Hollywood Theatre, Portland (photo by Colby Aley, via Flickr)
BY BRIAN LIBBY
The little octagon-shaped buiding at NE 42nd & Sandy wasn’t a streetcar stop for very long. It was built in 1922, fifteen years after the Rose City Park line began in 1907. By 1935, the line was converted to buses. Over the ensuing years, it has housed a beauty salon, a dry cleaner and, since 1954, a hamburger stand.
All this I learned from randomly map-clicking on the Architectural Heritage Center’s new smart phone app, created with app developer Tagwhat to provide create histories for historic buildings all over Portland. (I actually viewed it as a plain old website on my desktop computer rather than on my phone.)
That hamburger stand and former streetcar stop? It’s Ogee arch at the entrance,is taken from Middle Eastern architecture, I learned. “Here the Middle Eastern influence is also seen in the masonry walls as well as the niches on either side of the doorway,” the app goes on. “The geometric wrought iron work is also typical of a Middle Eastern influence.”
“We’ve been working directly with Tagwhat on this app since the beginning of the year after I tinkered with it for some months last fall,” explains Val Ballestrem, the AHC’s education manager. “Our initial goal is to get at least 150 buildings, sites, neighborhoods, and other landmarks. This will include most of what was on our favorite Portland buildings list from 2009 plus many others. Eventually I could see hundreds more buildings added, but creating the content is a time consuming endeavor. We have an intern working on this initial round of content development, but he will be done by the end of the month.” Ah, the never-ending saga of under-funded nonprofits.
So far, just over 110 buildings have been loaded. These include brief building histories, images from AHC collections and from the digital collections of the University of Oregon and the Library of Congress, with the longer-term possibility of adding audio or video clips. Many of the tags also include links to outside sources such as an Oregon Encyclopedia article on architect Justus Krumbein. “It’s a great FREE app,” Ballestrem says. “It’s easy to use and should be of interest to locals and tourists alike.”
If the octagon streetcar stop’s history wasn’t enough, the Hollywood Theatre across the street of course is listed too (as are over 60 downtown buildings). Completed in 1926 from a design by Bennes & Herzog, the building receives some wry commentary.
“Molded glazed terra cotta is a wonderful material. You still see a number of glazed terra cotta buildings in downtown. For example, the Meier & Frank building and its white neighborhoods are clad in glazed terra cotta. This building is, of course, over the top. Starting at the top: finials (those things that point upward at the top level), round head opening with Keystone. (Second level ñ a trio of round headed arches, separated by composite pilasters and surmounted in the middle with a "’broken’ pediment-ñmeaning that the central arch does not have a triangular tympanum.”