NW Portland Industrial Sanctuary

W16 2 13 PORTLAND NW PAST 001Our studio sits in the NW Industrial Sanctuary.  When most think of a sanctuary they think of preserving bird and wildlife habitats, but there are other kinds of sanctuaries.

Map_web_lgOnce this was a gorgeous waterway and lake , used for the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exhibition of 1905.  My drawing was created using postcards and photographs as reference from the era, but admittedly is fictitious — it is how I imagine it looked, had we been in our
studio in 1905 — roughly where the Pennsylvania Building sat!

How lovely to have THAT view out our studio window,
where I sit while writing this blog!

711px-Lewis_and_Clark_Expo_Portland_Oregon_ballon_at_entranceBut they demolished Guild Lake,
filled it in, and for some unknown
reason demolished the lovely buildings,
which could have been re-purposed,
such as the cluster of government
buildings, shown left.  I frankly don’t
care what has been written about why, people
demolishing great buildings in their prime
is forever going to be a mystery to me.

I mean, LOOK at that lovely building
complex sitting in Guild Lake!

W16 2 15 PORTLAND NW NOW 004Now when I look out my window I see this view, of Cal-bag and Grimm studios and a police building and Powell’s book shipping building and countless small artists and manufacturers and people like us, who want to create within the city, near where they live.

I also see far away, all the way to the St. Johns bridge, to the University across the Willamette, to the shipyards, and the hills covered with trees leading to Scappoose.
I see the storms roll in while we work, and feel the pulse of the part of the city that
makes things — and there are two, and both are in danger of being torn down.

This brings us to the NW Industrial Sanctuary.

The NW Industrial Sanctuary was created to preserve the context of a small city by creating an area which could only be used for industrial use.
Industry within city limits used to be the norm, instead of relegating it to another city or district way outside the city boundaries which creates yet another sprawling suburb with clogged freeways bringing hardworking designers, small manufacturers, artists,
and movie studio folks driving hours to the outskirts of town to work.

Besides, industrial areas are interesting areas, telling the story of the
people who came before.  Our industrial area is still open, where the sky is seen
above not through stacks of high-rise apartments and office buildings.

W11 ANTIQUE MASON SPAN RED CHAIR MPFCThe buildings are vintage. Ours has a colorful history, because we were the distributing station for Montgomery Ward, whose headquarters is a block away, where the story of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer was born.  Horse-drawn trucks drove through the building and were loaded with boxes heading out to their destinations. The beams in this building are gigantic red cedar, completely unheard of today. Now the building is home to Portland Opera’s set design, a video man and our studio. Furniture loaded on those trucks comes back to us to be conserved, such as the Mason Monterey A-frame chair, right.

W16 2 16 PORTLAND NW FUTURE 002Developers want to turn this area into high-rise apartment buildings, office buildings, and light retail.  We have a place for that in Portland, it is called the Pearl District.  Home of half-million dollar apartments and condos, high-end stores, it is our little NYC.  I miss the old Pearl, the lovely warehouse district which was home to some of the most beautiful old warehouse buildings anywhere.  Few were kept, and none of the context or history was preserved.  There was no requirement for parks to be created, or vistas of the river for people, though if you stand in the street there are still views of openness to be had.  People need openness for a place to feel habitable.  Imagine NYC without Central Park.  I shudder.  I don’t want the NW Industrial area to become Pearl II, above.

Is this the progress you want for our city?

GOOD planners create livable plans for the city of many types of inhabitants,
not just the 1%.  They create infrastructure so people can get around, take the bus,
walk to the market.  The create parks so kids can play outside, people can walk their dogs, have a game of catch, sit in the sunshine and read, or just have a sense of the earth.
The Pearl is a mini NYC without many open spaces at all.  The planners have not required the developers add amenities for the privilege of building in the area, like the planners in Santa Monica did for developers who wanted to build on waterfront property.
This makes the Pearl a place of slammed-in high-rises.  If planners have knowledge of planning history, they create cities that are integrated and livable.  Green cities mean everyone doesn’t have to sit on the freeway for 2-3 hours to go back and forth to work.  Clean industry in a city is good for everyone.  I am afraid Portland is going to create a city for the 1%, with the stupid suburbia sprawl you see everywhere in the USA on all sides.

