By Don MacGillivray
The East Side was involved in the settlement of Portland from its beginning. James B. Stephens arrived in the mid-1840s and settled on the east bank. In 1850 he received title to a 640 acre donation land claim that included much of what was to become the City of East Portland.
The settlement grew and, with the arrival of the railroad, it became a city in 1870. A major facility for the treatment of the mentally ill and destitute was built in 1868 by the Dr. J. C. Hawthorne. The nearby east-west street was named Asylum Avenue and later was renamed Hawthorne Boulevard in honor of this civic leader.
The Lewis and Clark Exposition in 1905 put Portland on the national map and led to a large increase in population that expanded in the east side.
Zoning came to Portland in the 1920s and began with only four zones for: homes, apartments, businesses, and industries.
The residential area in Buckman began at SE 7th Ave. and over time, became zoned for apartments. World War II brought an influx of shipyard workers that caused a shortage of housing and many large older homes were subdivided into rooming houses leading to their misuse and deterioration.
The area from SE 7th to 12th Avenues contained many nineteenth century Victorian homes that became victims of the expansion of the industrial district.
The automobile was replacing the trolleys and traffic and congestion led to the widening of east-west arterial streets. In the post war period, Buckman was in decline and the neighborhood became one of the depressed areas of inner Portland. There was a lack of investment which encouraged speculative interests to acquire properties east of SE 12th Ave. with the expectation of further commercial expansion.
In the mid 1960s, the Johnson Administration initiated the Great Society Program and the War on Poverty. One of the requirements of these federal programs was the involvement of low income residents in decisions about growth and change in their neighborhoods.
The Portland Development Commission created SE Uplift to provide help with the rehabilitation and assistance. This led to the revival of the inner SE neighborhoods as greater interest developed in the area.
Planning was a vital part of the work, and it took the Buckman area several years to finally get funding for its neighborhood plan and the Buckman Community Association was created in 1971.
At the same time, local planner John Perry was hired to facilitate the Buckman neighborhood plan. Even though it was not finished, it identified the basic needs of the neighborhood.
The main goal was to stabilize the neighborhood through the re-zoning of much of the area back to single family residential.
A committee was formed to study the rezoning of a small four block demonstration area and upon its completion, the city decided to proceed with the rezoning of larger areas.
The first new row house project in Portland was completed in the 1970s on a half block site that was originally to be just another two story apartment complex. This happened through the advocacy of the neighborhood association. It was designed by neighborhood architects and the units were purchased by people in the neighborhood.
The early 1980s began with the closure of the Washington-Monroe High School. The progressive neighborhood association proposed that the school should become a much-needed community center and affordable housing.
Soon after the second Buckman Community Congress, the REACH Community Development Corporation was created. REACH is an acronym for Recreation, Education, Access, Commerce and Housing. It was not successful in obtaining the rights of the vacated high school, but it went on with various housing and development projects and today REACH is a leading multi-million dollar regional success.
Neighborhood Plans became a priority in the Bud Clark administration and the Buckman Plan was one of the first to be completed. It was a 15 month process that began in 1989.
After many public meetings and at least four preliminary drafts, the final document was approved by city council in 1991. It provides a comprehensive description of the Buckman neighborhood and contains many objectives and strategies that would make Buckman a desirable Portland neighborhood again.
The Central Eastside Industrial District has always been an important part of Buckman. In 2006, it became an urban renewal district. This provided the implementing tool and resources to act on several major objectives of the Buckman Neighborhood Plan.
Among them are the Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade, the first trolley on the east side of the river in sixty years and progress toward the realization of an East Side Community and Aquatics Center, along with many improvements to the industrial and warehouse areas.
Buckman neighborhood continues to be actively involved in Portland’s growth and change by providing a forum for neighbors to discuss their issues and meet those that represent their interests.
Homeless concerns, the Washington High community center, the comprehensive plan, the new mid-rise apartment buildings, parking issues, and many other challenges engage the association members.
The annual Buckman Picnic takes place Sunday August 14 from 4 to 8 pm at Col. Summers Park, SE 17th Ave. at Taylor St.. The picnic is a good opportunity to meet current association member and Buckman neighbors while and enjoy food and entertainment.