Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Fabrication - Pattern Makers

Portland Iron Works, 1895

The NW 14th Avenue wall of the Portland Iron Works building has a couple of nice signs, "Fabrication," which is still nicely preserved, and "Pattern Makers" which is just barely visible. (I'll update these photos once the leaves have fallen.)

View these from the corner of NW 14th and Overton.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

North Bank Station

Pearl Townhouses, 1910

The Pearl Townhouses began life as a rail yard freight house, a building where LCL (less-than-carload) lots were temporarily stored until being shipped or picked up. In a dispute with Union Station owner Edward Harriman, Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway (SP&S) owner James J. Hill converted one of his freight houses at the corner of NW 11th and Hoyt into a passenger depot. Known as "North Bank Station" it handled passenger trains until World War I and continued to handle intercity passenger trains until 1931.

Old photos show "North Bank Freight Depot" painted at the apex of the south-facing side. Between the windows was a black-on-white block of lettering:

Spokane, Portland & Seattle.
Oregon Trunk Railway.
Great Northern Railways.
Oregon Electric Ry. and United Railways.

It's all gone now, of course, except for a bit of the white background.

Above each loading dock bay is a number (even numbers - 2 through 16) identifying the dock number. While some have faded to near invisibility, some, such as the "16" at bottom, are still quite visible.

(Photo: Benjamin A. Gifford)


Monday, October 29, 2007

Ecotrust Building Details

Natural Capital Center, 1895

Originally housing the J. McCraken Company Warehouse, the Central Truck Terminal, and Rapid Transfer & Storage Company, the Ecotrust building still shows a few signs of those previous lives if you look close enough.

All of these items are on the north and west faces of the building on NW Irving between 9th and 10th.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Honeyman Hardware Lofts

Honeyman Hardware Company, 1903

The "Honeyman Hardware Lofts" sign appears to have been painted over the original "Honeyman Hardware Company" sign on the east side of its building on NW Park between Glisan and Hoyt. The building at one time had a similar sign above the top floor windows on the west-facing side of the building, but that's long gone.


Thursday, October 25, 2007


This sign has had at least three messages that I can determine. The most obvious is to the left side where "Plate and Window Glass - Framed Mirrors" takes up one square area. Across the top, the messages are a little more muddled. I can make out "Glass Co.," "Service Batteries," and the cities "Seattle - Oakland - Fresno" are also visible. An old photo showed that this was once home to the "Bekins Van & Storage Co."

The building was originally a three story warehouse. Conversion to the Flanders Lofts damaged the sign when windows and doors were cut in the walls, but the sign has not deteriorated much over the last ten years.

You can see this sign from NW Broadway at Flanders and between Flanders and Glisan.




Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Roy Burnett Motors

Artisan Building, 1908

The building at NW 8th and Everett hosting the Roy Burnett Motors sign apparently began as a warehouse. Roy Burnett ran a Chrysler-Imperial dealership there in the 1960s; how much earlier and how much later I've not been able to determine.

By the 1980s the building housed a used auto parts company, John's Import Auto Wrecking as I recall. I remember going there myself a number of times; you could wander through six floors of junked cars and car parts. I vaguely remember being saddened when they moved out of the building to the suburbs.

By the mid-1990s or so, the building had its top chopped off, along with a few feet of the signs on the north- and east-facing sides. Five more floors of condos were added as the whole building was transformed into the North Park Lofts.

Apparently Roy Burnett owned the Desoto-Plymouth dealership two blocks south at NW Broadway and Couch in the 1940s.

You can best view these signs at NW Flanders at Broadway or 8th in the Park Blocks.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007


DeSoto Building, 1915

This is one of the more artisic signs still around in the Pearl District. The building was originally the home of the DeSoto-Plymouth auto dealership on the quarter block at NW Broadway and Davis.

If you look closely at the 1997 photo, you can see that under the DeSoto and Plymouth logos the designs were at one point bottle caps, the bottom one most certainly Pepsi. The bottle caps are virtually invisible now. It's hard to say which was painted first and which came later; anecdotal evidence indicates all the logos are 1950s-era designs.

While it's good the owners/developers saved the sign (note the alcove to the right has been filled in and a door and balcony added to the left), it seems to have deteriorated quite a bit in the last 10 years. Stand on NW Couch between Broadway and 8th to see this before it disappears altogether.

Directly to the north of this sign, on the same building, is the Overland sign.


Monday, October 22, 2007


DeSoto Building, 1915

This sign has actually improved over the years. Originally advertising Overland automobiles, sometime in its history it had been painted over with "Used Cars" with probably the dealer's name along the top. It's now been restored to the original "Overland." The Overland has not been manufactured since 1926 so this sign has at least an 80 year history.

See this from NW 8th and Davis.


Friday, October 19, 2007

Customer Parking

I had earlier shown a Pacific Coast Stam..." sign on NW Everett between 11th and 12th. I've found some more photos of the same building that I took at the same time. They show a bit of the history of the various businesses that occupied the building at one time or another.

For want of a better descriptor, I've lumped these under the entry titled "Customer Parking" but in fact only the building is common, they all have different messages.