I want them to keep the NW Industrial Sanctuary intact.
Let them fill in every single bit of the Pearl (already a lost cause in so many ways)
with their (mostly) so-so or downright ugly and unimpressive buildings.
Don’t get me wrong — I love beautiful buildings, and am a fan of good modern architecture.  I just don’t see much of it being built by the developers in Portland.
I see the same ugly variation of the same building over and over,
buildings I cringe at each time I see them.

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Pentalic Nature Sketch Journal; Platinum Carbon pen and Lamy Al-Star pen;
Inks: Noodler’s, De Atramentis Document, and Super5,
and Greenleaf & Blueberry, Daniel Smith , Holbien, and QoR watercolors.


©D. Katie Powell.
My images/blog posts may be reposted; please link back  to dkatiepowellart.

About dkatiepowellart

hollywood baby turned beach gurl turned steel&glass city gurl turned cowgurl turned herb gurl turned green city gurl. . . artist writer photographer. . . cat lover but misses our big dogs, gone to heaven. . . buddhist and interested in the study of spiritual traditions. . . foodie, organic, lover of all things mik, partner in conservation business mpfconservation, consummate blogger, making a dream happen, insomniac who is either reading buddhist teachings or not-so-bloody mysteries or autobio journal thangs early in the morning when i can't sleep
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16 Responses to NW Portland Industrial Sanctuary

  1. Dan Antion says:

    I sincerely hope that your sanctuary remains just that. I just read an article by a guy in Pittsburgh, PA who is advocating moving the sports stadiums out of the city so they could develop riverfront housing. I don’t live there anymore, but that would be the worst thing they could do. Right now the downtown riverfront is very much open to the public. Developers just see a chance to build very expensive housing. They don’t care about the feel of the city.


  2. susanissima says:

    Beautifully composed, gorgeous, passionate and persuasive. Possibly your most inspiring blog yet, Katie, out of many. May your wish for the preservation of the NW Portland Industrial Sanctuary come true. As a former Portlander, I remember when the Pearl District was open, airy, filled with interesting buildings and, of course, the river was always visible. Now, it’s a dense community reserved for those with money in, often, uninteresting structures that block the view. ¡Qué triste!


    • This one took me several days to write — I kept tweaking it, unlike my usual flying-by-the-seat posts. I do feel passionately about it. Development happens, but I’ve seen it happen well by good planners and terribly by very bad planners. I also remember the “pearl” when it was this interesting mix of artists and designers and manufacturers and beautiful textures…


  3. susanissima says:

    Oh, going to share, Katie. Thank you.


  4. Sounds similar to what’s happening in the Mission Bay area of San Francisco. Developers just want to make money. There’s less concern for esthetics or anything that made the place unique and interesting to begin with.


    • I haven’t been there is a long time, but heard rumors. I think there may have been an article in one of the Heritage rags about it. The planners have to be on the up and up — not on the take — and the locals have to take up arms and go to meetings. The planners have to post meetings about changes. *sigh*

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Linda K says:

    wonderful sketches and very interesting history Kate! Oh how I remember the Montgomery ward catalogues too! I’m in NE PA and our historic town has gone through many changes but also we are fortunate to have enough allies to also preserve much of it too.


  6. A great history lesson and art to go with it. I hope the developers will be held responsible for keeping the sanctuary. Hmmm developers and their money usually win out. Sad.


  7. Dea Lenihan says:

    Oh I hope it remains! Such a great blog–thanks. xo


  8. our area is going through a lot of change and revival. It was once a bit of a thriving bayside village, lots of old queenslanders and historic homes and a seaside feel, then some areas that are quite industrial due to its closeness to the port and the mouth of the river cropped up, but recently there has been a lot of the old buildings being restored and repurposed as community arts precinct, and lots of blending of the old and the new… happily it still feels like the same place though. it scares me that we might lose its essential mild crapness if you know what i mean. I don’t want it polished and too cleaned up… i like the vibe as it is…


    • I understand. Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey. I liked it better when it had its essential crapness… BUT, I am happy that they made use of the old cannery buildings. In Portland, they have no vision for even reusing them — and yet our stupid Mayor, Charlie Hale, has somehow gotten us dubbed the city of preservation — bull puckey.


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