Few streets have seen quite as dramatic and swift a transformation as inner SE Division, the length of which has been overhauled into a hipster paradise. Basically the only thing missing is a Voodoo Donut. One can stroll from 45th to 12th Ave, safe in the knowledge that an established brand like Little Big Burger or a growler tap is never far. This is what makes the persistence of the old Oregon Theatre all the more sweet. Artisanal axemakers from Brooklyn and creatives with kids in tow, amble by utterly oblivious to the seedy debauchery transpiring behind its mysterious mirrored-glass doors.
Keep it real Oregon Theatre!
Dating to 1925, The Oregon actually has a very interesting and colorful past, not the least of which includes being Portland’s oldest continuously operating adult film cinema. Children in the future will ask “grandpa, what’s a porn theatre?”. This building once sported a $16,000 Whirlitzer pipe organ, a church and in 1970 began showing XXX.
On a more serious note, although Portland is considered a pioneer in rediscovering the value of these neighborhood strips, it’s interesting to consider how narrow a band of possibility we can imagine for what successful neighborhood commercial might be today. You basically have 4 options: cafe, brewery, notions shoppe, or bar. Essentially all driven by entertainment spending. Less precious businesses like professional offices, auto parts stores, lawn mower shops and locksmiths can not exist here…or really, anywhere these days.
Are they victim of a new retail ecosystem, or is their disappearance a symptom of rampant real estate speculation and Disneyfication of Portland? The endurance of places like the Oregon remind us of who we are and where we came from. And it is not always quant or clever. But it is real.