I can't tell what this said, the only readable word is "motor," not surprising since many one-story buildings in the area catered at one time to the automotive and trucking parts and repair industry.
The last part of the word "Biscuit" is evident in this sign, visible from the NW 11th side of the building. Since the Pacific Coast Biscuit Company abuts the building to the south, this had to refer to that business.


Thursday, October 18, 2007


The Commercial Furnishings Inc. sign is not nearly as old as most painted signs in the Pearl District. I'd guess this dates from the 1970s. I've included it because it no longer advertises an existing building tenant, is not being maintained, and because it will be interesting to see how well it holds up over the years.

See this from NW 10th and Hoyt.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Gadsby Building

The Gadsby Building, 1906

The Gadsby Building is another fine old brick structure in the heart of the Thirteenth Avenue Historic District on the corner of NW 13th and Hoyt. As noted by the old signs, it once housed warehouse and transfer and storage businesses, and it's been nicely restored for retail and office space now.

Go inside and wander around the four floors, there are many large photographs of the Pearl District when it was the core of Portland's Northwest industrial area.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Albers Milling Company

Albers Mill Building, 1909

Another iconic building from Portland's early industrial days, the Albers Mill building sits on the Willamette River at the west end of the Broadway Bridge. The building was restored in 1989 and the signs were restored too. While not fading original signs, the restored versions are true to the originals. The ghost of the "Peacock Flour" on the north side is still faintly visible.

One unrestored original is a "Del Monte" sign on the building's south side. Sadly most of it is painted over, most likely to cover graffiti damage. The flour and oats signs are also freshly done. I don't know how far back the originals of these go.

1930s (from historical placard):

Monday, October 15, 2007

Reid Pacific

The south side of this building at NW 15th and Marshall has had several signs over the years, most of them painted over in white now. The main "roofing" sign has deteriorated greatly over the last 10 years, now almost unreadable.

The "Montgomery Brothers" and "Celsi Wines" on the west face are still hanging in there, but are not in too great shape either. New high-rise construction is currently taking place on the north side of this property and I wonder if this building will survive; it would be nice to see it, and its signs, preserved. It appears the windows have been replaced so that's a good sign.

1996, south face:
2006, south face:
2007, west face:

Friday, October 12, 2007

Unknown 2

Construction giveth and construction taketh away. I wrote earlier about how demolition of the Metro Presort building at NW 9th and Glisan revealed the old Machine Work and Painting sign. New construction might cover it up again (you can see part of the "G" at center-right just above the 2x4 railing below) but in the process they've cleaned up a bit of the old brick and a snippet of another sign has been revealed.

We'll see how the architects and developers deal with this wall. I'm hoping the whole sign will be revealed and preserved, of course, and I'll post any updates on what happens.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Warehouse No. 1

Oregon Transfer Company Building, 1910 1911

Warehouse No. 1 is another new one to me, although I've driven by it hundreds of times on my way up NW Glisan. This discreet sign is on the north side of the Chown Pella Lofts building between 12th and 13th streets and is a counterpoint to Warehouse No. 2 on the south side of the block.

Oregon Transfer Co. seemed to be a big player in the transfer and storage field in the early 1900s. Warehouse No. 1 and No. 2 took up this half block, as well as Warehouse No. 3 in the Prael, Hegele Building two blocks to the north.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

General Brewing Corporation

It's always fun to discover a new sign. While walking to the REI store on NW 14th and Johnson I spotted this sign peeking over the top of a new import store across the street. You can see part of the sign from street level but you get a nice full view from the second floor of the REI store.

I've found references to General Brewing making Lucky Lager in Vancouver but nothing about General ever being in Portland. But there it is, "Entrance 815 N.W. 13th."


Tuesday, October 9, 2007


While the area between NW 12th and 14th streets were primarily warehouses and transfer and storage companies, the area between 9th and 12th was the home to many shops catering to the trucking and automotive industry. As motorized transport replaced horses, auto body shops, engine rebuilders and bearing shops were quite common sights.

This "Bearings" sign on NW 10th between Davis and Everett came close to being covered during a building repaint. Someone stopped this painter just in time.


Monday, October 8, 2007

Portland Iron Works


Travel to the far north reaches of the Pearl District at NW 13th and Northrup, stand in just the right position so the light reflects properly, and you can see the old Portland Iron Works sign, now painted over in black.

Established in 1882, Portland Iron Works manufactured lumber milling equipment to service the area mills. Some historians say the nearby Slabtown neighborhood got its name from the working-class residents who used slabs of cheap wood from those mills to fuel their stoves.


Sunday, October 7, 2007

Home Furnishers

A clumsy attempt to cover this Home Furnishers sign mostly failed. The coverup farther to the left of this view, hiding the company name, was more successful. See this at NW Davis and Park.


Friday, October 5, 2007


Not all signs cover entire walls and are visible from blocks away. Here are a few small details that help tell the story of this district.

The Modern Confectionery Co., 2007:
Prael, Hegele Building, 2007:

Prael, Hegele Building, 2007:
Prael, Hegele Building, 2007:
Simon Building, 2007: