Prepared by Marianne Kadas, 5/30/01
THE PEARL DISTRICT DEFINED
Portland, Oregon's Pearl District can be defined as the area between Burnside and Marshall Streets and the Willamette River and Highway 405, covering 260 acres. This includes the area known as Old Town, sometimes considered a separate entity.
The Pearl reportedly came from Thomas Augustine, owner of
the Augustine Gallery, who spoke of the precious gems hidden in the neighborhoods
crusty old warehouses. Earlier the area was referred to as The Northwest
Pearl District has a 150-year old modern history, dating to
1850 when Captain John Couch filed his Donation Land claim to 640 acres
north of downtown Portland. His southern property line was along the present
West Burnside Street. Captain Couch laid out his grid for development
oriented to a bend in the Willamette River rather than to the citys
existing streets, resulting in some triangular-shaped blocks on the south
side of West Burnside Street.. In 1851 the city incorporated Couchs
Addition, 154 acres of the future Old Town and the Pearl District, triggering
a 50% to 100% annual increase in the land values.
In 1869 the
Oregon Central Railway constructed a line beginning on the riverfront
of Couchs Addition. Nine parcels appraised at $2,900 in 1869 sold
for $62,000, within two years, about $750,000 in todays dollars.
Around the rail lines, the future Pearl District became a blue-collar
neighborhood of European immigrants. In 1896 the Northern Pacific Terminal
Company built Union Station on land donated by Captain Couch.
and Clark Exposition held in 1905 at Guilds Lake (now the Northwest
Industrial District) opened the door to a growth jump that doubled Portlands
population in the 10 years from 1900 to 1910. In the first decade of the
20th century, the proximity of this area to Union Station changed as residences
gave way to wholesale warehouses, manufacturing and shipping buildings,
and storage facilities. These businesses were served by spur lines going
west and south to Burnside from the depot. The spur lines were the lifeblood
of the rail shipping system as they branched off of the main lines. The
first spur line from the depot was on NW 13th from Johnson to Glisan;
it was later extended to within 100 feet of Burnside. Another component
of development in the area was the P & S Railroad purchase of 40 blocks
which extended the terminal facilities to NW 12th. The completion of the
Broadway Bridge in 1913 and the construction of the Lovejoy Ramp in 1927
brought more traffic to the Pearl District as the automobile took over
transportation opportunities from the railroads.
NEXT: 1920s through 80s