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A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE PEARL DISTRICT, CONT'D

1920's - 1950's: MANUFACTURING AND WAREHOUSING

When general construction slowed in the late 1920s, this part of NW Portland remained in a mostly stable situation for about thirty years. Light manufacturing and warehousing were the two main income producers. Much of the construction in the area was heavy reinforced masonry or reinforced concrete with timber, steel, or concrete framing. Many buildings are one-quarter, one-half or full block structures with water towers, metal awnings, loading docks, overhead doors, railroad tracks and remnants of the old Belgian Block street pavers. Beginning in the 1950s, the area languished, experiencing a slow migration of the warehouse trade to more suburban locations where trucks and large one-story warehouses made loading and unloading of freight easier.

1965: THE HIGHWAY COMES

In 1965 a major change rippled the western edge of the Pearl District as the blocks between NW 15th and 16th Avenues were leveled for the construction of by-pass Highway 405. The highway was constructed on piers for a portion of this area, eventually connecting with the Fremont Bridge.

LATE 70s and EARLY 80s: TRANSITION

In 1978 Portland artist Ted Savinar was one of the first artists to locate in the Pearl District; he rented a 3,000 square-foot studio on the fourth floor of the old brick seven-story Chown Pella Building at NW 13th and Glisan for $100 a month. He later lost this studio space and it was occupied by an expanding car-seat cover maker. The opening of Powell’s Books on NW 10th and Burnside in 1980 was another visible reminder of the trend away from a strictly industrial character in the neghborhood.

By 1982 NW 13th Avenue was clearly in a state of transition. Businesses that did not strictly fit the industrial zoning were moving into the vacuum created by the exodus of warehousing and manufacturing. The city Bureau of Planning recognized the inevitability of the changes and loosened its enforcement of the zoning code. The district’s first art gallery, Northwest Artist’s Workshop, opened at 622 NW 12th Avenue in 1982.

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