Here we have a shot just out front of the Barbur Transit Center in 1986. I did a quick search to see if I could get any dirt on Barbur Foods located at 9845 SW Barbur Blvd., across the street. Not a lot of mentions turned up. But apparently a guy in shorts robbed the market in 1987. In 2004 the store was purchased by a Lebanese couple and rebranded Barbur World Foods and shifted focus on specialty foods.
The annals of early 20th century roadside architecture are littered with the sad reality that novelty buildings in strange shapes hold little promise of future adaptability. This was never truer than the tortured fate of the Steigerwald Milk bottle at the corner of Sandy and 37th Ave in Portland which has managed to look sadder with every passing iteration since its original glory as a giant milk bottle.
The bottle/building stood 75-ft tall and was the tallest structure in Northeast Portland when it was built in 1926. Inside, an iron spiral stair permitted access to the circular roof, atop which a Christmas tree with electric bulbs was erected every December. Ten years later the dairy was sold and with it the building to Pabco Paint. The bottle was blunted to become a couple of paint cans stacked on end. In 1940, 7-Up made use of the bottle and placed an iconic art-decco sign with animated carbonated bubbles rising.
By 2002 the derelict neon was repurposed as a Budweiser sign built on the same base and thus looking quite amorphous. Most recently the sign has morphed into its ugliest version yet: an ad for Director’s Mortgage, consistent with that firm’s tradition of aggressively ugly advertising. Lets hope the shocking rise in property values leads a wise developer to see the potential for this landmark building and does something imaginative with it.
Powell’s Books brilliantly demonstrated how rehabbing an existing storefront can be both a savvy business move and a sensitive approach to entering an established neighborhood when they opened their second satellite store: “Powell’s Books For Cooks,” on Hawthorne in October of 1987. This was a marked departure from their prior expansion three years prior at Cascade Plaza, a brand-new strip mall across from Washington Square Mall in Tigard. That location embodied everything wrong with the soulless corporate monoliths then beginning to dominate the retail bookstore ecosystem, Barnes & Noble and Borders. Thankfully someone at Powell’s put the brakes on their own big-box expansion soon after. Since then the company has profited handsomely by doubling down on the idiosyncratic image epitomized by its landmark location on Burnside and invested heavily on the web.
A couple of weeks ago in my Greyhound post, I incorrectly wrote that the original passenger terminal was located under the Marquam Bridge and was recently demolished. That building was not a passenger facility but a maintenance shop, offices and garage. Passenger terminals were at SW. 6th and Salmon and Yamhill and Park Ave., in downtown Portland.
Thanks to a reader comment I was alerted to the error. While fact checking, I stumbled upon this breathless Oregonian article announcing the building’s opening in 1930. It cost $200,000 ($2.8M 2015 USD). What is most remarkable is the palpable sense of excitement emanating from the piece which was actually part of an full page spread devoted to Greyhound and it’s growth. Sort of reminds me of when Apple releases something these days.
Here is the article in its entirety:
(1930, Oct 1). Oregonian, p. 8..
GREYHOUND LINES SPENDING $250,000
Construction in Progress in Western Oregon.
BUILDING OPENS TODAY
Shops, Garage and General Office Structure Completed Here at Cost of $200,000.
New construction calling for an expenditure of approximately a quarter of a million dollars is being carried on in western Oregon by Pacific Greyhound lines. According to R. W. Lemen, vice-president in charge of Oregon Stages division of Pacific Greyhound lines, this expenditure represents the largest outlay of any motor coach company in Oregon in recent months. The principal structure is that of the new motor coach shops, garage and general office building which will be officially opened on the block bounded by Hood, Baker, Front and Sheridan streets in Portland. This structure represents an expenditure Of $200,000.
The Portland garage and general office building will cover an area of 200 by 240 feet. The second floor, facing Hood street, will serve as general offices for the Oregon division of the Pacific Greyhound lines. The entire main floor area of the build-ing will be given over to one of the most modern motor coach reconstruction and maintenance plants in the United States. While it is not contemplated to construct any new motor coaches in the Portland plant, arrangements are such that this work could be carried on without material realignment of the machinery and assembly equipment.
Complete reconstruction of motor coaches in service on the Oregon division of Pacific Greyhound lines, even to body rebuilding and, power Plant and chassis replacement and reconditioning will be done in the Portland plant. Constructed of steel and concrete, the building is entirely fireproof and represents every modern idea for motor coach maintenance. The capacity of the plant when all available space is occupied is rated at 77 motor coaches of modern design. Included in the cost of the structure is an item of $10,000 for modern tools and machinery of special design for motor coach repair and maintenance. One of the features of the plant is a wash rack that will thoroughly wash and renovate a motor coach in about five minutes. The floor plan has been so arranged, that a motor coach will enter at one driveway, and, after progressive movement over greasing pits, past oil and gasoline filling stations, through the washing rack, over brake-testing devices and various inspection stations, it will emerge ready for road operation.
According to Mr. Lemon, approximately 100 skilled mechanics will be employed to keep the more than 100, motor coaches operated by Pacific Greyhound lines in Oregon in perfect, condition. “At the present time Pacific Greyhound lines finds it necessary to maintain three garages and shops in various localities in Portland,” Mr. Lemen. said. “Facilities of all these three plants will be centered in the new building, thus making for greater maintenance economy and general efficiency. “Our general accounting and administrative offices are, at present, housed in several separate localities, and the consolidation of all administrative functions at the new plant will result in untold convenience for everyone transacting business with Pacific Greyhound lines in this territory.”
The following snippets are from a hotel advertising vehicle titled “Portland and the Pacific Northwest” published in 1988. It includes information on the typical tourist traps like Washington Park and then-new Riverplace development, though I actually found the ads more interesting than the articles.
Certainly late eighties Portland had an edgier palate than represented here but this little book offers a glimpse into what passed as mainstream style, established tastes and tourist draws along with some funny ads for local shops.