous owner who thought he was a saint, The St. Charles was renamed the Sellwood Hotel by 1905.

The merchants of 17th Avenue were left out of a golden opportunity when streetcar tracks were first laid down on Milwaukie Avenue in 1893. Expectations were high that the streetcar arriving from neighboring Brooklyn would continue through to 17th, but the tracks stopped and turned west at the intersection of ByBee and Milwaukie. Transportation officials had decided that 13th Avenue provided a greater opportunity for the trolleys, and connecting to the City View Racetrack was more vital for business purposes. Hopes were renewed briefly again in 1910, when talk of connecting The Eastside Railway from the newly developed Westmoreland business area to 17th was reported in THE BEE. In research provided by local historian and BEE contributor Eileen Fitzsimmons, she states that in 1913 The Columbia Trust Company was responsible for installing new tracks along ByBee [today’s Bybee Boulevard]. They paid for streetcar rails to travel eastward on ByBee to their new development of Eastmoreland. The company hoped to profit from the selling of lots built by the Trust Company in Westmoreland and offer a more upscale division in Eastmoreland. The Company even paid for the construction of an overpass across the train tracks [the origin of today’s Bybee Bridge] so home owners would have easier access. An effort to raise capital for an additional spur to be added through to 17th in Sellwood never panned out, and merchants had to struggle alone against the vendors on 13th in Sellwood and Milwaukie Avenue in Westmoreland.

As the turn of the Twentieth Century approached, other shops and stores along with family homes began filling up the vacant lots along busy 17th Avenue. The Welch and Applegate Grocery opened in 1900 just north of the Sellwood Hotel, and many of the young employees who worked with Bob Welch later became proprietors of their own stores on the Eastside. Roy Clifford worked the counter selling coffee at Welch’s Grocery, as it was referred to in the neighborhood, when Oliver Applegate left to open his own establishment. Clifford’s Cash and Carry became a well-known grocery for over 35 years near the streetcar car barns on 13th and Linn Street. A.J Henneman opened his family grocery at the corner of 13th at Lambert, and the duo of Slavens and Shutts located their S & S Grocery down the street from Welch’s.

Horses, delivery wagons, and carriages were in constant motion along the commercial district, and a blacksmith shop was built to handle the repair of broken wagon wheels and the shoeing of horses. Plenty of trade was picked up by the blacksmith from workers who traveled to Willsburg from their homes in Sellwood – and, too, an experienced horseshoer was needed to keep the Sellwood’s Volunteer Firehouse horses in tip top condition.

Orders at Welch’s were collected from residents by salesmen on horseback in the early morning and returned during the afternoon with their request filled. The Sellwood Dray and Storage Barn, next door, provided food and safekeeping for Bob Welch’s teams in the evening.

Joe Meindl, the wood dealer, provided lumber and coal for the furnaces at the Sellwood, Brooklyn, and Duniway schools. A. T. Poole’s Dry Goods Store stood at Harney Street, and the Portland Rag Company moved into the vacated Sellwood Hotel in the 1920’s. The old Rostian Beer Gardens was purchased by George and Bill Gottschalk in 1907 and converted into the Gottschalk Café and Beer Parlor. The wooden two-story structure housed the Gottschalk and Tschida family upstairs, and patrons were served on the main floor.

Housewives, maids, and domestic workers were thrilled when the Sellwood Wet Wash plant announced its opening. Busy mothers could drop off their sheets and mounds of clothing to be washed by machine instead of by hand. The Sellwood Wet Wash saved considerable cleaning time for busy mothers by delivering their laundry back to them wet so that residents could hang out to dry on their backyard clothesline. Housekeepers would have to wait until 1924 for the first wet and dry wash company, Peerless Laundry, to be established at the intersection of Tacoma and 13th.

The Umatilla Commercial District was severely impacted by the opening of the Sellwood Bridge in December of 1925. Tacoma became the main road for commuters driving from the east side to the west. Business along Umatilla Street waned, replaced by auto and gasoline stations on Tacoma Street. Bowman’s Service Station sprung up on the corner of 17th across from Montgomery’s Gasoline pumps. Just north of the intersection were two auto repair garages, along with the Pelky and Eliis Garage at Nehalem.

The height of the Depression era did spread misery here and there throughout the neighborhood, but the business district still boasted two auto garages, three service stations, six groceries, three barbers, a ladies’ hair salon, a blacksmith, a shoe repair shop, and the Sellwood Feed Store. Along with patronizing their own pharmacy and hardware stores, residents could order soft drinks at Gottschalk Beer Parlor – since hard liquor was still in Prohibition – and they could buy or sell a house at the Real Estate Company of Keller & Walthall, or enjoy morning lunch at the Doll House Café on Spokane Street.

Letters published in THE BEE at the time revealed that Sellwood residents felt they weren’t included in the growth led by the new Westmoreland, began refer to themselves as living in “South Moreland”. The merchants on 17th Avenue, wishing not to offend any patrons and customers, supported the move but continued to use the Sellwood name in their shops. The Sellwood Hardware, Sellwood Battery Shop, and Sellwood Garage could still be found open for business in “South Moreland”, despite the change. As time went by, the older Sellwood district has of course gained cachet, and now merchants and residents in Westmoreland and even Brooklyn occasionally describe themselves as being in Sellwood! Times change.

Today’s 17th Avenue merchants and residents are faced with many new challenges in the Twenty First Century, as they were many decades ago. New apartment/condo complexes and gigantic craftsman houses threaten the tranquility of the residential district north of Spokane Street. The onetime “South Moreland” still retains a mixture of business and residential areas. Bertie Lou’s diner, Jake’s Place, Mike’s Drive In, and the Penguin Pub (the oldest tavern in the area, after the Black Cat closed last year) have been serving the district for years, as have the specialized services of Sundeleaf Painting Company, and Doug Menely State Farm Insurance. The Postal Delivery Carrier facility on the corner of Ochoco has replaced the Pendleton Woolen Mills outlet that sold fabrics and notions – and the Miller Paint Store, and Economy and Bridgetown Auto Repair Garages north of Tacoma replace the Pioneer Garage and service stations that once occupied this section.

The Skybox Pub, two Asian restaurants, and burgers at Killer Burger are among many newer businesses which have provided fresh destination for evenings out, and for diners wishing to avoid congestion and lack of parking elsewhere in Sellwood and Westmoreland. Take a trip or spend an evening revisiting the business and history along 17th Avenue in what was briefly called “South Moreland”, but which today remains a vibrant part of Sellwood – which began more than 125 years ago.

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